When asked about his personal description of dance performance “DIAVOLO: Architecture In Motion,” performer Simon Greenberg kept it short and simple.
“Playful, a little surreal and dangerous,” Greenberg said.
“DIAVOLO” played its first show in Oxford at the Gertrude Ford Center on Tuesday night.
The Los Angeles-based dance company was founded in 1992 by Jacques Heim. “DIAVOLO” travels internationally and was featured on “America’s Got Talent” in 2017 for the show’s 12th season.
Since its debut on “America’s Got Talent,” the group has been participating in what is described as more commercial and corporate showings rather than concert or theatre performances, like the showing in the Ford Center.
The show is comprised of two parts that each tell a story slightly different from the other.
The first part is the company’s newest adventure called “Voyage,” which honors the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing. The dance depicts a young woman dreaming of space travel and the stage fills with her imagination and eventual transformation.
“DIAVOLO” then showcases its signature piece, “Trajectoire,” which displays an emotional journey and the transformation of a human soul despite adversity.
“There’s a moment in ‘Trajectoire,’ which is the big boat. We rock it so far that people dangle by their arms at the very top of it,” performer Kelsey Long said. “That part specifically always scared me at first because I didn’t believe I had enough hand strength to hold my weight added with the momentum of the rock. Now that I’m in it, it’s one of my favorite parts out of the entire piece because you feel weightless … you can’t get that feeling from any other object.”
The choreography is centered around large pieces of equipment that are disassembled and reassembled by 12 dancers throughout the show.
“I think DIAVOLO is such a complex creature. On that stage, you get to know 11 other people really intensely, and their parts really intensely. So not only are you working under conditions that kind of inspire adrenaline, but you’re responsible for all these other moving parts. It doesn’t get easier, but it gets more fun,” Greenberg added.
The dancing is performed to pre-recorded songs. The last part of “Voyage” was shown through the song “Cosmic Love,” by Florence + the Machine. Despite the lyrical meaning, the choreography took on a story of its own.
The dancers are all approximately in their 20s and have extensive backgrounds in athletics, dance and overall movement. The choreography is a combination of contemporary dance as well as acrobatics, gymnastics, hip-hop and martial arts.
“You’re never going to be good enough, you’re never going to have it and with that type of mentality, maintaining a humbleness with your professionalism and your artistry is how you grow,” performer Ezra Masse-Mahar said. “It’s a more realistic approach to the industry.”
Throughout the performance, the dancers execute tasks that have been mastered through a great amount of practice and self-discipline. The performers spend 20-22 hours in the theatre in the few days leading up to their show.
“There’s a certain kind of fearlessness that I don’t know how to put into words, that is a requirement for entry,” Technical Directorand Lighting Designer Evan Ritter said. “There’s a certain quality I can recognize but I’m not quite sure I can describe. And if they don’t have it and I can see that they aren’t going to be here for very long.”
The company observes not only the growth and maturing of the performance but also personal growth and achievements.
“Your soul almost starts to swell, and you start believing in yourself a little bit more,” Long said.
The 12 close-knit dancers on the touring group attribute their performance and growth to the familial bonds that are formed through the company.
“It’s a kind of crazy, intense, tight-woven family that I’ve yet to encounter anything like,” Greenberg said.
Each member comes from different areas and backgrounds, bringing his or her unique energy and expertise to the performance. Overall, the choreography is practiced with dedication and tenacity. Throughout the show, the dancers are seen grinning while completing daredevil feats.
Through the constant travel and performing, malfunctions and potential show-stopping factors threaten the show’s performance.
“The worst fear is that it will somehow get on but it’ll diminish the energy of the show,” Ritter said.
Despite having a slight technical malfunction on Tuesday morning, the issue was quickly resolved and the show continued. Ritter mentioned that the nature of the company is the main factor that eases a potential disaster.
“DIAVOLO” travels internationally and is currently on tour.