Arts Editor Grace Novarr attended the 9:30 pm performance of DiscOrchesis on Friday, December 2.
Orchesis, Columbia’s largest performing arts group, staged their fall production on Friday, December 2. At the 9:30 pm show in the Roone Arledge Auditorium, the energy was high, the room was packed, and people were ready to boogie. The club’s managing board opened the night with a brief speech, welcoming us to the show and reminding us that, at Orchesis, inclusivity is the name of the game, and all who audition are cast. This year, that meant 170 performers were cast, of varying levels of ability. The show’s disco theme promised fun and ’70s fantasy, and over the course of the night, the dancers and choreographers delivered in a wildly fun collage of dance styles and moods, while the audience ate it all up.
The first number, “The Wheel,” choreographed by Isa Farfan (BC ’24), started the night off right with a hypnotic, fluid number. Dancers, all wearing matching blue and white crop tops, spun and twirled and reached, making palpable a sense of yearning for change. Farfan noted in the program that “this dance is conceptually about breaking patterns,” and the dancers, spinning in synchronized disorder, reflected that theme well.
Though the show’s title promised Disco, most of the numbers seemed to have little to do with disco besides a few shorter interludes to the Bee Gees and Donna Summer. Of course, Orchesis is known for its wacky, punny titles that somehow incorporate the word “Orchesis” — past examples include “DumbledOrchesis” and “Roar Lion ROrchesis” — yet choosing a title that connotes a specific style of music and dance led to some unfulfilled expectations. However, the disco numbers were the show’s real highlights, such as “Blame it on the Boogie,” choreographed by Brianna Lubin (CC ’25).
Other high points came when the cast brought the energy and the storytelling. The second number, “XS” by Rina Sawayama, was full of glam and sass. Choreographers Maya Puri (CC ‘23) and Haley Scull (BC ‘25) did an excellent job translating the song’s high energy and unparalleled confidence into a dance number that culminated with the dancers blowing kisses to the audience as they walked off. “Naked in Manhattan,” choreographed by Anais Arguello (BC ’23) and Eliza Rudalevige (CC ’23) stood out as the show’s most fun number, as dancers wore pajamas, danced to lyrics about “the rush of slumber party kissing,” and eventually brought out pillows as dance partners. Filled with big kicks and jumps, the ultra-feminine number had the whole house cheering.
“Pump It,” choreographed by Abby Mankin (BC ’25), was a choreographic high point for the show. The cast seemed to be the dancers with the most confidence and expertise, and lighting changes contributed to the drama, along with the dancers’ impressive spins and jumps. And the final number before the bows, “It’s Gonna Be Me,” was the funniest moment of the show. Pimprenelle Behaegel (BC ’24) and Annika Voorheis (BC ’24) wrote in the program that their goal was to give their dancers a chance to “live out their dreams of giving a live concert while looking very swag.” And the dancers, with their exaggerated 2000’s costumes, classic NSYNC wrists, and hip gyrations, looked very swag indeed.
The show’s slower songs, like Mitski’s “First Love, Late Spring” and Billie Eilish’s “Bored,” were inherently a little less hype, but they offered a chance for emotional catharsis. Romane Lavandier’s (BC ’24) dance to Liza Minelli’s “Cabaret” was tonally very different from the rest of the show, but offered some of the night’s sexiest moments via the dancers’ fishnets and red-and-black costumes.
As the entire cast came out on stage to take their final bows to ABBA’s “Dancing Queen,” the audience gave a standing ovation. By inviting dancers of all experience levels into the fold, Orchesis also implicitly invites the audience to partake in the joy of feeling like a dancing queen. DISCOrchesis, as the collective’s second return to live-format performances after a virtual interlude due to COVID-19, was a great return to form. Donna Summer sang, “I feel love, I feel love, I feel love, I feel love…” and the love was certainly felt in the Roone Arledge Auditorium on Friday Night.
“Pump It” via Grace