One of the more popular artistic concepts these days is the importance of nonverbal communication. Taking this to its logical conclusion, the members of Orchesis Dance Company attempt to demonstrate the innate expressiveness of movement in their student-choreographed “An Evening of Dance,” but only with sporadic success.
“An Evening of Dance” is divided into 10 pieces, each ostensibly with its own unique mood and design. The most effective pieces have at least a snapshot of a clear narrative structure, allowing for the routine to take on greater purpose. Early in the first act, dancers perform to Tennessee Ernie Ford’s “Sixteen Tons,” a song detailing the troubles of a working man. Against a fiery backdrop, suspender-wearing performers act out the woes of the music — a not-too-subtle hint at the theme of the piece, but one can appreciate the consistency. Choreographed by Jessica Lowe ’10, “Bodies/Boundaries/Being” elevates the material and illuminates the plight of an entire class of people, artfully and stylishly.
Other pieces in the first act are technically engaging, but none have quite as clear a narrative as “Bodies.” This is not necessarily a bad thing. Most of the first half contains so much concentrated energy that even in the absence of a clear setting, as in a piece by Elizabeth Foss ’10, the show does not suffer. It may even be erroneous to equate the presence of a theme with quality, but the lack of a definitive leitmotif is noticeable. Despite this, the opening half is a pleasure to watch.
The second act, however, consists of largely unmemorable pieces, performed with a jarring lack of focus. Moves that were fresh when performed at the start of the production begin to appear repeatedly, to the point where the layman might wonder just how many backward rolls a dance troupe can perform. The vitality present during the first half of the recital drops off, as if the group lost its momentum. While there are some redeeming moments, it is only midway through the act that the show returns to the inventive choreography present in the opening numbers.
Two pieces in particular stand out from the last half. A comedic and clever piece by Lindsey Carroll ’11 brings life and energy back into the proceedings, with the dancers taking the place of waterfowl in “Duck Pond.” The performers showcase remarkable comic timing, and make the banality of Act II worth sitting through. As proof that Orchesis strongly abides by the maxim “save the best for last,” a piece by Hannah Goldberg ’10 puts much of the night’s entertainment to shame. With a piano cover of Radiohead’s “No Surprises,” all dancers emerge in color-coordinated groups in a show of pure technical skill — themes and narrative structure be damned. The number returns the production to the high point it reached in Act I and doesn’t bother looking back, as the flurry of motion and flashes of color present an outstanding tableau to finish the performance. Though it is not enough to erase the flaws of the production, Goldberg’s attention to detail prevents the recital from sinking into utter hopelessness and makes the time watching this erratically entertaining showcase well spent.
While the show in its entirety has weak moments, “An Evening of Dance” is worth attending, if only for the fact that a performance of its kind only happens once per semester. Hopefully, future Orchesis productions as a whole will have more going for them than exclusivity. If Goldberg, Carroll and Lowe’s pieces are any indication, the possibility is there. What’s missing is inspiration.
The show will be held tonight and tomorrow night in Phi Beta Kappa Memorial Hall at 8 p.m. Tickets are $5 for students and $10 for general admission.