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Travis Wall’s Shaping Sound After the Curtain

By Debra Danese for the Dance Journal

Shaping Sound After the Curtain made its Philadelphia stop Tuesday, March 7th at the Merriam Theater as part of its 32-city tour. This is the second show for the young company founded in 2012 by good friends Travis Wall, Teddy Forance, Nick Lazzarini and Kyle Robinson. The company has been featured on numerous prime time television shows including So You Think You Can Dance, Dancing with the Stars and Ellen.

The first Shaping Sound tour in 2014-15 was comprised of a collection of short pieces, similar to what fans were familiar with seeing on television. After the Curtain takes a different approach by telling an original story written by Wall. Set in the 1940s’, the story is about a director, Vincent (played by Wall), on opening night. Vincent is a man struggling to find his creative voice after the death of his one true love. It is a show within a show — where everything around him is “basically pulling him apart.”

The show opens with the dancers entering onstage from the wings and up the aisles. Vincent appears and sits at a desk with a typewriter. We see what he is typing on a screen above. “This is may be my last chance to tell the truth about what happened. Then whoever reads this won’t make the same mistakes I have. I’m Vincent. I live in my head.” Vincent then introduces the cast with a brief description of the role they play in his life.

The dancing that follows is nothing short of spectacular. This is a versatile ensemble that excels in intricate and complex partnering work. Lazzarini is edgy in the role of Vincent’s twin brother, Leo. He showcases his extraordinary turning ability with masterful control. Lex Ishimoto is powerful in his role as Jude. Some of the strongest dance numbers feature Ishimoto with gravity defying leaps. Gaby Diaz is both endearing and technically brilliant as Vincent’s sister, Charlotte. A duet between Diaz and Wall is a highlight with Wall partnering Diaz while suspended on a harness. Moving set pieces add an interesting dimension and are well utilized in the choreography.

Wall, Lazzarini, and Forance choreographed the show. This lent itself to a diverse variety of movement while still maintaining a cohesive program. It also affirmed that these three men are not only talented performers, but smart and innovative choreographers. Props are often incorporated in clever and dramatic ways.  In one piece, the ensemble dance with hand held lights while in black out. In another, male dancers perform with canes, often used to lift Wall. An especially noteworthy number has Wall dancing amongst floating sheets of paper. The effect is created with the other performers dressed in black and lit only from the sides.

This is a company that describe themselves as “visual musicians” and says their dance gives shape and form to sound. The music by Son Lux provides the perfect background to this. In the final pieces, Wall dances as if the music is pouring out of him, displaying vulnerability as his character faces devastation and heartbreak.

 

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