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Diabolo Dance Theatre

  • Date:2022-11-28
Diabolo Dance Theatre

Chinese Name: 舞鈴劇場

Formed: 1986

Founder: Liu Le-chun

Did You Know?

In 2014, Diabolo Dance Theatre received an inquiry from Canada's Cirque du Soleil about a possible acquisition, but founder Liu Le-chun declined the offer. His hope has always been to create a Taiwanese performing arts brand, and as such, he chose to continue to take his Taiwanese team to the world on their own terms.

Diabolo Dance Theatre is, as the name would imply, focused on the diabolo, combining traditional Eastern skills with modern Western performing arts and integrating music, dance, nouveau cirque (also known as contemporary circus), multimedia, lighting, and visual arts technology to create a new generation of entertainment performance. Since its establishment in 1986, the troupe has toured more than 30 countries around the world and put on more than 3,000 shows. It is one of the few professional large-scale multi-disciplinary performing arts groups in Taiwan that are active on the international stage.

At the age of 20, Liu Le-chun had just graduated from Taipei City Teachers' College and joined Taipei Municipal Zhong Zheng Elementary School for a practicum. At the assignment of the principal, he was ordered to form a diabolo team. Diabolo is a traditional Chinese folk sport and children's play activity that has been passed down for many, many generations. A diabolo is a wooden object with a round bottom and double-concave sides. Like an aerial spinning top, a diabolo is tossed, turned, and thrown with a rope with handles at both ends. In the West, it is also known as a "Chinese yo-yo."

At the time, Liu was just a math teacher; he didn't know anything about the diabolo. He had to watch video tapes to teach himself and then lead his students in practices in the same way. However, during those practices, Liu began to wonder to himself, "Are diabolos just for standing around with? Why can’t they be combined with dance?" At that moment, the idea of combining dance and diabolo was born.

Liu began to encourage the students of the diabolo team to learn to dance, increasing their flexibility while practicing the diabolo and taking them out for competitions. In 2002, Diabolo Dance Theater was invited to perform at the Lincoln Center Festival in New York, breaking away from traditional folk skills and creating a one-of-a-kind performance form, "Diabolo Dance," which opened the audience's eyes. Liu went on to spend a decade honing diabolo dance, no longer feeling limited by the standard diabolo framework, but rather, introducing dance forms and elements.

In 2004, Liu resigned from his teaching position to run the troupe full-time. He also transformed the diabolo team he had led for more than ten years into a professional diabolo dance troupe. They began to work with top performing artists in different fields in Taiwan, combining diabolo, dance, gymnastics, and professional theater with stage technology, visual creativity, 3D/virtual, and other special effects to present a visual and auditory feast.

Building on his creative concept that "life is art, art is life," Liu Le-chun hopes that the performances presented by Diabolo Dance Theatre will not only have deep artistic aesthetics but also have stories that audiences find relatable. Remaining committed to the original intention of Diabolo Dance Theatre, Liu not only ingeniously combines diabolo and dance but also incorporates theater elements such as stage design, music, lighting effects, and stage scenery. There is neither dialogue nor lines, simply telling stories through beautiful music and fluid movements and transforming artistic performance into a shared culture that transcends boundaries and languages to deliver touching stories to every audience.

Diabolo Dance Theatre has served as a visiting cultural group of the Overseas Community Affairs Council many times, performing around the world, experiencing different languages and cultures, and giving overseas audiences a chance to experience some of Taiwan's multicultural creations. It has taken more than 30 years of refinement and experience to make Diabolo Dance Theatre what it is today. Liu Le-chun's vision is to craft Diabolo Dance Theatre into a "Taiwanese stage musical performance" on par with Disney. It is completely self-produced in Taiwan but contains high-quality, world-class content, not only integrating Taiwan's rich cultural heritage and technological strength but also transforming that culture into entertainment and making it more relatable to everyday life. As a result, it can cross borders and reach out to people all over the world, sharing joy and touching hearts everywhere from this small island.