If there’s one thing that the TV dance competition show So You Think You Can Dance instills in its contestants, it’s versatility. Travis Wall, the Season 2 runner-up who is now a judge on the show, takes that idea to heart in Shaping Sound, the LA-based company he founded with three other dancers, which performed its latest show Wednesday night at Bass Hall.
The show follows a woman (dancer Jaimie Goodwin) through a series of dreams — and nightmares — in which the experiences teach her how to love.
Stylistic diversity abounds in the two-act, 90-minute show, framed in a contemporary and modern dance context but veering into jazz, Broadway and ballet with the occasional whiff of Vegas-like indulgence.
The choreographic influences on Wall and his Shaping Sound co-founders Nick Lazzarini, Teddy Forance and Kyle Robinson (this foursome also had a reality show called All the Right Moves) are obvious. Bob Fosse, Paul Taylor and Jerome Robbins are among the choreographers whose legacy is felt throughout the show.
But that leaves one glaring problem: As polished as the production is and as skilled as the dancers are, too much of the show feels derivative.
The early scenes that set the dream scenario, with Goodwin and the company, attempt boldness but lack originality. It is stunningly beautiful, though, even if it feels like you’ve seen some version of it before.
The best moments come when the company lets loose in the “Rouge Lounge” scene, with the dancers referencing swing and 1920s social dance styles in a sort of haze-soaked speakeasy.
The technique of the dancers can’t be denied. The “My Dear Love” sequence, backed by Nina Simone’s gloriously smoky vocals, and danced by Chelsea Thedinga and Daniel Gaymon, is breathtaking.
Asymmetrical patterns in the full ensemble numbers stick in the memory, and one moment with the dancers in a caterpillar-like contagion is interesting.
Unfortunately, the “Darkness” sequence is overly conceptualized to the point that it reminds one of a Vegas-style spectacle that’s attempting a deep moment.
That’s made up for with the final “Waking Life” scene, when the dancers look like they’re having fun.
The bonus is that, because of Wall’s reality TV fame, Bass Hall looked close to sold out on a Wednesday night, and there were a lot of young fans experiencing — and loudly cheering for — contemporary dance. The impact of this show — and TV dance programs like So You Think You Can Dance — on their futures as dance supporters and ticket buyers shouldn’t be underestimated.