An Evening of Dance: Orchesis delivers inventive works

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March 25, 2011

12:30 AM

Watching the considerable display of flexibility and talent put on by Orchesis in Phi Beta Kappa Memorial Hall, the student-choreographed “An Evening of Dance,” does not, for me, merely evoke the images and moods expressed through the dancers’ movements. No, with all their bends and twirls, their running and leaping all over the stage, I felt I was instead looking at a mirror.

The reflection showed me, about a year ago. I was sitting in roughly the same place I was last night, viewing a similarly vibrant and impressive spectacle and slowly formulating a means of putting into words what I was witnessing. Stupidly, that me wrote about narratives. This me, the one writing now, would like to throttle that me, shouting something about incorrect standards and misinformed ideas of what modern dance should be. Since such trans-temporal beatings are currently impossible, a mea culpa in print will have to do.

That admission of poor judgment, however, comes at a price. In retrospect, last year’s “Evening of Dance” was a bold set of pieces, largely stunning in their scope and technical brilliance. There were a few moments where nothing inventive was being put on the stage, but those moments were too far apart and too infrequent to suggest any major flaws with the choreography or performance. This “Evening” does not, unfortunately, meet the unfairly-criticized excellence of 2010’s production, but not due to any particularly poor ideas, image, or numbers. Instead, a few exemplary pieces are performed side-by-side with others that don’t have quite the same life to them.

The works that are fresh and inventive, like Jaqueline Stykes’s ’12 piece “Intangible Realities,” an energetic tableau of yellow-suited figures separating and regrouping while demonstrating remarkable command at isolation work, are quite so. This is not to say the routines were not as striking didn’t have merit. To Orchesis’s credit, there wasn’t a time during which I felt what I was seeing wasn’t worthwhile. But in the face of Jenny Forloff’s ’11 piece “How Raven Stole the Sun,” a captivating creation of character and identity through choreography, or “Kusakililaku,” a breathtaking showcase of pure kineticism from Camille Mireku ’11, it’s difficult for some not to look derivative. The capstone of the “Evening” is, as always with Orchesis performances (with the bewildering exception of the “Oklahoma!” piece at last year’s “Dancevent”), the most invigoratingly unique. Lindsey Carroll ’11 puts the entire team through a series of imaginative routines that turn the stage into a flurry of activity as opposing groups mesh and clash in an allegorical struggle to the Israel-Palestine conflict. It isn’t perfectly articulated — only a few garbled audio clips tell the tale — but that’s hardly relevant when there is a world in motion before your eyes.

The technical crew also does admirable work in the production, adding atmosphere and depth to what are mostly already profound pieces. Light work by Elizabet Biggio ’11, Meg Hamilton, Nora Ives ’11 and Jeremy Owens ’12 is colorful and bright when appropriate, but also harsh and striking to accentuate sharp changes in the choreography.

Truly, the work done for this production is, overall, compelling. But the creativity of several numbers so obviously outshines the rest in a way that diminishes the peaks of the “Evening” and lessens their impact. Orchesis still possesses raw talent; it remains to be seen whether they continue to improve. If its members return to the dizzying heights of 2010’s “Evening,” however, I hope to be present in order to give them the approbation they so rightfully deserved.

“An Evening of Dance” will be performed Mar. 25-26 in PBK Hall. Tickets are $5 for students.

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