Nothing but a white nightgown hung in the center of a dark stage as the performance of “Shadowland” began. The quiet and eerie setting soon exploded into a show of optical illusions and infatuating dance sequences. The Pilobolus Dance Company performed “Shadowland” in the Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts on Feb. 4 to a sold out audience.

“Shadowland” tells the story of a teenage girl who experiences a series of complex dreams. In order for these dreams to be effectively executed, the physical strength and technique from the dancers, as well as skills involving the white screen and colored lights seemed to be essential. The majority of the show was performed behind a white screen so that the lights could reflect off of it and a shadow could be created.

One of the first illusions of the show required the dancers to attach to each other and connect behind the white screen to form a giant face. The lead girl (Heather Favretto) then jumps out from inside the face’s mouth, leaving the audience in awe. The way the dancers are able to mesh their bodies together to create this one form is remarkable and caused the entire audience to appreciate their work in total silence.

“I have not seen anything like this type of performance before and the fact that it was created by body movements alone with very minimal props was very interesting,” said Lina Foncello ‘19.

The teenage girl then continues on through her series of dreams and finds herself in a restaurant-like setting with two tables and a large pot in the center of the white screen. There are three chefs that interact with the girl during this scene and together they throw food and other objects (such as rats and bunnies) into the pot. The scene becomes trippy when the tables start to move and it becomes obvious that the two tables were dancers the whole time. The way the dancers folded themselves and remained still for an extended period of time demonstrates their incredible strength and technique.

Not stopping to take a break, the dancers continued on to perform the most interesting portion of the show. In a new dream, the girl finds herself standing beneath an extended hand that is protruding from the top left corner of the screen. With the craft of illusion, it appears that the hand grabs the girl and morphs her into a new figure — a dog. One can assume the girl is in a kneeling position with her arm raised to her head and bent at the elbow to form a tight angle which, when reflected in the shadow of the screen, takes the shape of a dog. However, the hand doesn’t leave the girl in the form of a dog for the rest of the show, rather the hand morphs the girl into the body of a girl with the head of a dog.

The scene then transforms into a café setting and the dog-headed girl is sitting at a table and when she tries to order, nothing but barking noises come from her mouth. The tables and chairs then stand up to form into people who begin laughing at the girl. Having to overcome humiliation proves to be challenging for the girl, but she eventually stumbles across a man who is eager to have her as a companion.

Taking the form of a car, the dancers vibrate in a way that signifies that the car is driving. Inside of the car is the man accompanied by the dog-headed girl and the two seem to have a friendly bond. “A dog is a man’s best friend” is the thought that comes to mind when viewing this scene. However, too much affection shown by the dog-headed girl causes the man to become annoyed and he ends up abandoning her in a field.

Not lonely for too long, the dog-headed girl comes face to face with a woman who works for a circus. The woman captures the dog-headed girl and takes her to perform in her circus, alongside three other acts. After the circus performance, the screen changes to show all of the circus animals tied up. Somehow the dancers attach to each other and create a beautiful elephant, who ends up freeing the dog-headed girl.

After an exhausting effort to run away from the circus people — who decided to chase after her — the dog-headed girl ends up jumping off of a cliff to avoid being recaptured. Landing in a deep body of water, the dog-headed girl is shown floating deeper and deeper into the water. The fluidity in which she moves her body during this scene, combined with the stunning blue lights reflected in the screen, gives the audience the illusion that she is actually immersed in water. The remaining dancers then take the form of a jellyfish and help the dog-headed girl return to land.

Following a tiring series of dreams, the dog-headed girl is not yet finished with her journey. While walking along the land, she runs into a centaur — two dancers attached to each other to create the illusion of a centaur — and immediately feels a connection to him and they form a heated relationship. Engaging in a highly sexual and intimate scene, the two dancers are able to portray an honest connectedness and vulnerability to the audience. Following this scene, the large hand that once transformed the girl into a dog re-appears and turns her back into a real girl.

“Shadowland” ends with the teenage girl waking up the next morning and looking at herself in the mirror. She is elated to see that she does not have a dog’s head and appears to be extremely confident and comfortable in her own skin. Although it had an unusual plot line,  “Shadowland” took its audience on a captivating journey through the land of dreams and helped to portray just how powerful the messages of these dreams can be. Some of these messages include the concept of society morphing you into a certain person (like the large hand did with the girl) and having to overcome setbacks and difficult occurrences that hold you back (like the girl being made fun of and then later being tied down at the circus) in order to flourish and feel free within the world (just as the girl finally did when she met the centaur).

Following a standing ovation, the cast performed an encore behind the white screen. Showcasing their most advanced and eye-appealing tricks, the encore proved to be just as enticing as the actual performance. The cast also made the audience feel unique due to their ability to morph their bodies together to form a Stag with the school’s emblem in the background. “Shadowland” provided one and a half hours of captivating dancing, tricks and illusions which entertained the audience from start to finish.

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