Symphony of Shadows: Sleep No More?

Nighttime gets a little screwy.
Michael Blase

Entering our dreams can be invigorating or terrifying. So frequently, we're unsure whether these dreamscapes are good or evil, joyful or sad, erotic or pathetic; the following morning's fogginess is often too much to overcome to remember. Symphony of Shadows: A Tale From the Land Beyond the Veil, now at Dixon Place, illustrates these nightly transitions from this waking world to the next. The dance theater piece—conceived, choreographed, and directed by Rachel Klein—is a lively and fantastical depiction of how we hide from our own issues, pushing them down in our daily lives until they have no other choice but to come after us in the night.

The story follows one woman, played by Elizabeth Stewart, as she struggles with her monotonous life full of shuffling papers and therapy sessions. When she sleeps, a cast of 22 dancers haunt and terrorize her, utilizing acrobatic and balletic stunts to create a dreamworld that is, enjoyably, both mysterious and understandable. One of Symphony's greatest strengths is its ability to depict a setting that's not so much unlike ours, yet one that's just cloudy enough to play with the performance's levels of reality. One moment, all parts of the stage—including the air—are full of dancers and acrobats, quite literally flying and twisting all over. A second later, the protagonist wakes to a screaming alarm clock, pausing to catch her breath. As the movement continues and grows, the woman's battles increase. She can't walk. She can't work. She can't talk. The chaos rapidly hikes in both realms—awake and not—until she hits her breaking point.

Admittedly, the story behind Symphony isn't too groundbreaking. We all often feel like our daily lives are battles. But what the piece lacks in storytelling, it makes up for visually. The atmosphere the dancers create is quite surreal as they whip around stage (and for Dixon Place's modest-sized theater, 22 is a big number). Combine that with brilliant and magical costume designs from Klein and Kae Burke and the end result is unsettling at times, yes. But ultimately, Symphony is a charming commentary on the pressures we hide from every day in our world—and the ones we discover with our head on the pillow.

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