Last night in the Roone Auditorium, Orchesis performed Work Work Work Work Worchesis, a performance that lead to an “incredibly diverse and enjoyable night of art.” Bwogger Asya Sagnak reviews the performance, which will take place again tonight at 9 pm in the Roone Auditorium.
When I first found out about Orchesis being the largest performing arts group at Columbia, I made two big assumptions about its semesterly performance. Firstly, I expected to see an overarching spirit of inclusivity and joy. Secondly, I expected to see the – though very understandable – chaos and disorganization that usually seems to accompany student led showcases with a huge number of performers.
I was right in one assumption only – the former. Featuring over 120 dancers from different backgrounds and levels of experience, a committed executive team, and a mission to cast everyone who auditions, Orchesis is a testament to the unity of dance. Titled Work Work Work Work Worchesis – punny titles seem to be a tradition for the group – last night’s performance proved that inclusivity does not have to sacrifice quality, and can lead to an incredibly diverse and enjoyable night of art.
Comprised of around 20 short student-choreographed dances, Work Work Worchesis captured its tone with its very first one. “Awakening”, choreographed by Katie Morris and set to “Fade” by Kanye West, presented dancers in Yeezy-like earth-toned costumes flying across the stage in small clusters. Often purposefully asymmetrical, the piece struck a wonderful balance between hard and soft, setting a strong precedent for the rest of the show.
Spacial understanding was key for Orchesis’ success. The Roone Auditorium space is suffocatingly large, and even with a dozen performers, it’s easy to dwarfed in comparison. Likewise, it’s just as easy to come out with 25 performers and find trouble fitting on the stage. The choreographers of Orchesis faced this head on by incorporating many seamless exits and re-entrances into their dances – often, a smaller group would take the lead on a more intricate routine while the full group would reconvene for a striking, synchronized chorus. A great example was “Uptown Contra” by Colette Kelly, which used circular formations to fill the complete space without creating visual clutter.
Another common strength was the fun, energetic, playful energy of the pieces. Melody Tai’s piece, set to “Fallin’” by Alicia Keys, showed off a smaller group of talented dancers flaunting their flirt with cheeky glances at the audience and high doses of attitude. Backlit in red, the piece established its energy by starting and ending with the dancers’ silhouettes. Similarly, “Call the Shots” by Yael Cohen brought out the playfulness in its dancers by giving them room to improvise and focus on attitude. This attitude often strengthened the larger dances with less experienced performers – although the technical skill might have been visibly lower, the energy was maintained, and the overall event didn’t falter.
Although firmly focused on inclusivity, Orchesis made a smart decision by giving its strongest performers the chance to shine in smaller, more “professional” dances. This was especially visible in “Letter To My 16-Year-Old-Self” by Haley Fica, which, unlike the other dances, was set to a spoken word song. The performers – stand-outs include Falls Kennedy, Nadia Halim, Morgen Littlejohn, and Rebecca Sosman – moved expertly to the rhythm of the poem, using a lightness of foot that made pirouettes and sky-high jumps seem easy.
The weakness of the night came in its “interludes”: shorter, more humorous dances that were dispersed among the night and featured performers in jokey outfits such as a shark costumes and night-out clothes. Although the concept behind this is strong – it’s great to break the tension with some laughs – I didn’t actually fully understand it until the third interlude, set to “Work It Out” from High School Musical. Until that point, it was easy to confuse the interludes with regular dance performances that were a little more light-hearted, sloppy, and awkwardly-cut at the ends. It would have been nice to see a clearer distinction between the dances and the interludes.
Overall, Work Work Work Work Worchesis was a wonderful way to spend my Friday night. I might not have a lot of technical dance experience, but I do have a lot of general performing experience, and I know that the best productions are born out of hard work and enthusiasm rather than strict classical technique. Orchesis’ dancers were enjoying every second on that stage, and that energy was infectious – I spent my walk back to Plimpton Hall with a strut in my step and a tune in my head. If you can, catch tonight’s performance at 9pm in the Roone Auditorium.