With a wide variety of pieces that showcased the Orchesis Modern Dance Company’s style and substance, “Dancevent” did not underperform. Although there were only six pieces that constituted the entire event, each one packed a punch with strong choreography complemented by a harmony of sound and light.
The first piece of the evening was titled “Aloft,” choreographed by Director of Dance and associate professor Leah Glenn. The dancers entered the stage in costumes of red and black, with sounds of people talking in the streets, which transitioned to crashing waves, finally ending with instrumentals. Throughout the whole piece, there was a theme of tension that matched with the sounds and choreography. Near the end of the piece, the tension was heightened using imagery of issues that correlated to perception of body image in the choreography.
The first solo of the night was “Oasis,” choreographed and performed by Glenn. The piece opened with colors of purple, matching its costumes, which evoked a calming presence. This emotion, paired with Neil Young’s “Harvest Moon,” lent a natural element to the piece. Glenn’s movements were long and fluid, which mimicked plants swaying in the wind. “Oasis” captured the simplistic beauty of dance through a theme of nature.
The next performance, “Phoenix Circles,” choreographed by professor of dance Joan Gavaler, was arguably one of the most powerful pieces of the night. Following the life of a phoenix starting from the ashes, the piece started by illuminating the stage in dark colors barely revealing the performers and the dancers huddled together stomping their feet, symbolizing the start of the life cycle. The dancers rose up from the stage floor, like the birth of the phoenix, their strength as a team shining. Dancers were lifted up high, seeming to reach the stage lights; some were lifted and balanced by the feet of their fellow performers. Highlighting their strength not only as a company but as a team, the dancers managed to pull together a piece of sheer beauty and mastery.
The second and final solo of the night, choreographed and performed by Gavaler, used the fairytale character of the witch Baba Yaga to explore themes of beauty. The stage was cast in red lights with a backdrop of leafless trees, setting the scene for Baba Yaga’s spell. The choreography before the spell was cast consisted of contortion of the limbs and stark movements, but after the spell was over the lights became softer, with the choreography following suit. The stark contrast of mood in the performance set “Baba Yaga” apart from many other pieces of the evening.
With curtains closed and green lights shining, “Fault Lines,” also choreographed by Glenn, presented a theme of nature. With a scene that looked like a forest, the only duet of the night echoed the musical beats of the drum and the green costumes both performers wore. The skills of the duo complimented one another and created a piece that featured the camaraderie that exists between dancers.
The last and most whimsical piece of the night, “Jabberwocky: Back Through the Looking Glass,” choreographed by professor of dance Denise Damon Wade, provided a stark contrast to all previously performed pieces of the night. Beginning with the ornate costumes and makeup highlighting the ethereal quality of Alice’s Wonderland, the audience is transported into Lewis Carroll’s world. Throughout the entire performance, the lighting not only switched colors from green to purple and back to green, but the images projected also changed from hearts to swirls, creating a dream-like fantasy. Intricate and perfectly timed choreography, along with the other components of the performance, made it a climactic way to end the show.
“Dancevent” proved to be a mastery of work on the part of all those involved in the production. The elements of light, sound, costumes and choreography were unique to every piece in the performance, telling their own message and creating a mesmerizing production that resonated with audiences long after the curtains closed.