MNfusion: ‘Shaping Sound’ Awes, Delights Eager St. Paul Audience

If there is one thing to be said about Minnesota audiences, it is that they are hungry for great art.

From musicals to operas to plays to dance, local audiences love to enjoy all the arts have to offer. And whether the show is a seasoned classic or a first-ever premiere, they are interested, open and willing audience members.

Also, as excited as they are to appreciate the artists, they are equally as eager for the artists to appreciate them as an audience.

This reciprocity was felt in the auditorium of the Ordway Center for Performing Arts last Friday night when hundreds, ranging in age from under 10 years to over 70 years, packed the seats for “Travis Wall’s Shaping Sound: Dance Reimagined.”

Wall, who became popular on the show “So You Think You Can Dance,” created the Shaping Sound company with Teddy Forance, Nick Lazzarini and Kyle Robinson in 2012. Self-described as visual musicians, the dancers and choreographers combine several dance disciplines, music varieties and visual elements to create their performances.

“Shaping Sound” was no exception.

The show featured a cast of 14, several of whom had also been on “So You Think You Can Dance” or “Dancing With The Stars.”

There was not a weak link in the bunch.

While the story was open to interpretation to each audience member, as there was nothing written in the playbook, it appeared to be a story of the trials and tribulations of love.

SYTYCD Season 12 winner Gaby Diaz is the lead dancer in the production, playing a young lover lost in a turbulent relationship.

Diaz lives in a world that is clouded by a difficult relationship with dancer Kyle Robinson. After a fight, a Peter Pan/fairy godmother-type character, danced by Jim Nowakowski, takes Diaz into a dream world where she meets a kind lover, Matthew Kazmierczak.

Throughout the dream, Diaz and Kazmierczak meet several times but are never able to be together, ultimately being torn apart by a jealous Robinson.

After waking, Diaz leaves Robinson in real life and meets Kazmierczak on the street.

It cannot be overstated how wonderful each of the dancers was individually and as a cast.

Each movement was crisp and tight, but flowed with graceful ease. Their precision was such that each pose appeared to be a spontaneous movement, fooling audience members with no dance experience to believe they could replicate the movements easily.

Diaz and Kazmierczak had a likeable chemistry, and danced well together. Alternately, Robinson played a vicious villain, bringing darkness to the show.

While mostly contemporary, the show did incorporate elements of tap, jazz and hip hop.

During “The Rouge Lounge,” the dance was heavily jazz, channeling at 1920s Charleston type vibe. While it was a bit out of the storyline, it was a particular audience favorite.

Another favorite was the opener of Act II, “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

The familiar pop song, mixed with several different dance elements and an all-male cast truly delighted audience members.

However, perhaps one of the best numbers was between Jim Nowakowski and company member Eric Schloesser. The two men concluded the dream sequence with a contemporary duet at the side of Diaz’s bed.

Nowakowski and Schloesser moved seamlessly in and out of twists and holds, showcasing both dancers’ physical and mental strength.

At one point, Schloesser helped hold Nowakowski as he was parallel to the floor.

These artists demonstrated the concentration that is needed to make quieter moments retain softness while still translating to last seat in the audience.

There were a few moments that fell a bit flat. In particular, the final sequence in the dream was hard to understand.

Company members dressed in costumes that covered their face and appeared to be moss or trees, chased Diaz’s character around the stage. The story line got lost, as did the dancing.

However, this was followed up by Nowakowski and Schloesser’s duet, so it was quickly overshadowed.

The show’s end was greeted by a standing ovation, both audience members and dancers cheering each other on.

“Shaping Sound: Dance Reimagined” has five more performances. For more information on the show, cast or tour, visit “Travis Wall’s Shaping Sound: Dance Reimagined” online.

More from Katie Fraser
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