Dallas — Continually breaking the barriers of dance, Artistic Director Jacques Heim of DIAVOLO | Architecture in Motion speaks to TheaterJones about the company’s upcoming show at the Moody Performance Hall in Dallas.
Founded in 1992, DIAVOLO focuses on how bodies relate to the spaces around them. The company combines acrobatics, dance, architectural structures, and theatrical design to explore this relationship between movement and space. Over the past twenty-five years, Heim has used DIAVOLO as a springboard for his growing research—building a large following both locally and internationally. Ranging from television credits to theater shows, the “architect of motion” has choreographed for Cirque de Soleil, served as the Creative Director for the Opening Ceremony of the sixteenth Asian Games, and most recently appeared with DIAVOLO on America’s Got Talent. Amongst these numerous opportunities, Heim also received a myriad of awards for his work. Some of these include: the Martha Hill Choreography Award of the American Dance Festival, the Special Prize of the Jury at the 6th Saitama International Dance Festival, and a Brody Arts Fund fellowship.
In our interview, Heim discussed his new piece, finding a balance between art and entertainment value, and where he sees DIAVOLO heading in the future.
DIAVOLO returns to Dallas on the TITAS season, performing two 30-minute pieces: Voyage and Trajectorie, at 8 p.m. Sept. 14 and 2 and 8 p.m. Sept. 15 at Moody Performance Hall.
TheaterJones: DIAVOLO encompasses so many styles of dance, theater, and acrobatics. Where do you begin to find this unique group of movers?
Jacques Heim: It’s the hardest thing ever! The men and women coming into the company…they’re fearless. They don’t have an ego, they’re willing to collaborate and create. They have to be able to speak well and communicate. But here’s the biggest thing: they have to be willing to fail. You cannot hide behind the work of DIAVOLO—the work will show you your strengths and your weaknesses immediately.
Your upcoming tour features a new piece, Voyage. What can you tell me about that?
It’s inspired by space travel. Next year is going to be the 50th anniversary of Apollo, and I’m always inspired by space and the universe—where we are, who are we…so its about the search of a woman. This woman decides to leave the real world—to escape. Last year we went on America’s Got Talent and it changed us a little bit. The reason why I mention that is because its always a struggle to bring the audience to the theater. And that was always my focus: ‘how do we bring the audience in?’ After analyzing the work we were doing I realized we had a foot in the artistic world and a foot in the commercial world. So I wanted to do a fun piece—which is still very beautiful and artistic, I hope—but it brings a little commercial ‘umph,’ which is fun.
I’m glad you brought that up. How did you first become involved with AGT?
So, the producers for years had reached out, but I always declined because I thought, ‘it’s a TV show…a little cheesy…I don’t want to sell my soul.’ And then I realized, well wait a minute—I’d known that the work of DIAVOLO was always in the middle of art and entertainment. So I thought, ‘Why don’t we expand? Let’s see what its like to be on TV and reach so many viewers.’ So there, we got to reach a whole new group of people who don’t typically come to the theater. And that’s when I realized whatever work I decide to do, it needs to be work that is very visual, that all audiences can enjoy.
Obviously, this show changed how you viewed your current work, but did it change how you see the future of DIAVOLO?
You know, a little bit. So here it is: a traditional modern dance touring company does not look like us. We have an 18-wheeler truck, giant structures, tons of lights. We’re in this category that makes it very difficult—and expensive—to tour. So after AGT, I started thinking about the possibility of creating a 70-minute show where we can actually can do a sit down and spend a week in the city. It would be a more permanent show. And that’s where I think DIAVOLO should go.