At Orchesis Dance Group’s winter showcase, the variety of dance pieces of all different styles, from lyrical to ballroom, appealed to everyone with an interest in modern dance—but the standout element of the night was the enthusiasm evident on the dancers’ faces.
The performance, which took place on Friday night in Roone Arledge Auditorium, showcased 120 dancers and 15 student choreographers. Orchesis, Columbia’s largest student dance group, accepts dancers “from a variety of techniques and backgrounds,” producer and executive board member Nicole Rondeau, BC ’18, said in the short statement given in the middle of the show.
This variety of experience effectively makes Orchesis a celebration of dancers of all abilities and gives audience members the chance to see both technically impeccable dancers and energetic numbers starring less experienced performers. Judging by the enthusiasm of the audience, many friends came out to support the performers, shouting dancers’ names and providing raucous applause after every number.
The theme of the night was Disney’s film “Frozen” and while audience members audibly groaned when the movie’s soundtrack began playing before the show, the silliness that the songs brought out in dancers was clearly well-received. Joyful (and sometimes cheesy) “Frozen” staples like “Let It Go” recurred during the show’s five interludes and showed that Orchesis doesn’t take itself too seriously. The pieces were polished and technical, but the cast was clearly also there to have fun.
This year, Orchesis showed particular strength in its lyrical pieces, which were mainly executed by large groups of advanced dancers. The first lyrical piece of the night, Chelsea Jean-Michel’s, CC ’19, “Second Chances,” was marked by swirling, dramatic movement. The next, Debby Song’s, CC ’20, “Landfill,” was one of the most successful of the night. Dancers moved sharply and then softly, creating a syncopation of movement that went well with the delicate music.
“London Can Take It,” choreographed by Sophie Billinge, BC ’20, was a fantastic choice of music. It featured one of Winston Churchill’s speeches overlaying a pulsing electronic track while the dancers evoked an army by wearing dark green and black. They moved as a cohesive unit, and while the repeated motif of bringing the hands to the eyes to suggest goggles or binoculars was a little strange, overall the creative risks and skilled dancers made the piece an interesting tour de force.
Another experimental piece was “Run Boy Run,” choreographed by Sarah Miller, BC ’19, which paired a dark modern song with ballet-inspired movement. These contrasting styles worked well together, as the geometric formations created by the mass of dancers highlighted their individual ballet technique.
Some of the most enjoyable pieces of the night were the up-tempo ones, in which dancers could exhibit their love for performing. “let’s meet downtown!,” choreographed by JP Viernes, CC ’18, was dedicated to “your favorite neighborhood spot” in the city, as stated in the program. The dancers got to channel their love for New York City into their dancing, and the exploratory movement of reaching arms and legs captured the piece’s emphasis on traveling. “Feel It Still” by Melody Tai, CC ’19, and “All We Do is Win,” choreographed by Yaël Cohen, CC ’19, were other energetic standouts.
“Extinct by Instinct,” a ballroom-inspired piece choreographed by Kosta Karakashyan, CC ’19, was one of the best examples of dancers combining their love for performing with technical brava. Performed to “Sober” by Lorde, the piece evoked a club downtown, with dancers clad in little dresses and heels. It was fun to watch women confidently performing onstage, sexy but fully in control. The ballroom technique made the piece unique, and the confidence onstage made it memorable.
There were 20 pieces in all, including five Frozen-inspired interlude pieces, and although some less experienced dancers did struggle with ambitious routines, the dancers’ collective enthusiasm carried the show.
This enthusiasm reached a peak during the show’s finale, in which all 120 dancers piled onstage, laughing and dancing freely to Frozen’s “Love Is an Open Door.” The entire performance was well-timed, coming just before finals week, and inspired students to remember to let loose, experiment artistically, and enjoy themselves.