If the movement of the audience’s eyes are any indication, the members of Orchesis must be tired. It’s difficult to imagine otherwise, as they spend an evening twisting and turning their bodies in every conceivable manner to put music and poetry in motion. Their time and energy is well spent, as the troupe’s fall “Dancevent,” which began its weekend run last night in Phi Beta Kappa Memorial Hall, is a flurry of kinetic expression that dazzles and excites the senses. Well, two of the senses, anyway.
Choreographed by members of the dance faculty, these pieces largely have an inventiveness and clarity which makes for fine entertainment. An opening improvisation from senior members and faculty begins the proceedings. Naturally, the number will be different each time, but if this performance was demonstrative of what the dancers will do for the rest of the run, there is grace and poise to what could have otherwise been a hasty and ramshackle affair.
What follows is a series of intricate and imaginative numbers which possess their own visual style and creative structure that almost never runs together or becomes otherwise repetitive. Dance professor Lauren Morris’s “Threading Roots,” with dancers shifting and moving about in an elaborate treescape created only by a lit floor and the motion of those on stage, is a definite standout among other quality pieces in the first half of the act. “What Is,” a number from dance professor Joan Gavaler, has elaborate physical feats that impress, although the length of the spectacle very nearly leads to it becoming too ambitious for its own good.
After intermission, the energy continues to build, although Orchesis itself is not part of all the pieces. In “Elementals,” a routine from dance professor Denise Damon Wade, varying costume colors and bold, exciting moves paint a vibrant picture for the eye. The highlight of the show, however, comes from Gavaler’s “Habits of Thought,” a work featuring physical theater students inhabiting myriad emotional states, moving and reacting to one another in near-perfect synchronization, yet having distinct personalities in their gyrations. Also worth special mention is “My Sister, She,” a powerful and enthralling exhibition set to a poem written and read onstage by English professor Hermine Pinson. Dance professor Leah Glenn’s choreography beautifully puts the feelings of the verse into elegant movement meticulously timed to the live recital.
“Dancevent” ends on a mildly sour note with a preview of a show soon to premiere in the same space; the dream ballet from “Oklahoma!” wherein heroine Laurey Williams imagines a future with cowboy Curly McLain. The hallucinatory setting makes for a deliberately slow piece, but the dancing falls flat when compared to the work of the performers who so recently occupied the stage. Hopefully, when outside the realm of Laurey’s head, the numbers will have more life to them.
“Dancevent” is not without its faults. There are rare moments where the pieces lose unity, and the dancers sometimes fall out of perfect harmony in places where de-synchronization is clearly unintentional. However, these moments are not enough to derail what is otherwise a pleasurable evening. Next time, however, it may be wise to keep the show exclusively in the capable hands of Orchesis.