I wasn’t sure what to expect – we were sitting in the theater waiting for the show, iluminate: Artists of Light to begin. I knew the basics – the theater would be dark; the dancers were going to be outfitted in black suits and lights; and it would tell the story of Jacob, and how, after his magic paint brush is stolen by a bully, Jacob must fight to get it back in order to save his friends and his town.
Quickly I gave my kids the 30-second summary of the plot, and then the lights went out and the first dancer lite up on stage. (and just as quickly, the first, of many, ‘ohhh and ahhh’ was uttered). iLuminate: Artists of Light is quite an ingenious production. The dancing, music and the lights create a story with no words – and the technological wonder of these magical light suits is pure entertainment. It is first and foremost a dance production, albeit a rather unorthodox one; it is mainly hip hop, and the brightly colored lights are choreographed to turn on and off in such intricate patterns that the dancers – whom are clad in all black and you never see until after the show is over – gracefully leap and spin and prance across the stage, transformed into flying butterflies and giant, mad dogs, and the monsters whose heads somehow magically float through the air. It truly is a spectacle and the dancers are remarkable.
The storyline – which can be overlooked as you follow the lights - is actually so relevant today: Jacob battling the bully. Just when it seems the bully will win, Jacob is joined by his friends and together they triumph.
But is it a show for the entire family? I went with my three children: 8,10, and 13, plus my parents. While everyone agreed that the lights were “neat”, “totally cool” and “amazing”, the youngest was a bit frightened and the grandparents thought it was a bit too loud. Truthfully, the show, with its blaring hip-hop music and dance, is probably best suited for older tweens and teens. If you have a dancer in your family, even better. I would absolutely recommend telling kids the storyline in advance as the wonderment of the lights can distract them in the beginning from following the plot. Also, just so you know, it’s a very short show – about 55 minutes, with no intermission. Definitely an enjoyable hour, and worth it to see how the dancers navigate the black stage and transform themselves with the lights.
Playing at the New World Stages/Stage 4, 340 West 50 Street, New York City
On Sale Through October 13
Reviewed by Jenny Tananbaum