Martha Graham meets Gene Kelly meets MC Escher: Diavolo at the Detroit Opera House

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[Image Source: http://www.diavolo.org ]

Despite my self-professed bad taste and the populist sensibility that permeates this blog, this has been quite a season of “high art” for me. I sure hope another Transformers movie comes out soon so I can get back on track!

Today, our friend Jorge – a talented artist, loving friend of animals, and former dancer with the National Ballet of Mexico – took us to see the modern/avant garde dance troupe Diavolo perform at the Detroit Opera House. I am game for anything, but I’ve never been one who much appreciated dance as an art form – my pained attempts to imitate the choreography in Lady Gaga, Beyonce, or Justin Timberlake videos in the shameful privacy of my living room notwithstanding.

How wrong I was – these talented, joyous movers and shakers in Diavolo are phenomenal. The best description I can offer is that, in these folks, the liquid flair of Martha Graham meets the taut athleticism of Gene Kelly meets the jigsaw puzzle geography of MC Escher.

I don’t have enough intellectual firepower when it comes to dance to give you a proper review. I really don’t know what I’m talking about … but I do know what is transfixing and entertaining, and Diavolo have those qualities in spades. In short, the troupe performed two pieces – Fluid Infinities (using music by Philip Glass) and Trajectoire - both of which explore the mania of human interaction (love, hope, fear, collaboration, destruction) on a planet spinning off its axis.

The troupe’s “hook” is to base each performance around an architectural construct that adds kinetics, color, light, background, and shape. Said another way, the dancers climb and cavort atop jungle gyms for grownups.

Fluid Infinities employs a swiss-cheese like dome that evokes alternatively a nest, the moon, a bridge, and a mountain, among other things. And Trajectoire‘s central architectural element is depicted in the photo above – basically a ship-like teeter-totter from hell (with some lovely paneling that looks like it came from Ikea). I wish words could describe watching these talented (and brave!) souls sliding, rocking, flipping across that incredible device.

I should note that I don’t much enjoy Broadway’s current tendency to replace traditional stage choreography with the kind of circus gymnastics that would make Barnum and Bailey blush. This is not that. Fusing any and all elements of dance into a pop pastiche, revelatory of the human condition, Diavolo is an absolute marvel. Don’t miss them if they come to your town.

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P.S. Sorry for another outright plug, but please do check out my mom Susie Duncan Sexton’s new book Misunderstood Gargoyles and Overrated Angels – it was just released on Halloween and can be ordered in paperback or digital download at www.open-bks.com, www.susieduncansexton.com, or www.amazon.com (also available on iTunes). I love what my dad just wrote about the book and thought I’d share it here…

Susie Duncan Sexton once again captures the fun and the frustration of growing up in a small town in the 1950s and 1960s. Susie uses her experiences and observations and applies a very humorous and intelligent view of life in the 21st century. Her knowledge of movies, theater, literature, animal rights, music, family interaction (or the lack thereof) and community involvement all make for a very entertaining and enthralling trip. Highly recommended.

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