by Olivia Goldman
What makes Orchesis so refreshing is that every semester they put on a beautiful performance without the pretense of being “professional.” For the Columbia community, that’s exactly what makes it so valuable: because instead, it’s personal. Orchesis gives an enormous company of our peers the opportunity to showcase a gorgeous hidden talent. We already know that they’re capable, smart and able to handle the pressures we’re all so accustomed to, but I’ll be damned if I can ever kick, jump, or lift my legs nearly as high—or with as much grace—as they can.
The first piece, “Word Up,” choreographed by Kate Offerdahl, opened with the blue-backlit sillohuettes of blazer-clad dancers. The dance exhibihbited very controlled, deliberate movements and leaps (that seemed to be in slow motion) to complement the smooth warmth of Willis’ voice. Along with “Mercy,” by Amanda Stibel, which intricately coordinated dancers on different levels and routines, “Word Up” gave off a very sophisticated, yet sassy feel that reoccured throughout the night contrasted interestingly with the louder, flashy derivatives of the Britney Spears theme.
In “Untitled,” set to a very grandiose, irish-influenced orchestral piece had the dancers shift between free-spirited prancing and tighter, fluid motions to a bouncy staccatto. The dancers wore earthy, long skirts and weaved in and out of each other while sometimes dancing in a circle. My friend later pointed out that it reminded her of the dance scene in Tangled, which I think hits the same tone of jubilation. I responded by noting how the next piece, producer Laura Quintela’s “Girl I Like Your Face,” with it’s cheerful gaits and more conservative sailor outfits reminded me of that one scene where Joseph Gordon-Levitt just got laid in 500 Days of Summer.
A gem of the night was Kyley Knoerzer’s “Starstruck.” Even before the backdrop of dark red or the dancers came out decorated with tulle around their necks, the piece immediately stood out as soon as a deep bass reverberated throughout the auditorium. The choreography evoked a strong sense of darkness and even lust, as the dancers crawled over each other and towards the edge of the stage, ending by pulling back an emerged dancer into a tangled mass of limbs.
The tap dance sequence, choreographed by Hannah Chao to “Some Nights,” by fun. was easily among my favorite of the night. It also inspired in me a new life goal: to one day be as happy as John Fisher looked on stage, firing it up in his tap shoes.
Ivy Vega’s “This Bitter Earth,” embodied the sort of theatricalness you might see in a Kiera Knightley movie. The choreography began with a man dressed in a white shirt and overalls staring out into the audience, pursued by a girl holding a rose in a dark dress as the rest of the ensemble formed an aisle around the couple and demonstrated their empathy through dance. The rose functioned as a sort of spotlight, as it was passed among the dancers, who would intensify in emotion under the spotlight, as the rest of the dancers responded.
The night continued with a few trademark moments for Orchesis in Sonia Neuburger’s “Cross” to the folksy Fleet Foxes, Gina Marie Borden’s haunting “Never Fear the Impossible,” and Colleen McGeehan’s “Wheel,” set to a John Mayer piece, which all expressed a strong sense of innocence and honest naiveté. With the exception of a few pieces that notably featured individual dancers, watching group dance pieces imparts an experience like watching a series of very private moments that happen to be synchronized. While each dancer is immersed in his or her own world, the audience witnesses a union of with the other dancers on stage, as well as a personal union with his or her own physical body. Watching the company go through a series of utterly universal emotions gives the audience a sense of catharsis and solidarity with our fellow Columbia students. After all, what sounds like a better release of tension than dancing in front of a huge audience in a gold-sequined bra?
Olivia Goldman is a junior at Barnard and Editor in Chief of The Nine Ways of Knowing.
Photos courtesy of Victoria Robinson