A Q&A with Diavolo
by Aryn & Benji Nichols / Inspire(d) Media
A veritable dance circus is coming to Decorah – but instead of bearded ladies, lion tamers, and clowns, the performance company, Diavolo Dance Theatre, brings dancers, gymnasts, rock climbers, and actors.
Diavolo was founded in 1992 in Los Angeles by Jacques Heim in an effort to create large-scale interdisciplinary performances that examine the funny and frightening ways individuals act with their environment. They will bring their antics and props to the Luther College Center Stage Series March 17 at 7:30 pm.
Inspire(d) caught up with Diavolo performer Garrett Wolf to ask him a few questions about the show. Wolf is an elite level gymnast who has been a part of Diavolo Dance Theater since August of 2000. Raised in Alaska, he trained in gymnastics and garnered further skills in partner stunts at the University of Anchorage, Alaska, where he studied American Sign Language. Wolf’s stunt, dance, and acrobatic work has been viewed in many of the Southern California Theme Parks. His role in Diavolo has not been limited to Dancer; he has been Video Archivist, Rehearsal Director, Associate Artistic Director, Studio Manager, and Assistant to the Artistic Director, Jacques Heim. A working model for both film and television, Wolf’s professional skills are complemented by his enthusiasm for downhill skiing and sea kayaking.
I. (inspired) Diavolo is not your standard American dance company. Please give us a brief description in your words of what Diavolo encompasses as a performance group unlike any other.
W. (wolf) Diavolo embraces spectacle. Because Diavolo’s works incorporate athleticism, architecture, and pedestrian movement along with dance, our audiences become interested in a form of art that they wouldn’t normally have the opportunity to see anywhere else.
I. Are there different prerequisites to becoming a Diavolo company member than in a more traditional dance company? Are there particular skills that make some resumes stand out more than others?
W. The dance world is becoming a fusion of all kinds of art outlets. The dancer needs to know basic gymnastics, the gymnast is being introduced to martial arts and aerial work. Similarly, the Diavolo performer needs to be skillful in dance, gymnastics, acting, martial arts, and aerial work, making them hard to find. We require a great amount of upper body strength, tumbling skills, air awareness, and they must be quick studies. But besides being talented, what really makes the Diavolo performer – something that can’t be seen on a resume – is the ability to be a team player. The 10 dancers teach, train, and perform as a team. The high level of danger within the dance does not allow the performer to be a single player.
I. The props used by Diavolo are very unique, such as doors, chairs, and stairways. What are the technical challenges of traveling with the Diavolo show? What outlandish props will be making their way to Decorah on this tour?
W. The most common challenge we face with our set pieces is their durability – they must be able to withstand constant usage, repetitive building/breaking down, as well as extensive travel. The sets are often made of steal, fiberglass, or a sturdy wood, so it is a heavy piece of equipment, and the freighting definitely makes up a significant portion of the annual budget! Pragmatically speaking, something as simple as the measurements of a theater’s loading dock becomes hugely significant for us, as there is often a chance that we won’t be able to fit all our pieces through. Fortunately for us, we work with an amazing team of designers and fabricators when constructing new set pieces. Foreign Bodies, for example, was originally planned as an 8 ft by 8 ft cube once put together, though the design changed to 7 ft by 7 ft because that would allow us easier access through most doors – theater/truck etc.
I. Is there a usual phrase you tend to hear when audiences come out of a Diavolo performance?
W. Yes… “The performance was amazing and different from what I’ve seen before, Thank You.” Also… “I’m so amazed by the level of commitment and teamwork displayed by the dancers at all times on stage.”
I. In Diavolo founder Jacques Heim’s artistic statement he speaks of wanting to “expand the boundaries” of dance in ways that offer audiences “a cinematic experience of powerful images and abstract narratives.” Diavolo represents something much more than just a classical or modern dance company – almost a new hybrid of entertainment that engages viewers on a different level, pulling in humor, awe, and surrealism. Why take dance to this new level?
W. Because we can. Audiences are interested in seeing something new and different. People can’t always describe exactly what it is we do, but there’s something very much enjoyable about experiencing the unfamiliar and new.
The Diavalo Dance Theatre will be performing at Luther College’s Center for Faith and Life Tuesday, March 17, at 7:30 pm. Tickets go on sale Thursday, February 26, and are $22 with $20 tickets for seniors 65+ and students age 4 to 21. All are invited to experience the post performance discussion with the dancers and artistic director. For more information on tickets please contact the Luther College Box Office at (563) 387-1357, or visit www.luther.edu/programming.
More information can be found on the Diavolo Dance Theatre at www.diavolo.org.
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