Why Are Shadow & Visual Acts Not Popular?

I remember many years ago, when I first started watching America’s Got Talent, I saw a performance that I found so unique. They were called “The Silhouettes” and they were the start of many acts that I would see go on that stage to put on a spectacle of a show. In fact, that group came back recently for AGT: The Champions and finished in the top 5. Here’s one of their performances from this season:

After their 2011 debut, many others would go on to follow, putting on an amazing performance that not only include dancing but told an interesting story. Not just on America’s Got Talent, but other talent shows around the world! From a teenager to now, though, I kept asking the same question: How come acts like these are never seen from again? They usually do really well in the talent competition. Perhaps there could be various reasons, such as hobby vs. career or reality show chasers. For clarification, there are some acts who appear like this is their first time doing this but, in fact, travel to be on different talent shows.

Sometimes they are contacted by producers to be on the show, but other times they do this for a living and travel to be on these competitions. The adulation and grand prize can have power on some people. I felt disappointed when I first discovered this when I learned one singer I was rooting for actually won before in another country’s Got Talent show. I soon discovered this “secret society” of talented people appearing on many other shows. It turned me off a little bit, but I still watch because what most do is talented nonetheless.

Which brings me back here to Silhouettes and groups like that where they blend the talents of dance, story telling, and one other thing to create a memorable experience. Why do they vanish after the show? Do they appear on other talent shows? Do they go back to their normal lives? I’ve wondered why Simon Cowell or other producers never called them to see if they wanted to go on tour or have a show. I reflect back on a group that on paper seem just okay, but went on to be a huge phenomenon: The Blue Man Group.

A group of men, skin covered in blue, playing unique music on eclectic items such as pvc pipes and paint drums. I’ve never seen them perform live, though one of my old bosses spoke highly of his experience seeing them. I remember their commercials, I remember them appearing in other TV shows and media, and I see they’re still having shows around the world. I’m sure they are great in their own way, and it just adds to my confusion how one unique performance group can have a show and popularity while another great niche isn’t. And though I will start with shadow, there are other performances that should not be overlooked as well.


Dancing in the Moonlight

Verba Shadow (skip to 1:47 for performance)

As mentioned, since 2011, there have been numerous shadow acts to grace the stage including Verba Shadow. Some may use props, while others make the props through their own bodies. But their stories can be touching, and they can also spread a message. Imagine seeing a show filled with numerous stories told through shadows. The creative minds behind each one is incredible to think about as you have to factor in the coordination necessary to align the dancers just right to form the shadow image. There’s even potential to collaborate some of these different shadow groups, as each have their own unique shadow styles and tell various tales. The main issue with this is the limitation as to what you can create with shadow. How much of it is props and how much is human-created? Stories might be bound to certain worlds, but what they do tell often are felt within us.


Moving with the Magic

Freckled Sky (skip to 2:10 for performance)

Maybe you prefer something that pops out more to you. What if dancing and story was combined with another thing besides shadow? Perhaps technology is what you’re interested in. Groups like Freckled Sky, Front Pictures and Sila Sveta take advantage of the digital powers we have today to create lit-up worlds where they paint their version of stories. Sometimes shadows can’t create mansions or 3-D moving scenes, and so technology like this can do that and create worlds that we wouldn’t have imagined before.

Other groups like Light Balance take technology and apply it more on themselves rather than the background. Illuminating their bodies that give them different looks, while still crafting a story or theme. The only issue with such performances is the dependency on technology. If there is a problem with it, the show could get cancelled or have an issue during the show. That wouldn’t look great, but that’s what pre-show checks are for. Perhaps, though, it isn’t the darkness or the digital visuals that intrigue you most. Maybe it’s something more grandiose.


Making a Spectacle

Zucharoh (skip to 0:33 for performance)

Ah yes, when I first saw Zucharoh perform I was stunned by the quantity and quality. To get that many dancers to collaborate and work together as they danced a story was amazing. Them and Diavolo didn’t use the shadows nor digital backgrounds to craft their world. They simply used acrobatics as their mode of choice. Their quality was great, too, from their costumes to the choreography. Groups like these are probably the most “show-ready” of all three. What I mean is that you’d probably see something like this in Las Vegas next to the Blue Man Group.

The way they move, fly, and use their acrobatics are like something you might see in a Cirque du Soleil show. It wouldn’t be surprising if they were incorporated into their shows then or now. However, groups like Zucharoh are certainly capable of putting on their own shows as well. All these different types of dance groups should be hosting their own tour or stationary shows like in Vegas. Could it be financial? Not enough money to afford traveling or paying the crew?

Living in a city that is almost in the top 5 of the largest cities in the U.S., I’ve seen many acts and performers come through town yet I’ve rarely (if ever) have seen groups such as these come. Maybe once, there was a light group (similar to Light Balance) that came for a Christmas show. But with other musical dance groups coming to town that are not as creative as these, this is an untapped area that could be quite popular. It combines the story with movement, and adds a different flair of creativity; whether shadow, technology or acrobatics. When googling about this topic, you’d be hard-pressed to find anything pertaining to why they’re not touring or more popular. Not many people talk about it besides on the video comment section about how amazing they were on TV. Rather than being stunned by the few 2 minute performances on television, let’s try to make them more recognized and have their own touring show. Just imagine seeing them shape their stories in person for hours; whichever type of performance you prefer. If other acts, like Cirque du Soleil and the Blue Man Group, can do it then why can’t groups such as these?


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