As a dancer coming to Barnard, I wanted to seize every possible opportunity to dance and perform. I was excited to learn about Orchesis as this group seemed like a great outlet for my goals. Orchesis is a student-run dance group that holds student-choreographed performances each semester. The elected board auditions choreographers each semester, and then auditions are held for the choreographers to choose their dancers. Everyone who auditions gets placed into a piece, which makes the group a great outlet for serious dancers as well as dancers who haven’t had much experience but want to try performing and working with a choreographer.
As soon as I walked into the audition and felt the bustling energy, excitement and pure love of dance present in the room, I knew I would be in for a treat. In the audition room, choreographers performed previews of their work, which showed the great variety that would be in the showcase. The styles of the choreography ranged from ballet, contemporary and modern to jazz, hip hop, tap, and even the French Can-Can. After dancing the phrases that the choreographers taught us, we were able to rank our choices of pieces to be placed in. The variety of pieces at the audition made it possible for everyone to be placed into a piece that they would feel comfortable in.
After the audition, I found out that I was placed into a modern piece by Marie Janicek, and a ballet piece by Danny Pahl. Working with these choreographers and the other dancers in these pieces was a joyful, challenging and exciting experience. We rehearsed 1.5-2 hours per week, during which time the casts worked together to create pieces that reflected the stunning visions of the choreographers.
Danny Pahl choreographed a fun, high energy challenging piece to “The Edge of Glory” by Lady GaGa. Working with Danny on his ballet piece was a lot of fun because it gave us all a chance to do ballet in a non-classical format, and to incorporate a more contemporary style to the technique. In rehearsal, he encouraged us to feel as if we were “dancing on the edge”, meaning we should take more risks and feel taken away by the movement.
Working with Marie on her piece was very different from working with Dan, but it was nonetheless just as enriching. The piece was to “The Butcher” by Radiohead. Her movement is very grounded and driven by the beat of the music, and is also extremely athletic. She encouraged us to use a raw, untamed quality as we darted across the stage like animals and did her phrase material in various patterns and phrase work.
Ultimately, all of our hard work culminated in two performances in Roone Auditorium. The week before our performances, we had dress, tech and spacing rehearsals to get ready for the show. While I had seen the pieces in the “Two Works in Progress” showings during the semester, at these rehearsals I got a chance to see the finished products of the pieces that I was not in, which was really exciting and interesting. This week, though exhausting, was helpful because we finally got a chance to run our pieces on the stag.
Performing in the auditorium on Friday night and Sunday Afternoon was an unforgettable experience. I love being on the stage because I am able to lose myself and give a piece of myself over to the audience. I love the connections and energy that I feel with the rest of the dancers on stage with me. Each time I went on stage it felt as if I was in a different world and nothing else existed except for the stage, the audience, and the choreography.
Overall, the process of working with these choreographers and the dancers in the casts was amazing. Both casts that I was in really connected through our love of dance and we got to know one another really well. Everyone worked together to give our choreographers the gift of fulfilling their vision. I would love to do Orchesis again in future semesters at Barnard, because it offers a fun way to dance, perform, and get to know other dancers at Barnard and Columbia.
Want to join Ochesis next semester? Auditions will be held in January shortly after the semester begins. To learn more, visit Orchesis’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/groups/7996016449/. Remember—everyone gets in, so if you like to dance, give it a shot!