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iLuminate lights up the stage with neon special effects in the dark

iLuminate lights up the stage with neon special effects in the dark

SHIPPENSBURG, Pa. — Lisa Bauford, 33, compares performing in iLuminate to dancing in the dark.

“You know when you go dancing in a club, it’s a little dark, they have some of the lights going on and everything,” Bauford said during a telephone interview in a Walmart parking lot in Tampa. “But it’s a completely different thing when you add a 15-pound suit. And then on top of that, some of our characters have helmets on, so it blocks your peripheral vision. Then on top of that, it’s completely dark.”

Audience members see a darkened stage on which dancers are dressed in black suits from head to toe with neon lights attached that blink or move with the music and the dancers.

The group, iLuminate, will perform at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 8, at H. Ric Luhrs Performing Arts Center in Shippensburg. 

Dance wasn’t the first love of Bauford, a native of St. Petersburg, Fla.

Ever since she was in middle school, Bauford, 32, thought she would be a professional basketball player and maybe one day play overseas. 

Those dreams didn’t work out, so Bauford returned home to work in youth development at a recreation center. 

“Dance wasn’t a job, it was always something that was fun,” she said. “It was always something that came natural to me.”

Her cousin started a dance team and told her she should join. She had never taken any classes, but started dancing freestyle and was working the underground scene. Once she started doing choreography for the team, it started winning competitions. 

“I stuck with it, and it was something fun to do, and people were paying me money to do it,” she said.  

Joining iLuminate

Bauford came on board with iLuminate in 2012, a year after the group was featured on “American’s Got Talent.”

One of the original members knew of Bauford’s prowess on the dance floor and told her iLuminate needed more members. She was told there were auditions the next night at Six Flags Over Georgia, near Atlanta.

“We loaded all up in the van the night before and drove eight hours from Tampa to Atlanta,” she said. 

After two long days of auditions, everyone was dismissed and the waiting began.

“It was the longest audition process I had ever been in,” she said. 

Nearly a month passed before Bauford received an email telling her she was part of the troupe.

“I was waiting on pins and needles for them to hit me up,” she said.

What is iLuminate?

Trying to explain iLuminate was a bit challenging for Bauford because she didn’t want to give away all the twists. 

“Everybody that comes in to see our show always comes in with a different mind-set,” she said. “They come in thinking it’s going to be a little show with people in lights with dancing. But they come in and get a full-on production.”

Bauford compared it to animation. 

“If you think about your favorite Saturday morning cartoon and being able to physically go see that in person, that’s almost what iLuminate is,” she said. “Then you add in all this dancing... and then add on a fight scene.”

Bauford said it takes months of training to master the choreography and it “takes a lot of trust” because the dancers are moving in the dark. Some characters do full run-on jumps into the arms of their partners while being nearly blind because of the darkness. 

“You have to have trust that our partners are going to be there,” she said.

She said there is more light than the audience might think.

“It takes hours and hours, and weeks and months of rehearsals and practice to know your track and know your traffic on and off the stage,” she said. The track is your path, while the traffic is the other dancers moving around you. She noted that even backstage, the dancers have to know where to be standing at all times.

There’s more than dancing in dark that takes some getting used to, Bauford said. Learning to dance in a 15-pound suit requires some adjustment, too.

“When we put the suit on, it restricts the body from doing certain things, so it’s basically performing in a new body,” she said. “You have to adjust to what the suit is. It’s no longer you just dancing. It’s you dancing with this added weight.”

She said she still gets excited dancing, especially with her fellow dancers and those behind the scenes, to create the best possible experience.

“Not only having the reward of being onstage, but also the reward of performing in front of people,” she said. “Every night we go out there onstage, we have to tell ourselves, regardless of what’s happening with ourselves physically, this is a new audience, these people have never seen this show. So we go out and give these people 110 percent every night because we want everyone to leave that show in complete awe.”

If you go ...

WHAT: iLuminate
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 8 
WHERE: H. Ric Luhrs Performing Arts Center at Shippensburg University, 1871 Old Main Drive, Shippensburg, Pa.
COST: $20 to $35
CONTACT: Call 717-477-7469 or go to

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