EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW - Diavolo Dancer Philip Flinkinger
By Rob Faubion

    When the athletic dancers of Diavolo lands at the Paramount Theatre in April, expect the acrobatic troupe to leap, fly, somersault and twirl across the legendary stage.  That’s because
Diavolo is not your ordinary dance show.
     Diavolo was founded in 1992 by Jacques Heim in Los Angeles, where he created large-scale interdisciplinary performances that incorporated large set pieces into the action.  
Architectural structures or sculpted adaptations of everyday items - sofas, doors, stairs - provide the backdrop for dramatic and risky movement.  Heim’s company is comprised of dancers, gymnasts and actors who create performances collaboratively, using a unique dance vocabulary to comment on human behavior.
All photos courtesy Diavolo
    Heim brings the Diavolo troupe to Austin on April 17th and 18th for two shows at the Paramount Theatre.  Austin On Stage chatted with Philip Flickinger - a third year dancer with the troupe - about the creative process of Diavolo, how the unique performances evolve, and what it takes to tour the demanding production.  How did the idea of Diavolo’s unique dance vocabulary initiate and evolve?

Philip Flinkinger:  Diavolo had its first performance in 1993, and the founding company was comprised primarily of actors that could move with athletic versatility.  All of the movement vocabulary for each piece comes from the performers, while Jacques directs and sculpts that movement into exciting and abstract movement pieces.
    The original company’s versatility eventually attracted gymnasts and dancers. The excitement that is generated by the movement of the company attracts future members, who can accomplish and expand on that movement.  That lure of performing athletic and exciting movement continually increases the competition and skill level of the Diavolo
dancer. Considering the sheer athleticism required for the performances, what does Diavolo look for in dancers that audition to be a part of the troupe?

P.F.:  Performers who fit the bill for the Diavolo Company exhibit a mixture of dance, gymnastics, acting, and a sheer drive to succeed.  They must be able to move with power, subtlety, grace, and strength while also expressing their humanity.  
    What eventually will separate the athletically gifted from the Diavolo performer is the ability to work in a group toward a common goal.  Each performer is vital in each performance of a Diavolo piece.  The performer who can commit to a team goal and facilitate that team work in every performance and rehearsal is the performer that succeeds in Diavolo.  I’ve read that Diavolo strives to show the absurdities of contemporary human life - how does Diavolo accomplish that during their performances?

P.F.:  Diavolo’s work is best described as “the active watching of abstract painting.”  The company does not perform a traditional narrative that one might expect from dance, if one is familiar with ballet or traditional dance theater.  Rather, Diavolo creates images and emotions on stage that audience members can identify with themselves, and then
create a story from (that identification).
    Art causes viewers to reflect back on themselves, and Diavolo strives to create that mirror through movement and abstract images. The absurdity of life takes center stage in every Diavolo show, because the performers are using the full range of human movement - from pedestrian to highly skilled - to reflect on the human experience.   What is the creative process for creating a new piece - how do you transform an idea and a large set piece into a dance work?

P.F.:  Every piece that Diavolo performs begins with an idea for a set piece.  “Knockturne” began with the creation of doors after Jacques Heim counted the number of doors he passed through in a single day.  “Trajectoire” came from a shape in a mobile and “Foreign Bodies” from children’s blocks.

© Copyright 2009  All rights reserved