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Bob Keyes

Bob Keyes has written about the arts in Maine since 2002. He’s never been much an artist himself, other than singing in junior high school chorus and acting in a few musicals. But he’s attended museums, theaters, clubs and concert halls all his life, and cites Bob Dylan as most influential artist of any kind since Picasso. He lives in Berwick.

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Posted: November 12, 2015

Shaping Sound is 90 minutes of dance, drama & daring at Merrill Auditorium

Written by: Bob Keyes

Travis Wall had no choice but to be a dancer. His mother owned a dance studio in Virginia Beach, and used the studio as a babysitter. Classes began at age 3.

“I was a dance child,” he said. “I was known for being a dancer – ‘Travis the dancer.’ I would never stop moving.”

More Weekend dance: ‘So You Think You Dance’ contestants to perform at the Cross Insurance Arena in Portland on Saturday

At age 9, he starred in a Dr. Pepper TV commercial that aired during the NFL playoffs. You might remember it. A teacher receives apples from her eager-to-please pupils. “Oh, good. Another apple,” she sighs, as her collection grows.

Cue the music. As the Bee Gees’ “Stayin’ Alive” begins, Wall saunters down the hallway and into the classroom, slip-sliding his way to the front of the room where he presents his teacher with a can of Dr. Pepper and becomes the apple of her eye and the envy of his peers.

He made his Broadway debut at age 12, and danced on TV in the Fox reality show “So You Think You Can Dance.”

On Friday, Wall and a team of collaborators bring their high-energy contemporary dance show “Shaping Sound” to Merrill Auditorium. Portland Ovations presents the show.

It’s a 14-member cast, with seven men and seven women. As with the popular dance TV shows, they do mash-up of swing, pop, Broadway, ballet and hip-hop. There are shades of Gene Kelly and Bob Fosse, and music by Queen.


“This is a free for all, and that is where the most inspiring work comes from,” Wall said in a phone interview from the road. “The energy on stage is electric. We are athletes. We are flying and jumping. We run five miles in the first act and eight in the second. We’re off stage only for costume changes.”

“Shaping Sound” grew out of the “So You Think You Can Dance” and “Dancing with the Stars.”

Wall, the production’s artistic director, was runner-up in the second season of “So You Think You Can Dance.” Co-creators Nick Lazzarini (he won season one) and Teddy Forance also danced on the show; Kyle Robinson danced on “Glee.” They starred together on the reality TV series “All the Right Moves” on Oxygen.

They’ve been friends and collaborators, and in 2012 formed “Shaping Sound.”

They describe themselves as visual musicians. Their dance gives shape and form to sound, Wall said.

He believes the TV dance shows are popular because they represent impossible feats. “It’s something that people can’t do. Some people can’t understand what we do with our bodies. It’s an amazing thing to watch,” he said.

The TV shows also have introduced dance to a large segment of people who wouldn’t consider themselves fans of dance – mostly Midwestern men. All the time, women tell him they’ve gotten their husbands or boyfriends hooked on dance because of the TV shows.

They’re the people turning out for the live shows, too. This is the third national tour for “Shaping Sound.”

Wall said it was important that people not presume they’re getting the live version of the TV show when they see “Shaping Sound.” There are similarities, but the live show is much larger and more dramatic. It loosely tells a romantic story about a woman and her dreams, but the story is secondary to the dance.

“Doing this live is very different than doing a TV show. What we are doing does not fit into a minute-and-a-half, we’re doing it with 2,500 people in the audience. We get energy back from the people.”


WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 13

WHERE: Merrill Auditorium, 20 Myrtle St., Portland

HOW MUCH: $45 to $70 through PortTix; 207-842-0800


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