By: Jacob Elyachar
One dance company that is generating a lot of buzz in the entertainment industry is the Shaping Sound Dance Company.
The Los Angeles-based Contemporary dance group’s nucleus is made up of choreographers Travis Wall, Nick Lazzarini, Teddy Forance and Kyle Robinson.
Together, the quartet recruited several astonishing dancers that have performed with international recording artists and on shows including So You Think You Can Dance and Dancing with the Stars to round out the company. Their goal: create memorable routines that stun and inspire audiences across North America.
So far, the group dazzled audiences nationwide on their 2012 Oxygen docu-series: All the Right Moves and performed on multiple Dancing with the Stars result shows.
This summer, Shaping Sound will travel across the country and stop in 13 cities in North America to perform and inspire the next generation of dancers with an exclusive workshop.
Last year, I had the privilege to interview the quartet about their Oxygen docu-series, which highlighted the beginnings of the dance company. A year later, Travis, Nick, Teddy and Kyle are the latest artists (and the first group of dancers) to take on “The Five Question Challenge!”
Jacob Elyachar: How has Shaping Sound grown as a dance company since we last spoke?
Travis Wall: Right now as a company we are solely focused on our first national tour. We have grown since you saw us on television as competitors, teachers, students and friends—creating bonds through our time dancing together. Hopefully, the success of this show will lead to more opportunities for all of us.
While Shaping Sound is a professional company, we are each exploring our own personal careers. Dancers in the commercial industry have a certain level of freedom, which is why we can always come back together. For now, we are focused on our first tour and challenges ourselves to create the best performance we can for ourselves and audiences across the country.
We’ve learned a lot since our debut performance in LA. The first time around the show wasn’t planned and we didn’t know what we wanted to do before we started. We figured things out as we went along and each took different sections and then mashed it up. Now that we are a professional company, the stakes are much higher because this is a real job. We rehearse together for nine hours a day, we do ballet before rehearsals, we have a schedule and show up.
We have a real team this time around – a production designer, a tour manager, a costume designer and a set designer. We have people that are keeping us on track and we are able collaborate more so than ever before. The most important lesson was to know what we wanted before we started. I also learned that is so much easier to create without a camera in your face! During our first show we had to think about making moments for the camera that would translate on TV.
JE: What were some of the challenges that the company faced as you created your tour?
Nick Lazzarini: It is always a challenge to make sure that our movement is possible in the long-term for a dancer to do eight nights a week. Working together to create the best possible show out of all of our ideas is our collective goal—we constantly edit and rework numbers. With a rigorous tour schedule, we have to make sure to maintain our bodies and health with regular warm-ups and classes. We have so many people providing input and insight into what the show will be. It can be both overwhelming and rewarding.
Half the time it is the four of us standing in front of the mirror and saying what do we like? What don’t we like? What do we want to do? We work best this way because we both have what each other needs and the challenge is bringing them all together. It doesn’t work for a lot of people that way, but we love what we do and the pieces we create. Music is the initiator for all of our movement. We pull our play list together and see what the music creates out of us. Finding the right marriage of the music and movement and exploring our bodies is always.
JE: What are some of the factors that you consider when you create a routine?
Teddy Forance: Because we split up choreography duties, each routine comes from the heart and mind of the person behind it. We really try to get into that person’s style of movement, their sense of musicality and craftsmanship in order to really bring their vision to life. We each respect one another so much and by really trying to put 100% into another person’s vision we are also growing and pushing ourselves as artists. We consider what sort of impact the dance will leave on the audience. We want it to surprise them! Sometimes we want to make them laugh or think about a specific relationship or person in their lives, sometimes we want to make them question or reflect on a part of their own personality.
As dancers we really strive to tell a story through our art, and that is really the main consideration when making this show—we wanted to take audiences through a story of love in all aspects (reality, dream, illusion, etc.) and so each routine ultimately had to tell the story. We are like a hip-hop crew; all of us come together and all these ideas get pulled into one beautiful movement. Our footwork, legs, lines and artistic sensibility is rooted in a strong technical foundation. We love to fly together.
JE: At each stop on your tour, you will take time to work with the next generation of dancers at a workshop. What can attendees expect from this workshop?
Kyle Robinson: The idea behind the workshops is that you get a chance to warm up and dance with company members. We’re going to be teaching choreography from the show so that the participants gets a chance to experience our movement firsthand before viewing it that night. We’re utilizing the specific technique we’ve developed within the company so that the dancers with have a better understanding of our movement concepts. We are holding the dance workshops prior to each performance on the stage of the actual theatre, so it is an exciting opportunity to get up close and personal. The workshops are open to advanced dancers ages 13 and up and the registration is $75 to participate.
Travis, Teddy, Nick and I will be in attendance at all workshops and we plan to rotate the warm-up and instruction process. As with all aspects of our company, the workshops will be a highly collaborative effort. Each workshop will be different and corrections individually tailored to the needs of the dancers in attendance in each city. We anticipate that the majority of our audience will be young dancers—kids who have either taken our classes or followed our careers. To be on the other side of that and inspire young talent by doing what we love is the best job in the world.
JE: How has social media helped Shaping Sound grow as a dance company?
TW: We’re definitely more connected than ever before to our fans and the dance community because of social media. We’re tweeting about the show on all of our personal accounts and sharing behind-the-scenes updates on the Shaping Sound Dance Company Twitter and Facebook Pages that are dedicated to the tour. We’re constantly thinking about YouTube exclusives that our fans will like, and checking our twitter feeds and responding or re-tweeting exciting news. Social Media has helped us get to know our fans and hearing from them along on our journey makes it so special. We feel supported and want audiences to get to know every dancer in the company, because our group is one of a kind. Since you asked, make sure you all follow us on Twitter at @shapingsoundco or use the #shapingsoundco and on Facebook.
To learn more about Shaping Sound’s tour and workshops, visit their website: http://www.shapingsoundco.com/