Bwog loves to dance but unfortunately was not gifted with the moves. Luckily Orchesis held a performance last night: the tongue-twisting SupercalifragilisticexpialidOrchesis. Daily Editor Tatini Mal-Sarkar went to watch and ended up consumed with dance envy.
Last night, I entered Roone to the dulcet tunes of Mary Poppins. The last dance performance I went to was my mom’s best friend’s eleven-year-old daughter’s Jazzercise showcase, and despite the inclusivity of Orchesis, I highly doubted that that translated to quite the same quality.
And thank God for that. SupercalifragilisticexpialidOrchesis was great. Though it wasn’t always the most technical show I’ve ever seen (those eleven-year-olds, man), it more than made up in spirit. The huge cast and the prominence of Beyoncé in the lineup made the show an extremely enjoyable experience, even for a dance weenie like myself.
The show began with Victoria Robson’s “Saltimbanco.” The piece, choreographed to a number from Cirque du Soleil, was vibrant and lively, had some great lifts, and, despite the large cast size, still appeared crisp and well-coordinated. A similar level of skill was demonstrated by the second performance, titled “Spectacle” and choreographed by Ivy Vega. Both pieces somehow encapsulated an overall feeling of strength and power, heightened in the second by the costuming. The turtleneck crop tops (like Beyoncé, a common theme throughout the night) highlighted the unbelievable physical strength of the dancers, while also emphasizing their flexibility and grace. The next piece, however, was a bit of a disappointment. “Mother Yashoda” (by Natasha Antony) had so much potential – a Bollywood piece in the midst of Mary Poppins heaven? Sign me up! But the moves felt stiff and uncomfortable, and Bollywood, though extravagant, is not intended to seem limiting in its antics.
The following piece, “Ancient Memory,” set to the tune of pop hit Pompeii, was substantially more solid, with sharp moves and incredible lighting. Also noteworthy was the conclusion of the piece, which featured the line of dancers each slowly collapsing under their own weight (a metaphor if ever I’ve seen one). Continuing the trend of pop-inspired music, Yulie Landan’s “Almighty Sound” was set to Florence and the Machine’s “Drumming Song.” The piece was a force of energy, with the black costumes only further emphasizing the cut-glass feel of the choreography. On the flip side, Hana Monroe Goldstone’s piece “Clickbait: This one Orchesis performance will change the way you think about dance forever…” had plenty of well-intentioned energy, but unfortunately not much to show for it. Despite the promising music (Kishi Bashi! Alt-J!), it started off fast-paced, but sloppy in execution, resulting in almost molasses-like feeling. However, it got better as it went on, seeming much more at home in the slower speed.
In a showcase intended to be as broad as Orchesis, it’s easy to get caught up in standard, dance-show performances. But Hanna Stubblefield-Tave’s “I Need to Make a Sound” was a genuinely novel combination of technical skill and choreography with a much more contemporary feel. The piece juxtaposed tap dancing with MIA’s “Bucky Done Gun,” to superb effect. Though the sound of the tap shoes could have been louder, this minimal fault didn’t take away from the gusto of the performance. The next piece, “Lest We Fall,” featured an original composition by Solomon Hoffman. Directed by Tessa Thwaites, the piece also involved some exquisite partnering and truly impressive lifts.
With one of the smaller casts, Catherine Haber’s “Love and Life” admittedly had less clutter to work with. But the piece was still definitely, if not the standout performance, one of the best of the night. The coordination was impeccable, the mass movements were graceful without getting caught up in the ubiquitous, Forever 21-esque “prettiness,” and the line choreography towards the end of the piece was an incredibly innovative usages of a frequently tired approach. (In case you couldn’t tell, I really liked this piece.
Next up was “Tu aimes ca?” choreographed by Efe Kakpovbia to the tune of “Partition” (Beyoncé, obviously). It was, in a word, fierce, and honestly epitomized the moxie and panache that overall characterized the night. The raw sexuality of the piece was not just fun to watch, but also empowering in a way that’s summed up in the memo from the program: “Never forget to love your haters and speak your mind because you are so damn fine! #flawless.” FYI, the piece was indeed #flawless.
Also just plain fun to watch was “Beyond the Sea,” by Hailey Zie Evans and Bridget Jamison. With a huge cast and adorably themed costuming—blue, yellow, sailor stripes, what’s not to love?—the piece was a real treat to look at (and the program featured a Rumi quote to boot). Valentina Strokopytova’s “Run the Trap” started off with shoutout-worthy John Fisher running in slow-mo and showed off some insane dance chops via headstands and bizarrely high leaps. If you define art as something you can’t ignore, this was it. Full disclosure: I have no idea why iguanas are referenced in the program note and am beginning to suspect I completely missed the point of the piece, but from an outsider’s perspective, this was hilarious and skillful. Also, the lighting was unreal.
Right after the senior interlude, “Italics” by Rachel Shafran demonstrated that slow doesn’t necessarily have to mean boring. The movements established a dichotomy of robotic control and fluidity, as did the music selection, which was lyrical but broken up by intermittent ticking. The overall effect was eerie and frankly unsettling, but in a hypnotically beautiful way. With grayscale costuming, this was definitely one of the performances not to be missed. The last piece, also set to Beyoncé, served once again to highlight the sheer brio of the performers. Remarkably well-coordinated and outfitted in camo crop tops and black leggings, the dancers moved with exceptional confidence and visceral energy. Like the other Beyoncé number, the piece was filled to the brim with attitude, flair, and frankly, joie de vivre.
To be honest, my only real complaint was the interludes. There’s nothing wrong with being chipper and cheery—I love kitsch as much as the next person—but they also felt false to the extent of the grotesque, with the exception perhaps of the senior interlude. I understand that the interludes were basically the only thing bringing the show back to the central theme, but there had to have been a way to better do that than forced cheerfulness/cheesiness. Despite this, the vast majority of SupercalifragilisticexpialidOrchesis was incredibly well-done, particularly in light of the enormity of the task. Putting together a show with fourteen pieces (not including interludes) and seventy-something dancers is no small feat, and is even more impressive considering exactly how good the show was. I admit I walked in not knowing quite what to expect, but take note: this dance weenie will be coming back for more.
Event flyer thingy via Facebook