CEDAR RAPIDS — “Homecoming” takes on so many different meanings in the talented hands and feet of The Silhouettes.
The shadow dance troupe that mesmerized “America’s Got Talent” judges and viewers last year came home to where it all started, with a sold-out show at the Paramount Theatre on Tuesday night (11/20/12).
Creator and choreographer Lynne Waggoner-Patton grew up studying with various Cedar Rapids dance studios before she spread her wings westward and landed in the Denver area. That’s where she built her own dance studio 21 years ago, and in response to a challenge to create something new and memorable for a corporate client in 2009, that’s where The Silhouettes were born.
The young dancers are memorable, indeed. More than just clever, pretty shape-shifters, they are refined dancers at the top of their form — and good actors, as well.
Fifty members of the troupe, ages 9 to 24, came to Waggoner-Patton’s hometown and cast their spell over all the budding ballerinas in their pretty party dresses — and everyone else in the audience.
Their 90-minute show is titled “Homecoming,” revolving around lifelong friends Johnny and Annie who spend their childhood in blissful imagination games, then set off on different life paths, trying to maintain their ties across time and space. Each one makes huge mistakes along the way, learning life’s most harsh lessons, before finding their way home to each other.
The story is, at times, simplistic and cliche, but never the artistry. It’s always stunning and precise, calling on the very best of dance technique and interpretation to achieve the glorious “pictures” the audience sees on the giant screen and on smaller rectangular and circular screens.
The “wow” factor “AGT” judge Howie Mandel spoke of so often plays out in every scene of the show. A couple of the winning routines are woven into the story, as well, giving us glimpses of the giving tree that holds a swing for Annie and tosses its leaves into the wind, as well as all the beautiful patriotic symbols that moved us to tears during “God Bless America” and the simple, powerful words formed in complex body poses, from “c-o-u-r-a-g-e” to “h-o-p-e.”
Those are the hallmarks we’ve come to love from The Silhouettes. The unexpected pleasures come from athletic, agile twirls, leaps and lifts, showing just how well these dancers are rooted in all the loveliness of ballet.
The show is full of yin and yang.
The first half is sweet and charming, moving through Annie and Johnny’s childhood and adolescence. Annie stays home and dreams of becoming a dancer, while Johnny embarks on a jaunt around the world, stopping at iconic pyramids, the Great Wall of China, the Eiffel Tower and more, which the dancers form with their bodies before the images morph into actual photos of the sites.
The second half is edgy and dark, incorporating hip-hop, techno clubbing and Broadway dance as Annie follows her dreams to Hollywood and New York, interspersed with the horrors of war and personal demons engulfing Johnny overseas and at home.
Even though we’re pretty much guaranteed a happy outcome for the all-ages show, the adults in the audience have plenty to take in for themselves, opening the door for some good, serious discussions with their children and grandchildren afterward.
The evening began with a sweet audio introduction by a young Silhouette, then moved into a haunting look at Waggoner-Patton’s hometown during the Floods of 2008. Those images faded into an equally moving video message from the evening’s major sponsors and enthusiastic show-outs from The Silhouettes to the local people who helped bring the show to town.
In another classy nod to Waggoner-Patton’s roots, members of Orchestra Iowa’s youth Discovery Chorus sang “The Artist Who Teaches Us All” and “Me and My Shadow” while 29 dancers from five area studios became the Cedar Rapids Silhouettes, the first outside group to use the Silhouettes’ choreography. All performed superbly and professionally under the tutelage of vocal director Amy Hanisch of Walford and choreographer/collaborator Lynne Waggoner-Patton.
I’ve been seeing a lot of standing ovations throughout the Paramount’s grand reopening celebration. All have been deserved, but this one was especially poignant, honoring world-class talent springing from our hometown.