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Review: Travis Wall brings a dizzying, sudsy dance spectacle to UCLA

Lex Ishimoto, left, and Travis Wall in a key duet in Shaping Sound’s “After the Curtain.”
(Shaping Sound)

Sexy, soapy and spectacular Shaping Sound, the company whose artistic director is Emmy-winning “So You Think You Can Dance” choreographer Travis Wall, performed its latest mash-up of contemporary styles during a two-night run this week at UCLA’s Royce Hall.

Shaping Sound sets the dance drama “After the Curtain” behind the scenes of a Roaring Twenties musical revue centered on Vincent (Wall), a closeted writer about to come out.

“This may be my last chance to tell the truth about what happened,” he punches into his typewriter at the top of the show.

That confession sounds more like young adult fiction than F. Scott Fitzgerald, but what Vincent lacks in literary finesse, Shaping Sound’s dancers more than make up for in their sophisticated negotiation of choreography by Nick Lazzarini, Teddy Forance and Wall.

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Sporting bobs, suspenders and fringy flapper dresses, dancers on Tuesday night slinked, swooped and strutted through a glitzy opening number that had the look of a Baz Luhrmann film. (The director’s decadent “Great Gatsby” came to mind.)

Nick Lazzarini and the company of Shaping Sound’s “After the Curtain.”
(Shaping Sound)

Rippling muscles cut through the air to Son Lux’s electropop mix of synths, hip-swiveling beats and come-hither vocals.

The cast of characters — 12 in all — is dizzying at times. Crisscrossing story lines complicate Vincent’s coming out, turning it all into a sudsy soap opera.

Teddy Forance and the company of Shaping Sound’s “After the Curtain.”
(Shaping Sound)

There’s a love triangle (maybe two), cat fighting, backstabbing, substance abuse, suicidal thoughts and even a murder. But these plot lines are united by a sinuous blend of athleticism, artistry and storytelling.

Chantel Aguirre and Mason Cutler’s rhapsodic duet over a silver flask and velvet couch depicts a couple not only tangled in love but also caught in the grip of alcohol.

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Lex Ishimoto’s duet with Wall not only thrills with acrobatic jumps and lifts but also reveals Vincent’s sinister side — his menacing alter ego Jude, whom Ishimoto portrays like Caliban incarnate. He crawls out from the depths of a dark mirror, contorts his face into a monstrous mien, manipulates Vincent’s body like a puppet master pulling strings and threatens to take his sanity by storm.

“After the Curtain” moves into an even more cinematic register at the end of Act I when Wall skyrockets into the air tangled in a web of ropes. He caps off the show with a devastating dive from a set piece, echoing Natalie Portman’s final plunge in the ballet thriller “Black Swan.”

Like a good film scene, this dance spectacle lingers after the curtain falls.

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Gabby Diaz and Travis Wall’s dance takes flight.
(Shaping Sound)

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