Review: Diavolo's Architecture in Motion goes a bit off-kilter

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 09 July, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 09 July, 2013, 9:59am

Architecture in Motion
Diavolo Dance Theatre
Cultural Centre Grand Theatre
Reviewed: July 5

American company Diavolo Dance Theatre, created by director Jacques Heim in 1992, brings a mix of acrobatic stunts and urban dance to the stage. Heim's speciality is the use of huge structures on which the performers climb, slide, hang or jump, delivering a high-octane show.

The best sequence is Trajectoire, where the focus is a section of a full-sized ship which swings from side to side and undergoes a series of transformations. It starts slowly, with imaginative groupings which display the troupe's sense of balance, and builds to a climax with breathtaking leaps from the crest of the structure.

The performers' blazing energy, fearlessness and timing are impressive. On the downside, the focus on structures is limiting; the moves and the way the structures are used soon become repetitive.

Comparatively, Momix, a frequent visitor to Hong Kong, uses huge props as well, but not for every segment of the show - and Diavolo has none of Momix's poetry or powers of visual illusion.

In fact, the word "dance" in Diavolo's name is somewhat misleading. The brash, roughhouse style takes its cue from street dance - but while the performers are remarkable athletes and acrobats, they're not really dancers and the choreography is banal.

The troupe's urban grittiness and monochrome designs were perhaps a surprising choice to open the annual summer International Arts Carnival, which is aimed at families. The theatre was packed with children and there were plenty of "oohs" and "aahs" at the high dives along with loud, youth-led laughter during the slapstick Bench (a pity this was the only comic segment).

However, the 40-minute Transit Space isn't appropriate in this context - it is too long and the English-language voice-overs with philosophical musings left bored children fidgeting as they couldn't follow what was going on.

Natasha Rogai