The crowd that filled the seats at Raleigh Memorial Auditorium on Thursday, June 15th, buzzed with anticipation. The audience was mostly female, and more than 50 percent of it was also under the age of 21. But all of the audience was more excited than four year olds are about Santa Claus on Christmas morning. They eagerly anticipated Broadway Series South’s presentation of Travis Wall’s Shaping Sound: After the Curtain, produced by Travis Wall and Break the Floor Productions.
Wall is the star choreographer of the reality shows So You Think You Can Dance (SYTYCD) on Fox and Dancing with the Stars (DWTS) on ABC. He and his dance company Shaping Sound didn’t disappoint. Far from it, as a matter of fact, Shaping Sound: After the Curtain is the most stunning, electrifying, and phenomenally athletic dance performance that this reviewer has seen all year!
Wall, who was a runner-up for SYTYCD in 2006, choreographed the show that some are calling “narrative dance.” With one-night performances throughout the United States, Wall brings his creative force to the show, designing a narrative that is both intense and emotional.
The story behind the dance is one driven by love, as well as creativity. Wall’s character, a writer who mines his personal life for experiences that he incorporates into his work, is devastated by the loss of his one true love and must battle both those creative demons, as well as his grief. This show would, however, benefit from some kind of summary other than the typewritten page that repeats the first scene and is included in the program.
The first-person narrative talks about the relationships that Wall’s character (Vincent) has with the other performers in the show; and while interesting, it doesn’t detail the many nuances in the show’s arc, specifics that would bring the show to the audience in a more emotionally connected manner. Why have a character who’s a creative writer without using the power of the pen to entice viewers to see the performance in a more intimate fashion?
But that’s the only negative about the show. I wanted more. Because it’s that damn good.
Before the show begins, Nick Lazzarini (also a SYTYCD alum) tells the audience that two of the cast members (Gaby Diaz and Lindsay Leuschner) will be replaced by Channing Cooke, who normally acts as associate choreographer, for the evening’s performance due to an Uber accident. The substitution, though unusual, was a seamless one; and the only thing we noticed was that there were several dances where three women performed instead of four. Since most of the dancers in the show are grads of reality television dance shows, it makes sense that they are capable of making changes and learning routines in a heartbeat.
Here is where I want to give a shout out to those shows that are now part of mainstay television and have brought dance to generations of young dancers. Though there’s always been a portion of the population who ensure that dance classes are full of aspiring youngsters who learn ballet and tap and perform onstage for their adoring parents, shows such as SYTYCD, DWTS, and the new NBC show called World of Dance, have brought professional dance to the forefront.
This is the audience who should attend performances of the Carolina Ballet, a local troupe with world-class dancers; yet the people who sit in the seats to watch those ballet dancers haven’t been in a pair of toe-shoes for decades (if ever). The young girls and boys, their parents and teachers, should be the new generation of the ballet.
Back to the show: the stage for the phenomenal dancers is as interesting as the dancers themselves. The story involves what happens on stage to a group of actors/dancers in the Twenties, then the stage pieces move to reveal what happens to those same characters in their personal lives, with Travis Wall as the narrator of their stories.
He admits “I live in my head” and that he has a dark side (Jude, danced by Lex Ishimoto). Ishimoto, who has played Billy in Billy Elliot the Musical, and is a highly-regarded dancer with awards from the Youth American Grand Prix and The Dance Awards, is a classically trained ballet dancer whose body appears made of elastic. He slithers and sways, crawling through the mirror and over Wall, as if his frame is not constructed of human bone. Throughout the performance, he brings gasps as he flips, jumps, and leaps his way through some of the complicated choreography.
Ishimoto is not the only stunner in this production. There are scenes that will remain frozen in our minds for a long time, such as the Cirque du Soleil-like use of ropes and a flying sequence, during which Wall is held by the other performers on ropes that extend to the ceiling as he flies like a tormented angel above them. Or the use of sticks in another scene, in which the male dancers use them to prod, support, and create boxes upon which Wall balances. Amazing!
The dancing is passionate, athletic, erotic, and poetic. Each member of the show is a star in his/her own right. In addition to those already mentioned, Teddy Forance (Luther), Chantel Aguirre (Lilu), Rory Freeman (Edwin), Kate Harpootlian (Rose), and Chelsea Thedinga (Ellenore) are also products of reality TV shows. The others (Mason Cutler, who plays Clyde, and Austin Goodwin, who plays Sebastian) have toured with well-known singers or Broadway productions. These dancers are top-notch, and the energy that they give to this production is through the roof, underlining the jaw-dropping artistry of the show itself.
Though this was a one-night performance, the troupe is on the road, and if there’s a show coming up anywhere near you, do yourself a favor and buy a ticket. We promise you won’t be disappointed. Shaping Sound: After the Curtain is the pinnacle of contemporary dance!
SHAPING SOUND: AFTER THE CURTAIN (Broadway Series South, June 15th in Raleigh Memorial Auditorium in the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts in Raleigh, NC).
SHOW: http://www.dukeenergycenterraleigh.com/event/shaping-sound-8255 and http://www.shapingsoundco.com/the-show.
VIDEO PREVIEW: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wZOGmNaP8rw.
THE TOUR: http://www.shapingsoundco.com/the-show and http://www.shapingsoundco.com/tour.
TOUR CAST: http://www.shapingsoundco.com/cast.
TOUR CREATIVE TEAM: http://www.shapingsoundco.com/creative-team.
PRESENTER: http://www.dukeenergycenterraleigh.com/broadway-series-south, https://www.facebook.com/broadwayseriessouthraleigh, and https://twitter.com/BroadwaySouth.
Shaping Sound (contemporary dance company, formed in 2012 by Travis Wall, Teddy Forance, Nick Lazzarini, and Kyle Robinson): http://www.shapingsoundco.com/ (official website), http://facebook.com/shapingsoundco/ (Facebook page), http://twitter.com/shapingsoundco/ (Twitter page), and http://youtube.com/shapingsounddanceco/ (YouTube channel).
Travis Michael Wall (Virginia Beach, VA-born Los Angeles, CA dancer and choreographer and co-founder and artistic director of Shaping Sound): http://www.shapingsoundco.com/creative-team (Shaping Sound bio), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/travis-wall-76306 (Internet Broadway Database), http://www.imdb.com/name/nm2339049/ (Internet Movie Database), https://www.facebook.com/traviswall (Facebook page), https://twitter.com/traviswall (Twitter page), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Travis_Wall (Wikipedia).
[RUN HAS CONCLUDED.]
Dawn Reno Langley is a Durham, NC-based author who writes novels, poetry, children’s books, and nonfiction books on many subjects, as well as theater, music, and dance reviews. She is also a writer, editor, writing coach at Reno’s Literary Services of Durham. To read all of Dawn Langley’s Triangle Review reviews online at Triangle Arts and Entertainment, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/author/dawn-reno-langle/. To read more of her writings, click http://dawnrenolangley.blogspot.com/ and http://poetryandgardening.blogspot.com/.