As a Dance major here at Bates, I am constantly looking for shows and venues to quench my enthusiast thirst. I was lucky enough to attend two spectacular shows this past weekend, both in Portland. Professional dance company Shaping Sound performed their show Dance Reimagined at Merrill Auditorium and the So You Think You Can Dance (SYTYCD) season 12 tour came to the Cross Insurance Arena on Saturday. Both of these shows were clearly constructed to be spectacles for the audience, made for pure enjoyment, excitement and entertainment, almost in a Cirque du Soleil fashion.
Coincidentally, both of these shows were quite similar because of their relationship to one another. Shaping Sound was founded by Travis Wall, now an Emmy award-winning dancer and choreographer, with the help of three other professional dancers, Teddy Forance, Nick Lazzarini and Kyle Robinson. Wall was a finalist on SYTYCD – a dance competition TV show that begins with 20 dancers and eliminates two every week until a winner is chosen – almost a decade ago in their second season. His cast now consists of several past contestants of the show, including Lazzarini, winner of the very first season, Jaimie Goodwin of season three, Kathryn McCormick and Channing Cooke both of season six, Ricky Ubeda who won season 11, Kate Harpootlian of season 12 and several other amazing dancers in the professional world. Watching all of these talented dancers on Friday night that all emerged from the same origins, followed by the show that got them where they are today, was truly special.
Personally, I thought the Shaping Sound performance was more enjoyable than the SYTYCD tour, if there’s even a notable discrepancy among their entertainment values. Overall, it was more professional and developed. However, this makes sense because this cast has more experience in the professional world than the dancers on the tour – SYTYCD is just the beginning of their career. The dancers in Shaping Sound are more seasoned, simply put. The show followed a storyline the entire time as duets, trios and group pieces transitioned effortlessly in and out of each other on stage.
The show began and ended with pedestrian choreography. The dancers were walking around stage wearing everyday clothing, silently interacting with each other in a way that mimicked the movement of humans in ordinary settings. Before long, they fluidly integrated technical, high energy and exciting choreography that set the tone for the entire performance. The intense and complex concert lighting, the gaudy sets and the clear sound system all amplified the overall surface value of the performance.
McCormick was the main character as she battled light and dark forces manipulating her life both in dreams and reality. The rest of the company performed in various costumes and characters as they portrayed the light and dark McCormick was struggling through. There was one point when she had a large white sheet attached to her waist and the end corners were attached to cables as they were lifted to the ceiling, causing the sheet to cast a white landscape within the entire three-dimensional space of the stage. The other dancers were rolling and crawling from behind, below and around the sheet, emphasizing McCormick’s presence as the main character and personifying the light that the sheet was representing. This is just one example of how the company worked together to elevate the show from entertaining to spectacular.
Similar to Dance Reimagined, the SYTYCD was clearly a spectacle. The intense and creative lighting, the technical backdrops and the booming music all contributed to this. However, unlike the Shaping Sound’s performance, there was no story to follow. This was strictly a showcase of all the fan-favorite dance numbers from this season. There were no clear transitions between numbers, in fact it was a bit awkward to watch the dancers just leave stage and have the next performers come in at the same time. They tried to make it smooth by attempting to meld the beginning of one dance to the end of the previous one, but it didn’t quite work. Nevertheless, there is no denying that these dancers put on an amazing show and upheld their incredible technique in an artistic and superhuman manner.
One of the dancers, Hailee Payne who came in fourth place, stole the show. She was in almost every number and stood out the most (this was unanimous among everyone I talked to about the show). I didn’t even notice the winner of the show because Payne caught my attention every time with her incredible technique, charisma and loud personality on stage that put her above the rest.
Both Shaping Sound and SYTYCD took Portland by storm this past weekend. Although I have come to value dance in different ways since coming to Bates, I still appreciate what these dancers have offered us and would see them live again and again.