Dance review: DIAVOLO goes to work

The LA-based movement theater starts its flashy new show in the office, but it doesn't stay there long

DIAVOLO has been busy since it last visited Portland. (For one, they capitalized their name and attached their slogan, “Architecture in Motion,” to it.) “Losing One’s Self Temporarily,” or “L.O.S.T.,” is an all-new show, and Friday night was the world premiere of its second act, “Passengers,” another coup for dance presenters White Bird.

Live-wire artistic director Jacques Heim calls the show “An abstract study of our transient reality as we traverse through our daily lives and our daily work,” and the founders of White Bird call Heim “our favorite crazy Frenchman,” a title Heim seemed to relish as he took the stage for one of his trademark introductory speeches (and a celebratory white feather boa).

DIAVOLO opened White Bird's new season with "L.O.S.T." Friday night/Daniel MacSween, courtesy of White Bird

DIAVOLO opened White Bird’s new season with “L.O.S.T.” Friday night/Daniel MacSween, courtesy of White Bird

He has the ability to become a sort of highbrow hype-man for his own show, crackling with both joy and curiosity about what his troupe is about to do. It’s rare to see directors speak so freely about their own work before the show, and rarer still for them to do it with such unbridled humor and glee. He seemed as enamored with the conceptual framework of the show as he was with the exciting new contraptions the company has built. Watching him let his enthusiasm roam freely from intellectual to athletic challenges was the best introduction the show could have had, as it gave the audience a license to enjoy the same freedom.


And suddenly it’s October. Among other things – pumpkin patches, Yom Kippur, the World Series, Halloween – that means we’re two days from First Thursday, Portland’s monthly gallery hop of new shows. This week’s visual art calendar is a doozy, from open studios to Warhol with lots between.

A few of the highlights:

James Lavadour Ruby II, 2016 oil on panel 32" x 48"

James Lavadour, “Ruby II,” 2016, oil on panel, 32″ x 48.” PDX Contemporary.

James Lavadour at PDX Contemporary. It’s always a good day when new work by Lavadour, the veteran landscape expressionist from Pendleton, comes to town. This show, called Ledger of Days, furthers his exploration of the land and its mysteries. “A painting is a structure for the extraordinary and informative events of nature that are otherwise invisible,” he writes. “A painting is a model for infinity.” Lavadour is also one of the moving forces behind Pendleton’s innovative and essential Crow’s Shadow Institute of the Arts, which celebrates its 25th anniversary next year. Watch for what’s coming up.

The new Russo Lee Gallery: 30 years. What you’ve known for years as Laura Russo Gallery is celebrating three decades with a showing of new work by its distinguished stable of artists – and with a new name. The name is a fusion of the gallery’s long tradition and current reality. After founder Laura Russo died in 2010, her longtime employee Martha Lee bought the business and continues to operate it. This show promises to be a statement of sorts, and will have a catalog available.


Dance review: Diavolo rocks the stage

In White Bird's season opener the dancers risked and were rewarded

An incredibly strong start to White Bird’s 17th season, Diavolo returned to Portland for the first time since 2003 on Thursday. Under artistic director Jaques Heim, Diavolo has produced boundary-pushing, often dangerous performances under the concept of “architecture in motion” since 1992.

Working with a range of sculptors, architects and designers (including Portland’s local puppeteer Michael Curry), Heim develops massive kinetic playgrounds for his gymnastic dancers by creating structures and apparatus for them to explore and manipulate. These become world-building devices, each transforming the stage with their new demands of movement. It’s impossible not to start imagining the possibilities and lives of these structures as soon as you see them, starting with “how on earth did they ship that thing up here?” In some ways, the performances can be seen as a challenge for the dancers to demonstrate wilder expression for these new worlds than the curious audience can imagine.

Diavolo opened White Bird's 17th season with daring acrobatics./Photo by Alexander Slanger

Diavolo opened White Bird’s 17th season with daring acrobatics./Photo by Alexander Slanger

The first piece, Fluid Infinities (2013), centers on a glossy quarter dome pierced by holes like a moonscape designed by Eero Saarinen, countered by a large transparent tube that would be right at home on the set of the original Star Trek series. After a long intermission, the dome is replaced by a 3000-pound rocking stage that looks like the cross section of a boat with a parquet deck. Diavolo has carried this imposing, playful platform around the world since 2002 to perform their seminal Trajectorie. The show is short, intense, and amazingly entertaining.


Oregon ArtsWatch Archives