The myriad pieces at this year’s DANCEVENT performance this past weekend can be described only in one way:
“They’re all really good. They’re all really unique. They’re all different,” Jessica Dolezal ’12, Orchesis president, said.
DANCEVENT is a production of faculty research in modern dance, performed by both faculty members and the students of Orchesis. Three faculty members, theatre, speech and dance Department Chairs Joan Gavaler, Leah Glenn and Denise Damon Wade, choreographed all nine pieces. These three faculty members also support Orchesis, a dance group founded in 1941 and the only school sponsored modern dance company.
“It’s faculty and student run, I think that’s something that makes [Orchesis] unique,” Dolezal said. “We have the support of the faculty, so we get a lot of input and feedback from them.”
But, what exactly is modern dance?
“It is hard to define modern dance because it is such a wide range and there are so many different types of modern,” Dolezal said. “Modern has a strong ballet technique base. A lot of the movement comes from the technique, so it is important to have a good background in [ballet].”
Like any style of art, modern dance is not for everyone. It creates a different type of performance, unappreciated by many non-dancers who do not understand the complexities of the steps. Most students in the audience were there either for class or to support friends in Orchesis.
“I went for my Modern I dance class and to support my friend, Amanda Hinckle,” Sammy Nelson ’15 said.
The student performances appeared to be the favorites of the evening. They involved larger groups on stage with engaging and active choreography.
“Overall, I enjoyed the creative works brought to the stage and their inventive interpretations,” Nelson said. “All the student performances were really good.”
The students in the Orchesis company performed in four pieces. “Going Up” was a faculty and senior student performed improvisation, or improv, featuring 12 dancers. The performance was set to a medley of cell phone ringtones and served as an entertaining opening act. As improv, the dancers were given a few loose guidelines they had to follow during the performance, including seducing the audience and striking up a conversation next to a mimed water dispenser.
“Strings (Attached),” featured five Orchesis dancers, including Dolezal, and was a favorite of the night. Glenn choreographed the piece and the individual dancers represented her best friends from high school. The performance was fun and lively, with many synchronized portions, exemplifying the “strings attached” side of the piece. The rambunctious attitudes entertained the audience, culminating in a silhouetted reverse-cha-cha exit.
“Strings (Attached) was my favorite because it had interesting groupings and good costumes,” Jordan Turner ’15 said.
“Lost (Found)” was an emotional piece featuring nine Orchesis dancers and choreographed by Wade. On the first day of rehearsal, the performers wrote down a loss they had experienced during their lives, and Wade choreographed these losses into the performance. The dancers individually seemed to “lose” and later “find” the group of dancers throughout the performance.
The last performance, “Grounded in Flight,” was choreographed by Glenn and featured a display of 12 hopping and happy Orchesis dancers in jean shorts and ribbons, seeming to prance across the stage. The piece was inspired by Glenn’s autistic son’s simple and genuine enthusiasm for life.
“The piece exudes happiness,” Orchesis member Amanda Hinckle ’15 said.
The other performances of the evening included fewer dancers and were primarily faculty research. These faculty performances included the duet “Stumble,” choreographed by Wade and performed with Melinda Trembley. The piece centered on the struggle of communication with the performers moving in and out of sync with one another.
DANCEVENT also included collaborative works among the Arts Department at the College of William and Mary. “The Fool and the World” is a prime example. The piece was inspired by reactions to 22 tarot card linocuts designed by Liz Gill Neilson and projected onto the stage during the performance. Gavaler choreographed the piece with poetry by Nancy Schoenberger and music by Sophia Serghi.
Other faculty performances included “Ode to a Cat,” a solo piece by Wade performed to the meowing music of Rossinni, in which Wade danced like her feline friends and even hissed at the audience.
“[Ode to a Cat] was extremely entertaining and original,” Olivia Flynn ’15 said.
The duet, “Peripheral Vision,” was a collaboration between Gavaler and Glenn. The film “Irma,” a collaborative effort between Wade and Irma Cardano, was shown after intermission and depicted a woman dancing with what could be her younger self in an old apartment building.
Gavaler described DANCEVENT as a collaboration within the William and Mary performing arts community, including members of the college’s English, Music and Theatre departments.