Madysen Luebke, a wizard who “just hasn’t gotten her Hogwarts letter yet,” sat down and had the retinal signals of the Spring Orchesis performance relayed to her brain.
Although the lack of Harry Potter was greatly disappointing (given the title), the Spring Orchesis performance still delivered a good dose of the headmaster’s charisma the audience came to expect. Amidst the numerous “look pretty and twirl” pieces that come standard in a dance show, there were some gems that brought fresh breath and innovation to the stage.
The show opened with a minimalist contemporary piece by Kyley Knoerzer, “Iris.” This piece was very delicate, and did not properly prepare the audience for the upcoming flashback to the ’60s brought on by Efe Kakpovbia’s “Dazed and Confused.” An early frontrunner was found when the dancers in Emma Chaves’s piece, “Green,” came onstage, giving the audience a good laugh as the piece began with dancers bouncing in sync. From there on out, Chaves created a piece that incorporated both ballet without feeling too conservative, and contemporary in style, without falling into old habits. It was clear that Chaves knew how to work with her dancers to create clean and precise movement that flowed naturally.
Hannah Chao then took on a new challenge by having her piece “Rhythm and Swing” be performed a capella. This choice would have been much more effective had the screams from the audience subsided when the dance began. Next came Rachel Turner’s piece “Shatter”, beginning a trend of choreographers incorporating different styles into one piece. Aly Yee then brought the audience back to the contemporary realm with her piece, “Never Let Me Go,” that deserves recognition on many levels. Yee succeeded in choreographing a piece for thirteen dancers that felt graceful instead of overcrowded. Yee also must be commended on using the strengths of her individual dancers, notably their long legs and turning capabilities, to add a personal element to the fairytale she told.
Smita Sen must have known what she was doing when she created her piece to the oh-so-timely song “Thrift Shop.” This piece was full of fun costumes (that probably came from a thrift shop), high energy, and a whole lot of attitude. Ivy Vega’s “Veil” and Hannah Zilka’s “Nostalgic Wonderings” came next, with flowing skirts and lots of emotion, although nothing that hasn’t been seen before on the Orchesis stage. Danny Pahl’s “Something I Left” gave the audience goose bumps (or was it just Beyonce’s singing?) with his clever transformations of a repeating phrase of movement. Katherine Bergstrom’s “Gimme a Beat” also had the potential to be a showstopper if the dancers had not been afraid to be sultry—the dance was to Janet’s “ Nasty” after all.
Liana Gergely’s created a nearly full production within her piece “oh how time is passing, my dear.” But while Gergely’s piece told a story to the audience, Tessa Thwaites’s piece “Together, Human” invited the audience into the lives of the dancers. As a rule, it’s very rare for dancers to have a genuine moment of eye contact onstage, but when two dancers connect— magic happens. Thwaites’ piece brought humanity into the show that can so easily be lost in the glitz and glamour. After Thwaites’ piece came the only bit of Harry Potter in the show—an interlude to “Hedwig’s Theme” choreographed by Sonia Neuburger. This was by far the best interlude for dancing as well as music. This interlude was not a distraction from the artistic level of the full-length pieces, as some other interludes were.
The last two pieces were unlike anything else in the show. Amanda Takiguchi choreographed an outstanding hip-hop number, “Equinox,” that focused solely on strong ensemble work. The lack of soloists made the piece more emotionally and visually powerful. Takiguchi stuck to her artistic vision and created a crowd pleaser without resorting to adding tricks and acrobatics to receive applause. The final full length piece was a large group number by Katie Mukai and Zoe Tippl entitled “if you like green pears, old chairs, back stairs, or love affairs…” which was, of course, to “Anything Goes.” The large cast worked well for this Broadway jazz piece, and the surprise of tap dancers was the icing on the cake.
As the seniors took the stage for their final interlude, sadness pervaded the audience. While the Orchesis veterans will be missed, audiences have much to look forward to from the younger choreographers who proved Friday night that their voice is definitely worth listening to.