From bedrooms, basements, and backyards across the world, student dancers leapt and swayed to viral music chart toppers with the same contagious enthusiasm as content creators on the titular app in “TikTOrchesis.”
Orchesis, the largest student-run performance group at Columbia, released its recorded performance of “TikTOrchesis” on Dec. 4 through its YouTube account. Audiences were able to watch 14 choreographers and nearly 100 dancers run through pieces of choreography both loosely inspired and directly pulled from the growing dance trends on TikTok, the omnipresent video sharing app.
This semester, the pandemic scattered Orchesis’s dancers across the globe, preventing them from rehearsing together in the same space. While this could have proved a major hindrance, Orchesis capitalized on the benefits of working in a digital format.
“We are especially excited to welcome family and friends outside of the New York area who normally don’t get to watch us perform in person,” Orchesis Treasurer Lauren Ogden, CC ’21, said.
Instead of selling tickets this year, Orchesis opted for a free digital performance and accepted donations for the Arts Leaders of Color Emergency Fund. This fund was created by the Arts Administrators of Color to support BIPOC artists and administrators who have been financially impacted by COVID-19.
Increased viewership and charity opportunities were not the only advantages to a completely digital performance. Orchesis utilized video editing techniques to enhance the choreography and weave in recognizable elements from TikTok. A memorable example was the various interludes throughout the show, featuring a digital phone screen that swiped through TikTok videos created by the cast. These snippets included songs like the monster hit “WAP” by Cardi B ft. Megan Thee Stallion and “Shower” by Becky G as Orchesis members performed the iconic dances that became viral sensations on the app.
Within its recordings of original choreography, Orchesis also used editing techniques to set the tone, enhance the visual settings, and format dancers across the screen in new ways for the audience.
“All of the pieces were rehearsed over Zoom, filmed by our cast, and edited by our incredible choreographers,” Orchesis Chair Sanjana Marcé, CC ’21, explained.
“Hell N Back”, choreographed by Eliza Rudalevige, CC ’23, featured groovy 1970s-themed virtual backgrounds and retro film filters to create a throwback setting for the dancers’ performance. Dancers wore costumes featuring nods to the era, including flare pants and tie dye shirts. Various close-ups of props and dancers’ faces during the performance prompted a few muted laughs; overall, the performance was appealingly nostalgic.
“I wanted to create a dance that would bring my cast together from all across the country in a medley of color, vibes and the occasional meme face,” Rudalevige wrote in the event program.
Using similar techniques as the “Hell N Back” performance, “God is a Woman,” choreographed by Anais Arguello, BC ’23, and Ava Morouse, BC ’23, brought viewers into a completely different world of seductive empowerment. Purple and pink tinted effects covered every dancer, creating an effect similar to that of stage lighting, and video effects doubled dancers across the screen, entrancing the viewer.
“Even through Zoom trials and tribulations, you all worked together to make this piece the dreamy, empowering, fun, sassy piece that it has become, and we cannot thank you enough for that. Your spirit of collaboration and excitement inspired us to make this piece the best that it could be, and we are blown away by each one of you,” Arguello and Morouse wrote.
Choreographers chose different approaches to their adaptations of TikTok, some opting to use tunes popularized by the app and others focusing on celebrity figures or abstract visual techniques.
“Til the Butterflies Escape,” choreographed by Marcé, took the latter approach. Performers used the architecture of door frames, walls, stairs, and even Low Steps to ground their dance moves. These structures outlined and confined the dancers’ space, similar to an iPhone camera’s frame in a TikTok video. Silhouettes and shadows created through home lighting, windows, and blinds emphasized subtle body movements, building even further on the experimentation of this piece.
Orchesis’s strong sense of community still remained central to the performance, despite the circumstances. Before and during the show, live comments flooded its YouTube chat section. Performers and viewers alike discussed choreography choices and cheered on student moves in real time, building excitement for each piece within the performance.
The finale captured the best of the digital medium. The chorus of “Dancing in My Room” by 347aidan, a TikTok hit with lyrics like “I’ve been dancing in my room, swaying my feet,” blared as members of Orchesis joined the group dance. Two screens became four, multiplying until the full expanse of Orchesis’ power was palpable and visually stunning.
As each dancer expressed emotions ranging from heartbreak to joy, “TikTOrchesis” proved a meaningful show of optimism that outlasts any social media dance trend.