Light of Life, part of the Fringe Festival’s excellent Taiwan Season, only gives (if the short film they show at the end of the performance is anything to go by) a mere taste of the exciting combination of contemporary circus, dance and music that Diabolo Dance Theatre can offer. Their performance centres on the diabolo—a double-coned bobbin which is manipulated via a string held between two wands. The diabolo is spun at high speed, and rather like a gyroscope, the magic comes about because of the conservation of angular momentum: physics brought alive. Diabolo Dance Theatre’s contemporary versions of the diabolo contain flashing-coloured lights that make them look like sparks as they fly through the air. It is quite spectacular.
The diabolo performers are incredibly skilled, making the tossing and catching of spinning diabolos look easy. When they pass the diabolo to each other’s strings, for example, the catcher does not even appear to move in anticipation; the diabolo seems to have been aimed with such precision that it looks as if it is just drawn to the catcher’s string by invisible forces. As is typical of such displays of skill, the difficulty keeps being ramped up. It begins ‘easy’, and then the number of diabolos steadily increases, as does the complexity of what is done with them. The mostly fast pace of the performance is broken up by feats of strength and balance by two acrobats, and by moments of comedy by another performer (who also introduces several, heavy, over-sized diabolos to perplex us). All this is squeezed into what seems a short forty-five minutes.
George Square Studios One is probably a much smaller space than Diabolo Dance Theatre is used to working in, and it feels as if the performance wants to burst out. This cut-down version of what Diabolo Dance Theatre do is, in some ways, a one-thrill wonder, and it lacks the pure spectacle that it surely must have normally, with more performers in a bigger venue. Nevertheless, the short length of this performance means that the audience can be electrified by the skill of the performers before becoming tired of the lack of variety. It also provides an interesting contrast to the other works that make up this year’s Taiwan Season, providing us with another fascinating facet of contemporary Taiwanese culture.