The rebel of the dance world is back. Jacque Heim and his company, Diavolo Dance Theatre are returning to Dallas and the Dallas City Performance Hall for two days and with a show that will thrill and delight: There are skateboards, larger-than-life ramps, a gigantic sphere and performers who will, no doubt, defy gravity.
But this rebel without a cause didn’t always know his place would be in dance.
“In another life, I would have been an architect,” Heim said during our phone interview last week. “But I happened to see the light, and dance called to me.” Rather, it saved him. As young man in Paris, France, he bounced around from school to school — he got kicked out of six different ones — and thought maybe he was meant for a different place. That place was America. He moved to New York and fell in love with the theater. Then he moved to Vermont, where he studied at Middlebury College and received his BFA in theater, dance and film. The school bug had finally bitten him, and he moved to England to study at the University of Surrey, where he received his Certificate for Analysis and Criticism of Dance.
But the American way of life called once again.
“I love this country. I’m from Paris, France, but I sometimes say I’m from Paris, Texas. In my other life, I was an American,” he said. “I always saw [America] as a place you push yourself to create opportunities. I mean, it is the land of opportunity. And I just fit in well here, more than I did in Europe. It was here that I could create something out of nothing, something special, and that’s the American way, right?”
He found himself at the California Institute of the Arts, working on his MFA in choreography, and it was during this time that he truly fell in love with movement. Diavolo Dance Theatre was formed in 1992 as way to combine Heim’s love for movement and architecture. Besides, as he said, “My accent was so thick that my friends often joked that dance was the place for me, because no one could understand me otherwise.”
Yet, Heim was never a traditional student of dance, and it was never about technique for him. “I’m more interested in how art and architecture play together. With Diavolo, we can create and educate, and I am able to collaborate with the dancers, with other choreographers, with the composers, to create a new experience and to give a voice to different communities and ideas.”
Those ideas will be on full display this weekend in their performances of Fluid Infinities (2013) and Transit Space (2012). The first is the final installment in L’Espace du Temps (Space of Time), a trilogy co-commissioned by the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association and the University of Notre Dame’s DeBartolo Performing Arts Center. Theperformance is set on an abstract dome structure sitting on a reflection of itself, and the dome’s organic patterns evoke “the craters of the moon, a honeycomb of bees, a shifting brain, or an undiscovered starship.”
The piece investigates the persistence of life, its struggle and promise. Quite metaphysical for a dance work — but they’re notions we’ve probably all pondered at some time.
“I have no idea how we came up with [it],” said Heim, “but the work is completely different than what we have done in the past. It pushes you beyond your limits because sometimes in life you feel you can’t make it. The dancers are pushing themselves beyond their own expectations, and my goal is to help guide them along the way, and the audience too.”
Transit Space travels a similar path but pursues more concrete themes, such as feeling lost, finding a sense of purpose and coming together. Influenced by the documentary Dogtown and Z-Boys, it uses skateboard ramps as set pieces to represent an urban environment with ever-shifting physical and emotional spaces.
But the piece is not about skateboarding. Rather, the action is a metaphor to “explore a reality where we can all feel very lost and isolate until we find a refuge, a community where we feel we belong,” said Heim.
If you want to hear more from Heim himself, you’re in luck; he’ll be in town with the company and will be giving a pre-show talk with TITAS’ Charles Santos before the Friday night performance at 6:45 p.m. at Dallas City Performance Hall.
And Texas is a special place for Diavolo. Four out of the current ten dancers in the company are from Texas. “Texas brings us luck and love. I really think they just enjoy our work and connect to it, and we love them,” said Heim.
In fact, you can continue the Texas tradition by auditioning for Diavolo on Saturday March 28 at 10:00 a.m. Contact them for details.