Symphony of Shadows – Review

Symphony of Shadows isn’t quite as nerdy as some of the other projects we cover at Theater for Nerds, but this modern dance performance is still likely to captivate nerdy audience members thanks to its unconventional style and easy-on-the-eyes cast.  It is a story about a woman who has a series of nightmares, each represented by a different dance sequence.  It aims to recreate the sense of a silent era expressionistic film, but live onstage.

The Sleeper (Played by Elizabeth Stewart) is tormented in her dreams by the mysterious Sandman (Michael Porsche) and his menagerie of creatures played by a company of dancers, contortionists and aerialists… with more than little burlesque mixed in for fun too.

Each scene uses a different theme, and The Sleeper is plagued by things like snakes, insects, sea creatures, demons and more over the over the course of the show. Between each nightmare, The Sleeper staggers through her workday and visits her therapist, slowly deteriorating mentally as the show progresses.  There’s no dialog in it at all, but there is a story to it, making Symphony of Shadows more than just a collection of spectacles.

The cast (A whopping 25 of ‘em) is quite talented and athletic.  Aside from traditional dance there are other forms of performance too, including contortionism which is used sparingly, and aerialists who are used extensively.

Spider women will swing over the stage, ballerinas dance en pointe, and busty burlesque queens strut in skimpy outfits.  There’s male eye candy as well, but despite the overt sexuality of the show it isn’t exploitative, aiming rather for artistry that just happens to have slinky snake women writhing on the stage in skin-tight catsuits.

The costumes are excellent, depicting everything from deliberately drab office attire to an octopus empress, with dozens of other creatures and critters in between.  Costume Designers Kae Burke and Rachel Klein have done an impressive job there.

Symphony of Shadows uses an original score (By Sean Hagerty) with a live band onstage too.  The music is creepy during the nightmares, and disturbing in the scenes set during the day as The Sleeper walks through her drab life accompanied by repetitive staccato notes.

Unfortunately, the performance also gets a little repetitive over the course of its just-over-an-hour running time.  As Symphony of Shadows cycles between dream and waking life, it develops a “Rinse, repeat” pattern as audiences sit through the slower-paced Daytime sequences and wait to see what the next extravagant dream will be about.  Despite having a story and clear character arc, it develops rather slowly and predictably.

But the pacing issues are just a minor matter.  Most of Symphony of Shadows is eye-catching and exciting, with a very wide range of performance styles.  It is playing now through June 23rd at Dixon Place on Manhattan’s lower east side Thursdays through Saturdays.  More information can be found at

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