Diavolo Dance Theatre: A quick chat with Artistic Director Jacques Heim

Jacques Heim
Jacques Heim

Under the guidance of Artistic Director Jacques Heim, Diavolo Dance Theatre has seen huge international success since its inception in 1992. Aussie Theatre’s Annie Ferguson spoke with Heim about Diavolo’s upcoming show in Melbourne, Architecture in Motion.

Diavolo Dance Theatre are well known for their daring acrobatics and challenging choreography but, for all their success, Heim still feels that many people don’t understand exactly what it is that they do. “It’s because”, explains Heim, ‘”what we do on stage is like a live, abstract painting. It’s a little bit of modern dance, a little bit of gymnastics, hip-hop and martial arts too.” So he decided to create the show Architecture in Motion, a phrase that he believes accurately describes the work of Diavolo.

Heim himself is not a dancer, in fact he says that in a different life he would have been an architect. He has a fascination with the relationship between structure and motion and he believes that all creation starts from structure; Architecture in Motion was born, a show in which physical structures become the eleventh dancer.

Trajectoire Photo: Angela Weiss
Photo: Angela Weiss

The Melbourne production of Architecture in Motion is a double-bill, with two distinctly different pieces that are set to inspire audiences. The first, Trajectoire, takes place on a sinking ship. Heim explains that the piece examines the fragility of life by highlighting imbalance. As the dancers rock back and forth on the moving set, they struggle to find their feet so as not to be tossed overboard. The work aims to challenge people to find balance in their own lives and Heim hopes that it will affect people in a visceral way. He says, “For me there is something really beautiful and organic about this piece. It can really connect with you.”

The second piece, Transit Space, is of an altogether different nature. Inspired by films such as Dogtown and Z-Boys, the work explores the freedom and fearlessness of Californian skateboarding culture. Heim recalls an eye-opening conversation he had with a young skateboarder during the creation of the work. “I asked him, ‘Aren’t you afraid of getting hurt?’ and he said to me, ‘If you’re always afraid of getting hurt then you cannot grow, you cannot be free.’ A 16-year-old told me that!

Transit Space Photo:  Julie Shelton
Transit Space
Photo: Julie Shelton

Having experienced the sense of freedom that was present amongst these young skateboarders Heim set to work bringing it to life on the stage, with a particular interest in trying to recreate the movement of skateboarding. A local spoken word artist provided the music for Transit Space. Heim describes the piece as “A long poem with rock and roll”.

Architecture in Motion is a show that has been a long time coming. Before full-time rehearsals commenced the moving sets had to be constructed in consultation with the dancers and engineers, with specifications that the sets needed to be able to tour internationally. After construction, the choreography was yet another slow process. Heim says it took approximately one hour to choreograph just six seconds of Trajectoire, and that the dancers were constantly having to take time because of the seasickness caused by working on the moving platforms.

Architecture in Motion is most certainly a show that is set to engage and excite, if not challenge, audiences. Heim is confident that Australian audiences will enjoy the production and that they will find a way to connect with the narrative behind the choreography.

Looking forward, Heim wants to keep creating dance that is challenging, works that takes the dancer and the audience outside of their comfort zone. There is no doubt that there will be more exciting projects from Diavolo Dance Theatre in the coming years.

Architecture in Motion is running from February 5th-9th at the State Theatre, Arts Centre, Melbourne. For bookings and information, visit: http://artscentremelbourne.com.au/

Jan Chandler

Jan has been working freelance in the arts industry for some 15+ years in a variety of roles including: arts management; journalism (print, radio and online); publicity; and media relations. Passionate about the arts in all their variety, Jan has worked in film (production assistant; reviewer); dance (publicity; producer and presenter of 'Dance Dialogues - 3CR) and Board Member of Ausdance (Victoria)); performing arts (company manager, performer, reviewer, online editor). Jan had the honour of being the General Manager of Ilbijerri Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Theatre for some 18 months.

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