Review of Shaping Sound; January 15 - 16, 2016 at the Southern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium in Calgary, AB.

Shaping Sound is shaping a revolution in dance and theatre

Artistic Director Travis Wall and his dance company have succeeded into transferring commercialized contemporary dance to mainstream theatre 

“Dreams are manifestations of our deepest desires, anxieties and fears,” according to the programme of Shaping Sound. The critically acclaimed contemporary dance company, led by world famous dancer and Emmy award-winning choreographer Travis Wall, is currently touring North America. Last weekend, Shaping Sound mesmerized Calgary audiences with a spellbinding production that led audiences into a dazzling, breathtaking dream.

If you're like me, you might be guilty of regularly watching dance video after dance video on YouTube. This probably includes countless SYTYCD performances (obviously). Imagine if all those dance routines were woven into a large scale show with a cohesive story, an insanely talented cast of dancers and stunning sets, costumes and lighting. Would you be in heaven? Because that's where I was transported to last weekend when I entered the Southern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium to see Shaping Sound!

The stars of Shaping Sound. From left to right: Teddy Forance, Travis Wall, Nick Lazzarini and Kyle Robinson. Photo courtesy of Shaping Sound. 

Wall, who first gained worldwide stardom as the runner-up of season two of So You Think You Can Dance (SYTYCD) acts as Shaping Sounds' Artistic Director and shares top billing in the show with Nick Lazzarini, the first-ever winner of SYTYCD and renowned dancers Teddy Forance and Kyle Robinson. Also in the cast is Ricky Ubeda, SYTYCD’s season 11 winner, who was most recently seen on Broadway in the musical On The Town.

"The plot of the show revolves around a young woman (Mallauri Esquibel) in an unhappy relationship with her boyfriend (Kyle Robinson). As she drifts off to sleep alone one night, she is transported by a dream master (Nick Lazzarini), who takes her on the most incredible journey of her life. Throughout this journey, Esquibel's character experiences excitement, passion, sensuality and meets her "white knight", while also facing her fears. 

Company members of Shaping Sound in a photo from Dance Spirit magazine. 

For me, the entire experience was like an actual dream – time and space was suspended and I had the pleasure of watching some of the most stunning dancing and choreography I have ever seen. One of the highlights for me was a piece set to Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody. This fun number features the men in the cast, led by the ridiculously talented Lazzarini. It’s a fantastic piece for the guys, as it showcases their dynamic technique, style and personalities to the delight of the audience.

The Bohemian Rhapsody number, featuring the men of the company, is a superb highlight of the show. Photo courtesy of Shaping Sound. 

Another excellent group piece is Rouge Lounge, which serves as the finale of the first act. The 1920’s themed piece, set to Benny Goodman’s Swing Swing Swing is electrifying. All fifteen company members strut their stuff in this sexy, high-energy jazz piece, showing off their acrobatics, jumps, kicks, turns and sass.

Act one of Shaping Sound's production ends in spectacular style with a sexy, high-energy jazz piece set to Swing Swing Swing. Photo courtesy of Shaping Sound. 

Found, a duet between Esquibel and the "white knight" she finds in her dream, played by Teddy Forance, is another exceptional piece. This duet showcases Esquibel’s fabulous technique, including her beautiful lines and incredible feet. Esquibel and Forance dance brilliantly together and the piece allows Forance to demonstrate his abilities as a rock solid partner. One of my favourite moments was seeing Forance assist Esquibel in a series of pirouettes, with Esquibel finishing with her leg in an extended second position, her foot pointed magnificently.

Teddy Forance and Mallauri Esquibel are breathtaking in Found. Photo courtesy of Shaping Sound. 

Chantel Aguirre and Kyle Robinson’s duet on a bed in Corruption is steamy hot. Their sensual, lustful partnership showcases Robinson’s sexy masculinity and Aguirre’s wonderful extension. The number then turns very dark as the dream transitions into a nightmare, involving dancers rampaging out in masks and falling off walls – it's very Tim Burton like.

My absolute favourite number is a gorgeous duet between Ricky Ubeda and Travis Wall, titled The Light. First of all, watching these two dancers' technique is mind blowing, including Ubeda’s trademark, out-of-this world extension and both men's impressive partnering skills. However, it’s the artistic brilliance of these two artists working together and sharing their remarkable passion with each other and the audience, that makes this exquisite duet unforgettable.

Ricky Ubeda and Travis Wall's duet is artistic brilliance. Photo courtesy of David Hoffman. 

Greg Anderson and Jesus Rodriguez’s set design is clever, with many of the pieces, such as a bed and wall, running on wheels. This has allowed many of the set pieces to be incorporated into the choreography. Seth Jackson and Nathan Scheuer’s lighting design and Effie Mathews’ costume design help complete the look and feel of each piece.

For example, Jackson and Scheuer’s lighting in the Bohemian Rhapsody number adds a spectacular look to the piece, while their moonlight lighting in other parts of the show keeps us mesmerized and convinced that we’ve traveled to a far off dream world. Mathew’s costume design enhances this dream world effect, with limited colours being worn within the dream. Dancers are dressed in white when we are transitioned into and out of the dream, and a gorgeous array of colours are worn by the company in the opening and closing numbers, distinguishing the dream from reality. Most importantly, the costumes fit the dancers well, showing off their lines and never detracts attention from the choreography. 


As the show came to a close, I felt like I was regaining consciousness after one of the most magnificent dreams I’ve ever had. There’s a quote by J.M. Barrie in the show’s programme that says, “You know that place between sleep and awake, that’s the place where you still remember dreaming? That’s where I’ll always love you.”

How very true these words are. I felt as if the entire show existed in this place – a mesmerizing dream that celebrated the poetry, sensuality and beauty that can only be produced when movement and music is combined with masterful artistry and passion.

Remember what I said before about how awesome it would be if all those great dance numbers you see on SYTYCD were woven into a large scale show with a cohesive story? I've seen a few attempts here and there, but Shaping Sound's production is by far the best effort I've seen yet.

What Travis Wall and Shaping Sound are doing is truly revolutionary. Dance historians recognize Agnes de Mille for introducing ballet and contemporary to Broadway. Like the legendary de Mille, Wall and Shaping Sound have taken a well-respected genre of dance and produced a vehicle where it can be showcased and enjoyed like never before. This history books will be making room for Shaping Sound. 

Shaping Sound continues its tour across North America, ending in New York City on February 8. Visit Shaping Sound's official website for more information.