Leaps and twirls and Nae Naes aplenty! Though the performance was sitcom-themed, the audience’s audible enthusiasm was enough to overshadow any laugh track.
Orchesis’ spring showcase was a reminder of the inspiring and enthusiastic dedication found throughout the Columbia student body. On Friday, April 5, Roone-Arledge Auditorium hosted the largest performing arts group on campus for two performances featuring the work of 16 student choreographers.
The tongue-twisting title of this year’s performance, “Bears. Beets. Battlestar GalactOrchesis: a sitcom-themed dance show,” was confusing to even to those well versed in Dunder Mifflin jargon, but became more clear when 10 dancers came sashaying onstage to the theme song of “The Office.” Another four theme song dance interludes were dispersed throughout the performance, and included favorites like “That ’70’s Show,” “Friends,” “How I Met Your Mother,” and “Seinfeld.”
These thematic interludes were brief and hastily choreographed, but fun for the audience, who collectively sang along to each tune. This year’s sitcom theme was selected by the Orchesis board from over 70 submissions drawn from Orchesis dancers. In the past, shows have been given equally punny titles such as “Versace on the FloOrchesis” and “1,2,3 Fourchesis.”
Sitcom theme songs aside, there were a few spine tingling-ly spectacular pieces of choreography included in the program. Chris Lee, CC ’19, orchestrated a large ensemble number using songs from popular artists like Lady Gaga, Ed Sheeran, and Calvin Harris. Lee’s hip-hop infused dance was sexy, smooth, and outstandingly cohesive. With almost two dozen dancers on the stage, precision and attention to detail were key—and the dancers lived up to the task.
Yaël Cohen, CC ’19, also took advantage of pop culture for her dance “School’s out 4Eva.” The ensemble wore disheveled school uniforms with loosened ties as it danced and lip-synced to a medley of Big Shaq’s “Man’s Not Hot,” Ariana Grande’s “No Tears Left to Cry,” Cardi B’s “Bodak Yellow” and a particularly electric “Mic Drop” by BTS.
Any yearning audience members had for an emotional ballad was fulfilled by Gianna Raimo, BC '21, and Zoe Novello, BC ’21, who choreographed a powerful lyrical dance to Whitney Houston’s “I Have Nothing.” Raimo and Novello wove the ensemble together dynamically while highlighting the precision and individuality of each dancer.
A spoken word recording of Maya Angelou’s poem “Phenomenal Woman” created a serene and powerful background for the choreography of Xixi Wang, BC ’22. Wang’s composition was thoughtful and required the focus not just of the dancers but also of the audience. Angelou’s poem provided the perfect opportunity for calm attentiveness in the midst of a program dominated by fast-paced numbers.
Despite many of the dances being overwhelmingly upbeat, choreographers’ artistic voices remained unique. Experienced and novice dancers alike were given a chance to express themselves.
Raimo, who also serves as the chair for Orchesis’ board, emphasized the importance of letting students cultivate a love of dancing.
“At the core of Orchesis’ mission statement lies the notion that dance is, and should be, for everyone,” Raimo said. “Whether you’ve danced your entire life or you’ve never stepped foot in a dance studio, it doesn’t matter.”
For two hours on a rainy Friday night, 150 dancers called the audience to pause for a moment and take a step back from the pace of college life. Even more salient, perhaps, were the individual expressions of determination and exuberance beaming from dancers. No matter the difficulty, technical proficiency, or precision of the dances, the contagious nature of joy and passion was felt in each step.
“The bottom line is that it’s never too late to try something new,” Raimo said. “It’s never too late to dance.”
Correction: A previous version of this article misidentified Yaël Cohen’s class year.