CREATIVE PEAKS: Poetic Passage

By on August 16, 2017

Diavolo delivers physical prowess and massive imagination.

JACKSON HOLE, WY – There are two phrases Babs Case uses to describe Jackson Hole: “visually stunning and extreme physicality.” They are the same phrases, Case, the artistic director at Dancers’ Workshop, uses to describe the dance company Diavolo, Architecture in Motion.

The company, which combines high-flying acrobatics with modern dance, all while using massive props like a giant ship on stage, are an artistic embodiment of the community, Case said. They represent extreme physicality, risk taking and beauty.

Diavolo will perform at 3 and 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the Center Theater. It also will host an open rehearsal from 5 to 6 p.m. Thursday.

Case describes the company as Cirque du Soleil-esque. The dancers are also gymnasts and Diavolo’s artistic director Jacques Heim choreographed the Cirque du Soleil show Ka, which still runs in Las Vegas. Heim has likened the pieces to a “live abstract painting.” The works feature emotional themes like fear, survival, chaos, faith and love.

Diavolo first performed in Jackson 10 years ago. It was the first major performance Dancers’ Workshop hosted in the then-newly built Center Theater. Case purposefully chose the company to show off the new theater’s capabilities. There wasn’t a place to host a company with Diavolo’s needs, both technical and space wise, before the Center came around. Then, as now, the Center Theater also offered the audience an incredible experience to see the performances in such an intimate space, she said.

Case also deliberately chose the timing of the company’s performance this month near the solar eclipse. In part, it was a way to expose more people, with so many visitors in town, to the innovative dance company. But Case also feels Diavolo’s repertoire connects with the eclipse. Both “Passengers” and “Trajectoire,” the pieces the company will perform while in Jackson, address journeys and change.

“Trajectoire” is a classic Diavolo piece. Dances take place on a massive rocking ship on stage. It is described by the company as a “visceral and emotional journey through the ebb and flow of the human experience.”

“Passengers” is a new work, danced on and around a large morphing staircase and explores themes of journey, transition and the balance humans face each day as drivers and unwitting passengers.

Diavolo will also perform a duet Thursday morning near Persephone and Healthy Being Juicery, as well as at the Farmer’s Market Saturday. It’s a funny and sweet performance where a man and woman dance in, around and on top of a door, Case said.

Dancer Erin White joined Diavolo three years ago. It’s still difficult for her to come up with an answer when someone asks her to describe the type of dance Diavolo performs.

It is acrobatic, with dance theater, but at the center of it is really architecture, she said.

That refers to the large props created for Diavolo dances, but also the deeper meaning the structures used give the work.

“It’s about how we as humans interact with our environment and that’s architecture in motion,” she said.

White grew up a tumbler and in college started taking modern dance. It wasn’t until college she heard of Diavolo. “Trajectoire” was the first piece White saw the company perform. She said she stood in her seat she was so amazed at the grace and beauty, but also the acrobatic flying through the air. “It’s just such a spectacle and experience to watch,” she said.

Performing it takes trust and military-like precision, she said. It’s all about the connections the dancers forge on stage and being in the moment, every single time. “It feels like a life event every time you do it,” she said.

It’s an intensity that permeates the theater and gives viewers that unique experience White felt the first time she witnessed a performance from the audience. White loves to perform the piece, but she also still marvels at it when she watches it.

The dancer happened to be part of the company when it created “Passengers.” The piece is a rollercoaster of emotions, she said. It is serious and funny, intense and light and aggressive and beautiful. The work doesn’t trace a straight narrative, but does follow a character that is on a transformative journey.

While neither piece was created with the eclipse in mind, White sees ways both works relate to the event. The boat in “Trajectoire” is half a sphere and there are circles used through the piece. Movement changes the impact of the spheres. “Passengers,” meanwhile, is about change and how people digest and adapt to it.

“Do you stay as you are?” she asked. “Or do you let your environment change you?” PJH

Diavolo, Architecture in Motion, performances at 3 and 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, August 18 and 19 at Center for the Arts, $45 to $55 evening tickets, $35 to $45 matinee, $25 students all performances. An open rehearsal is from 5 to 6 p.m. Thursday, August 17 at the Center for the Arts, $10 suggested donation. Dwjh.org.

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