DIAVOLO performs high-energy acrobatic dance at IU


The cast of Diavolo performs "Cubicle," the first of a two-part piece entitled "L.O.S.T." ("Losing One's Self Temporarily") on Tuesday at the IU Auditorium. Diavolo is an acrobatic dance group that placed in the top 10 of season 12 of "America's Got Talent". Marlie Bruns

A dancer stood on a staircase 20 feet above the stage. She looked down at a group of dancers. Then, she took off in a sprint and dove to the ground. She was horizontal when the group caught her, mere feet from the ground.

Los Angeles dance group DIAVOLO | Architecture in Motion performed its show “L.O.S.T.” on Tuesday.

Founded by artistic director Jacques Heim in 1992, DIAVOLO strives to create “visceral and awe-inspiring works that reveal how humans are affected emotionally, physically and socially by the spaces we inhabit,” according to an IU Auditorium press release.

“L.O.S.T.” stands for "Losing One's Self Temporarily." The first part, “Cubicle,” explores “the human condition under cramped control and a monotonous reality,” according to the event program.

Using 55-pound hollow cubes, the dancers built and inhabited different sets, from office spaces to conveyor belts. In one moment, the dancers held the cubes over their heads and wandered, aimless and anonymous. At another point, the cubes were stacked in a pyramid with a dancer, appearing relaxed and superior, smoking a cigarette at the top.

“What we do on stage is like a live abstract painting,” Heim said on DIAVOLO's website. “There is no narrative, but strong themes pervade the work.”

At one point, the dancers entered a choreographed fight for a single cube that had a central, superior position among the others. The dancers flung, carried and caught each other off and through the hollow cubes.

“There’s a lot of trust; there’s a lot of teamwork,” Amy Tuley, rehearsal director, said. “We’re flying and landing in each other’s arms and working together to move the set pieces and create new environments.”

The second part of the show, “Passengers,” is about “people caught in the wild loop of their shifting states of mind,” according to the event program. Dancers ran and jumped across two staircases, reaching toward the ceiling before those staircases merged and became a train. Dancers occasionally dived from the top of the set into the arms of other dancers below.

“The train for Jacques is a metaphor for this ride of life,” Connor Senning, associate rehearsal director said. “It’s more about where are we going.”

DIAVOLO is known for themes such as love, danger, risk and fate, Tuley said.

“That’s something everyone can kind of connect with in different ways,” Senning said. “Using the architecture Jacques has presented us, we’ve created movement to take us on a journey.”

DIAVOLO finished in the top 10 on "America’s Got Talent" on Sept. 20, 2017, Sennin said. The group auditioned in March and spent the next six months working on productions for the show, 12 hours a day, seven days a week. “Passengers,” which DIAVOLO performed on Tuesday, advanced the group to the quarterfinals on the show.

For anyone following DIAVOLO on the show, the group brings something else to its live performances, Senning said. 

“What we do on 'America’s Got Talent' is very commercial, and what we do in our live shows on tour is very concert,” Senning said. “It has much more depth and emotion to it.”

The themes and ideas of each show are meant to be relatable, Senning said.

“We just really want to connect with anybody in the audience who’s coming to have an experience,” Senning said.

DIAVOLO will perform on Sept. 28 in West Lafayette and on Feb. 3, 2018, in Fort Wayne.

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