Dallas — Los Angeles-based Diavolo is a TITAS fan-favorite for good reason. Audiences can expect to witness creativity involving moving bodies and manipulated architecture, but the real draw is the visceral experience these daredevils create. The thrill of watching seemingly impossible physicality, displays of fearless strength, and breathtaking risks drew patrons to the Moody Performance Hall for the company’s seventh appearance in Dallas. So anticipated was their show that TITAS squeezed in a third performance to satisfy demand.
Voyage opened the evening for a journey through space and self-discovery. Commemorating the upcoming 50th anniversary of the moon landing, Heim and crew craft a cohesive piece using quite a few elements from their stint on America’s Got Talent in 2017 and previous works. A dome-shaped structure with steam and hints of light coming from its many holes creeps across the stage as recordings of astronaut transmissions come from the speakers.
Amidst the contemporary electronic music that played throughput, a woman’s voice narrated segments of the journey, beginning with a lone dancer’s attempt to go through a doorway. Others thwarted her efforts, until she eventually climbed on top of the door. The atmosphere changed, as music, movement qualities, architecture, and costumes created an otherworldly feel. The ensemble donned the same gold, black, and red attire they wore for one of the AGT performances, and while the design seems a little puzzling, it works for the mood in Voyage.
Large moveable boxes with rectangular cutouts opened to mirrored ramps from which the dancers launched themselves, ending in various rolls across the floor. Precise timing dynamics and ever-changing movement qualities lend a nice artistry to the awe-inspiring tricks. The work benefits from the large cast and multiple parts, which only heightens the excitement of the ordered chaos on stage. The set pieces allow for gutsy, adventurous feats and gymnastics maneuvers, but the movements in between stay more on the organic side, rather than including stylized technical vocabulary.
As if the piece didn’t supply enough heart-stopping moments, the company throws a giant wheel into the mix, almost like one found in a hamster cage. With so many moving bodies and an enormous metal object just inches away from causing mayhem, it’s a wonder they pulled it off with ease and a great credit to their teamwork and energy.
Although the wheel proved the most dazzling, it’s the neatly satisfying finish that makes this work charming as well as stirring. The woman who set out to find herself finds familiarity back on earth and makes it through the door.
Throughout that first work, it’s easy to begin a physics guessing game, wondering how many different ways the dancers can interact with the architecture and what maneuvers they must complete to keep the structures under their control. The second work, Trajectoire, gives that game a dangerous spin. A gargantuan platform rocking back and forth on its half-cylinder foundation takes up most of the stage for a spine-tingling experience.
As the company’s signature work, it ramps up the daredevil tactics yet contains more technical vocabulary and dance-like shapes. Since the work debuted around 1999-2000, it naturally contains some movements typical of the time, giving it a hint of nostalgia.
The focus, however, stays on the dancers’ remarkable ability to maintain composure and hit their shapes while the structure rocks back and forth like a ship in a storm. Changing the angle of the architecture and removing some key guardrails turns the dance into a magic trick that just keeps upping the stakes. After a large build and climax, however, the work oddly turns serious, with a single dancer slinking away in the darkness.
Heim has been hinting at more extensive works that necessitate longer stays in each city. Judging from his following in Dallas and the excitement he and his dancers build, he’ll likely have great success here with that new direction.