Shadow Play

A one-night-only dance homage to the renowned Shadow Monsters exhibit

By Jenn Nguyen August 25, 2015

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A huge hit this summer, Philip Worthington’s interactive Shadow Monsters exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston gives everyone the chance to tap into their inner monster. The imaginative installation, in which participants' silhouettes are recast as fantastic creatures inside the museum's Cullinan Hall, gets even more interpretive this Thursday with an improv-heavy dance performance by the Houston Ballet Academy, aptly titled beyond the shadow of a doubt.

The performance, which blends together modern movement with classical ballet pirouettes, highlights this week’s installment of the museum’s Artful Thursday series. Not only will the performance encompass a mix of dance styles to complement the exhibit’s phantasmic motifs, but it will also integrate other mediums like slam poetry and live music.

Jane Weiner, Artistic Director of Hope Stone Dance Company, welcomed the chance to coordinate the production after HBA Director Shelley Powers selected her for the opportunity. With a group of student dancers aged 15–20, Weiner crafted a multifaceted show to enhance the exhibit’s ghoulish surrealism. She turned to her young dancers for inspiration, inquiring about their inner-most fears and what they were scared of—from drowning in deep waters to crawling cockroaches.

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The Houston Ballet Academy rehearses beyond the shadow of a doubt

“All these elements [in the exhibit] loosely are shadows, so we based this on questioning what are our shadows, what are our fears,” Weiner says.

Since the dance directly correlates with the movements from the exhibit’s digital shadow algorithm machine, it is difficult to plan exactly what is going to happen.

“It’s one of the scariest things I’ve ever done,” Weiner confesses.

Fear is the driving force behind the performance as well as the theme. Weiner relishes the chance to incorporate her dance philosophy with the whimsical abstractness of Shadow Monsters.

“I like to create art where you don’t know where to look,” Weiner explains. “Should I look at the poet, should I look at the dancer, the musician? I like the idea of the audience having the freedom to make their own choice. They look at it from anywhere they want to make it their own experience.”

Thursday, Aug. 27 at 6:30. Free with museum admission. Cullinan Hall at Museum of Fine Arts, 1001 Bissonnet St. 713-639-7300.