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Show Guide for Diavolo

Show Guide for Diavolo

Diavolo’s signature dramatic movement integrates the human body with its surroundings in dynamic ways. Diavolo is comprised of dancers, gymnasts, rock climbers, and actors.


Diavolo (di-a’-vo-lo)


  • Spanish for “day.”

  • Greek for “through, across, from point to point.”

  • The first syllable of Diaghilev, who founded Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo and whose great great grand nephew is Diavolo artistic director Jacques Heim.


  • Latin for "I fly."

The word Diavolo has other connotations:

  • In French, diablerie is the playfulness of humans, also the clever, astounding or comical pranks of a child, clown or rascal.

  • The name of a Russian avant-garde circus performer who in the 1920s did outrageous bicycle stunts.


The Company

Diavolo was founded in 1992 in Los Angeles by Jacques Heim. The company was barely a year old when it was nominated for two Lester Horton awards in Los Angeles. In 1995, Diavolo made its European debut at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival where they were named “Best of the Fest” by the London Independent and Critic’s Choice by The Guardian. Also in 1995, the company received three Lester Horton Awards for the work Tête en L’Air. In 1998, Diavolo opened the performance series at the new Getty Center Museum in Los Angeles. Next year saw the creation of Diavolo’s first full-evening length work Catapult, which also coincided with Diavolo’s first full North American tour. During the summer of 2001, Diavolo was able to invite Jelon Viera, Artistic Director of Dance Brazil and the Capoeria Foundation, to Los Angeles to conduct an intensive capoeira—an Afro-Brazilian combination of martial arts and dance—workshop with the company. The company also won four more Lester Horton Awards in 2001.

The Show

Diavolo Dance Theatre specializes in unusual and engaging interdisciplinary physical performance. The Los Angeles-based company creates large-scale pieces that examine the funny and frightening ways individuals interact with their environment. Diavolo’s signature dramatic movement integrates the human body with its surroundings in dynamic ways. Sets are intrinsic to each dance, and objects from oversized surrealistic set pieces to everyday items like doors, chairs and stairways are Diavolo’s playground as company members leap, fly and twirl. Diavolo is comprised of dancers, gymnasts, rock climbers, and actors.

Diavolo’s work exudes craftiness and wit, traits exemplified in their stylized fox logo. The company has developed a movement vocabulary that redefines the category of dance. Works are born out of the dancers’ teamwork and trust; the process encourages risk-taking and creates powerful, cinematic-like images of these physical explorations of contemporary human existence. Diavolo company members possess more than acrobatic prowess. Their work creates metaphors for the challenge of relationships, the absurdities of life and the search for humanity in an increasingly technological world.

Part of Diavolo’s artistic vision is to push the boundaries of dance and to do it in front of audiences across America. 

Humachina combines the word “human” with the Latin word for machine, “machina,” an apt title for this piece merging biology and mechanics. The complex human form intertwines with one of the simplest and most important of machines—the wheel. The principles of human motion are engineered to make bodies dart through and swing around the spokes of the larger-than-life version of a vital and simple technology.

Tête En L’Air  literally translates as “head in the sky,” a phrase that refers to a sense of bewilderment and wonder. The piece was inspired by the surreal work of French comedic filmmaker Jacques Tati. Tête En L'Air portrays the journey of isolation faced by inhabitants of the modern world. A staircase hosts these citizens who—bewildered by endless commuting, relocating, fear of intimacy and fear of the ultimate destination—try to transcend the disconnect that affects their lives.

Artistic Director

Diavolo’s artistic director Jacques Heim was born in Paris. He earned a BFA in Theatre, Dance and Film from Middlebury College. Heim moved to Los Angeles in 1989 and attended California Institute for the Arts, receiving an MFA in Choreography. In 1992, Heim founded Diavolo Dance Theater. That same year, Heim received the Martha Hill Choreography Award from the American Dance Festival and the Special Prize of the Jury at the 6th Saitama International Dance Festival in Saitama, Japan. In 1998 and 1999 Heim was nominated for a Lester Horton award for Best Choreography. Inspired by the unusual and innovative way that Heim works with architectural structures in Diavolo, the creative team at Cirque du Soleil commissioned him to choreograph Ka in Las Vegas, which opened in February 2005. Heim has been named one of the “Faces to Watch in the Arts” by the LA Times and one of the “100 Coolest People in LA” by Buzz Magazine. Heim has taught Intensive Movement for Actors at UCLA, and Cal State LA.

Piece by Piece: Artistic Director Jacques Heim on Creating a Diavolo Dance

“A word about the process we go through creating our pieces… Although no two pieces evolve identically, I have developed a method of working over the years. To begin with, I decide on an idea for the set. Whether found or constructed, it is selected based on its role in our lives, its architectural qualities - as landscape and as object - its geometric shape(s), its mechanical functionality. In short: there is something striking about it that compels exploration--a discovery of the myriad ways in which it influences our behavior.

Once we decide on the set, the choreographic process is truly collaborative, with the sculptor/set designer and the performers all contributing their own input. At first we go through a period of improvisation during which I ask each of the performers to live with the set, to see what their body is telling them, find out what kinds of movement are possible-- individually and with one another. The sculptor/set designers remain involved throughout, contributing input of their own and making adjustments as necessary.

Following this period of initial improvisation I begin to shape and edit the piece around the individuality of the performers and their contributions. Only at this point do we establish what the piece is ‘about.’ This is largely a subconscious, visceral interpretation based on how our bodies relate to one another and the set, and how these discoveries relate to our lives. Organic characterizations and sequences are developed and assembled in the manner of a collage with added input from the costume and lighting designers. The final stage is incorporating the music composers once the piece is nearly done, treating the music and percussion as a score, and frequently having them play the set as an instrument. In the end, what you see on stage are the combined contributions of the entire company. You are encouraged to give us feedback about your experience.”

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