Travis Wall's Shaping Sound - After the Curtain

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After the Curtain | Travis Wall’s Shaping Sound | Queen Elizabeth Theatre | March 25, 2017

After the Curtain was is its own mystical fantasy world of glamourous twenties style, effortless coolness, and endlessly enticing movement. Wall took the stage, sitting at a typewriter in a dressing room as he began to type “This may be my last chance to tell the truth about what happened.” He tells us that his name is Vincent, and he lives in his head where it is no longer safe. His alter-ego, Jude, sometimes takes over.

We were introduced to the large cast of characters, and then things got exciting with showgirls, fast-paced partner work, and exuberant music. The strong storytelling element of this show made it feel like a contemporary dance version of a classical story ballet. All the elements were there: dramatic relationships among the characters, a spectacular climax, beautiful pas de deux sequences, and a corps of dancers who gave it their all.

Constantly moving set pieces and quick scene changes made for a never-ending array of stunning dance numbers while it was at times hard to keep the many characters and multiple interwoven storylines straight.

The music was equally moving, all composed by Ryan Lott and performed by his band Son Lux, it was appropriately cinematic and grandiose to match the boldness of the choreography.

The narrative’s mysterious tone made it seem as if we were being let into these characters’ backstage lives, witnessing the jealousy, tension, and intensity of their relationships as they dealt with remorse, regret, and guilt.

We follow Vincent as he grapples with a tragedy and how that has affected him. His tormented mind is represented in creative, metaphorical scenes such as another dancer coming through his mirror and grabbing him. The two of them dance in opposition, as if they are two sides of the same identity.

Another memorable scene involved a bright red rolling chaise lounge that was used as an effective prop for a female dancer to flip onto and over. Wall uses props very well, showing this unique skill again with a large table and a group of male characters performing impressive jumps off of it. In another scene a group of dancers lifted Wall up using sturdy wooden poles, and he maneuvered himself over and around the props.

Wall’s choreography is imbued with virtuosic lifts and extensions that express a deep yearning, and this matched the tone of the narrative perfectly. One of the most profound scenes in this contemporary dance epic was a painfully romantic duet set to the lyrics: “please just take me with you when you go.” Vincent, attached to a cable, lifts off the stage just out of Ellenore’s reach, but they manage to make contact and he lifts her up with him in a circus-worthy moment.

“After the curtain” could refer to the post-show moments that performers spend backstage, but it has a double meaning in referring to the afterlife, which was evoked in the beautiful final duet.

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