Diabolo Dance Theatre: VALO I – Ameoba

Taipei Performing Arts Center
April 16, 2023

Last year, Diabolo Dance Theatre (舞鈴劇場) brought a taste of something different to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, garnering lots of positive comment for their Light of Life (生命之光), actually a cut-down and modified version of another production, VALO I -Amoeba (VALO 首部曲 - 阿米巴), the first episode of a two-part opus created and directed by Liu Le-chun (劉樂群).

Just like Light of Life and true to Diabolo Dance Theatre’s style, Amoeba is a colourful multimedia fantasy of vivid sights and sounds that plays with the four elements. While naturally centred around the art of diabolo, an hourglass-shaped juggling prop that is whirled and tossed on a string attached to handsticks, it also brings in excellent dance, music and contemporary circus, melding them with impressive lighting and visual design to create high quality entertainment.

Diabolo Dance Theatre’s VALO I – Amoeba
Photo Liu Bi-ci

The premise is straightforward. After primitive life was first created, it embarked on a transcendental passage as it developed and grew. The audience joins it on its journey as it encounters water, fire, earth, wind and other elements.

The action only pauses during the second act for some good-natured audience participation, for which there was no shortage of enthusiastic young volunteers. Otherwise, the action and colour flow constantly.

There is so much to take in. It opens with Usay Kao-lu (舞思愛•羔露) suspended high above the stage, her sonorous voice and song acting as a wake-up call to life. Also on a musical theme, superb drummers Chen Yin-chun (陳胤錞) and Gao Ting-han (高廷翰) appear several times, again at one point, suspended way above the stage. There’s some quality aerial acro using a hoop, and more aloft later in a corde lisse section. Another section combines dance and Swiss gym balls. Representing fire, dancers in red on Segways glide on holding stylised torches.

Liu Nai-wen in Diabolo Dance Theatre’s VALO I – Amoeba
Photo Liu Bi-ci

Diabolos are never far away, of course. But while the performers certainly do tricks with the, they are far more than mere circus props. As the company’s name suggests, they do dance with them too. In the first section, which has a distinct underwater feel, they are tossed and juggled with aplomb by what appear to be assorted seaweed and soft coral. Best of all is when internally lit diabolos fly overhead. As they are launched from the back of the theatre to the stage, it’s like sitting under a glorious fizzing meteor shower.

Diabolo Dance Theatre’s VALO I – Amoeba
Photo Liu Bi-ci

There’s plenty of conventional dance too, most notably a beautiful, flowing acrobatic duet, full of strength and grace between Wu Wei-jyue (吳為爵) in red and Lin Yi-jiun (林怡均) in blue. The partnering and trust between them were outstanding. A more balletic, grounded dance by Ruan Yun-shin (阮昀馨) that comes soon afterwards is just as captivatingly beautiful, albeit in a more lyrical way.

Linking it all together, our guide for the journey, is Liu Nai-wen (劉乃文), in oversize green coat and hat, part-Master of Ceremonies, part-clown. And, of course, the large white amoeba of the title, played by Syu Shih-wei (徐識幃); a rather cute creature who, it turns out, can dance the odd step.

VALO I – Amoeba. A show brimming with creativity, imagination and surprise. Great fun and truly entertainment for the whole family.