Meet Teddy Forance and Shaping Sound

Teddy Forance is a founding dancer and choreographer of the new contemporary dance company, Shaping Sound. The company just finished the national tour of its first production, That’s Where I”ll Be Waiting. The show has an innovative look — much like a full-length music video that unfurls the compellingly relatable story of a love triangle, set in a fantastical dreamscape. I recently had the opportunity to talk with Teddy about the company, That’s Where I’ll Be Waiting, his tips for training, and more.

Q: What was the creative process like for That’s Where I’ll Be Waiting?

A: We wanted to create a story that would play out visually like a movie. The process was pretty much, in a word, fast. We created 23 pieces in 20 days. We collaborated the whole time, and usually had three things going on at once. We based a lot of the story concept on a J.M. Barrie quote. (“You know that place between sleeping and awake, that place where you can still remember dreaming? That's where I'll always think of you.”) We made a play list with music we felt passionate about and incorporated different genres to drive the story and build it around the characters. From there we just started piecing everything together, seeing what would work and what wouldn’t. Seeing it come to life was wild — we had a blast!

Q: The lyrics in the songs added an interesting dimension of meaning to the piece. How did you make the music selections?

A: The music carries you through the story line. Each word of the songs really relates to the story we wanted to tell. We sat in our garage listening to music for hours every day, thinking about what really flows in terms of lyrics and the feelings evoked by the sounds. The story was our main driver. We had certain songs that we loved but we had to let go. We had to make sure that it all made sense, that every part had a reason. We were so happy with the results!

Q: The dancers interacted with the set design and props in a really integral way. How did you incorporate all that into the choreography?

A:  This set was like a jungle gym for us. When it came in the first day we were like little kids climbing all over it, sliding down the walls, seeing what we could do safely on it. We did lots of trust exercises, seeing who could do what with the music’s timing constraints. In some sections what inspired the piece was moving around a certain way of interacting with the props, and in other pieces we’d have the props serve the movements.  Sometimes it was the lighting. It was very collaborative between us, the lighting directors, and the set designers. There were a lot of of logistics to think about — who’d have time to use the prop, or move it, and get to the right part of the stage to be ready to do their next part. It was a new way of thinking for us. We also spent seven days with the lighting director, which was great. That gave a chance to think about colors, what it would all look like, and things that work and don’t work.

Q: How did you develop your skills as a choreographer?

A: My mom was a choreographer.  She owns a studio in Massachusetts. I grew up with her choreographing all day every day, watching her process. Over the years I’ve gotten to work with great choreographers, including Travis, Nick, and Kyle.  We invest all of our life in this. Everything adds to it — every show, every movie. Everything becomes part of your art form.

Q: How did the four of you utilize so many different genres in the choreography, and how does the company cope with so many different movement styles?

A: All the company members come from backgrounds of jazz, ballet, contemporary, and modern. Growing up in the convention world and learning process teaches you a balance between technique and understanding how to work with your body in new ways. A lot of our stuff comes from a jazz background — the technique, the spatial awareness, and stuff like that. We’re all serious about technique and take a lot of ballet. So technically, we all already had that foundation, and we’ve fused a lot in the last two years. Now it’s a matter of defining ourselves more as a group together so we’re on the same page.

Q: What’s it like to create as a team of four?

A: We’ve all known each other for 10 to 15 years. Knowing each other for so long created a lot of synergy on stage. That connection of friendship gives us a family camaraderie on stage. It’s a defining thing between all of us. We’re just at the house sometimes completely relaxed, laughing. We keep the energy before the shows at ease as much as possible so we can relax and breathe in to it, so we don’t get too stressed out and dance over the top or not with the group.

Q: What’s next for Shaping Sound?

A: We’re shooting for the stars!  We’re in talks now about where the company’s going next. We don’t know yet, but we’ll keep everyone posted on that. We hope to tour more, do some Vegas shows or a Broadway show. There’s talk about making the piece into a movie. We have lot of open-ended ideas, so we can go in any direction with it.

Q: What advice would you offer to young dancers inspired by Shaping Sound?

A: Class, class, class! Get as much experience in as many different styles as you can. Try to get to LA or NY if you can. Keep an open mind and always continue to train. Network, stay in touch with people, and make friends!