A successful Diavolo set piece must be able to accommodate travel, not only throughout the United States but to international theaters as well.  When a plan/design is revised, revisited and redrawn several times over, the actual set construction begins.
     Construction and fabrication is a one-time effort, as the costs of the set pieces prohibit multiple drafts in full scale.  Thus the early designs must accommodate the
vision of Heim’s idea as well as the ability to travel and the safety of the performers.
     When the performers become involved with the set piece, it will dictate the way the performers can move on it and eventually the look of the piece.  Jacques will ask the performers to create phrases and movement before the arrival of the set piece, based on his ideas of what the piece will be about.  These phrases and movement ideas are shared amongst the group, with Jacques directing and sculpting the phrases for the themes and ideas of the
All photos courtesy Diavolo
     When the set piece arrives, the company will begin a process of improvisation to understand the set piece and the movement that is capable with it.  For “Foreign Bodies,” this process was accomplished over three to four months of creation, while for “Trajectoire” - the final piece in the Diavolo concert - took over two years to create.
     As in most companies, improvisation is the producer for new movement.  But Diavolo improvisation is slightly different than other dance companies, because the performers are asked to use their own style of movement rather than working within the style of the
company's artistic medium or director.  Thus, in a Diavolo show, you see martial arts and yoga mixed with ballet and break dancing - because each performer’s strengths become the movement of the entire company.  Are the dance works set once the choreography is in place or do the individual pieces evolve as new ideas emerge from how to utilize the set pieces or discoveries during performances?

P.F.:   The pieces that are performed in the Diavolo show have set choreography with room for improvisation, as required by the live performance of the piece.  When performing with a large moving set piece, the need for improvisational skills that reflect the tone of the piece are required as things happen that are out of the performers’ control.  It is the nature and true beauty of the live theater experience - going through an event as a performer and audience member.
     That being said, each new performer brings in a different and unique skill set and Jacques Heim uses his performers to their fullest extend.  Thus, each role - or track as Diavolo calls them - can change to accommodate different skills.  It is not the set piece that usually causes the changes, because in the creation process, much of the range of motion on the set pieces is experimented.  What is the most challenging aspect of touring the Diavolo show?

P.F.:  Every touring performer and technical personal would say that a different aspect of our show is the most challenging, and that it changes from city to city and theater to theater.  Unloading our truck into a theater can be challenging, if the size of the loading
dock or stage is small - or if the doors into the space are a tight fit for our set pieces.  Training the local crew in every city to handle our set pieces with the care and strength that they require, while also moving them as quickly as possible in our changeovers, is always a challenge.  
    The logistics of travel can sometimes be a nightmare and the performer’s ability to adjust to a new bed and diet every four to five days can often be tested.  But in the end, the experience of teaching the Diavolo work and performing the Diavolo show throughout the United States and abroad makes all those difficulties less important and more fulfilling.

    Diavolo plays the Paramount Theatre on April 17th and 18th at 8 p.m.; doors and bar open at 7 p.m.  For tickets and information, visit or call (866) 4GET-TIX.

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