Orchesis’ “Shift”: an artistic experience

By Abby Panier

As the lights dim and darkness envelops the Performing Arts Center, the excitement of the dancers is tangible. Music begins to float through space as the opening number of the annual Orchesis Dance Company Showcase starts. The live stream has commenced.

“Valerie” by Amy Winehouse swells in the space. Six dancers clad in red company tank tops, black masks, leggings, and jazz shoes appear from the wings. Their movements are soft but deliberately placed. All of their hard work and dedication has led to this moment.

The 17 dancers who are a part of the Orchesis Dance Company have worked tirelessly to perfect their formations and to achieve seamless transitions since Jan. 10, their first in-person rehearsal. Although they have been practicing the showcase routines since September, dancing on Zoom put a hindrance on their progress.

Board members Mira Terranova, Jayden Smith, and Sienna Kelly found it especially difficult to teach the pieces without being next to their fellow dancers. 

“You have to mirror it on Zoom. It was a learning curve for us choreographers to learn how to do everything on the left side instead of the right,” Kelly said.

According to Smith, the hardest part was learning the routines through videos if a dancer could not make a live rehearsal. It was tough trying to copy moves and techniques in the right way.

When Jan. 10 rolled around, the next step was projecting the routines and formations onto the space in the PAC. With seven different routines, a video featuring each dancer, and a speech made by director Samantha Strupek, finding the correct flow for the showcase was essential.

“It was quite difficult to put it together and to all be cohesive, but we worked it out,” Terranova said.

The showcase had an overall contemporary-modern feel, with jazz, lyrical, and even hip-hop influences. Artists featured in the showcase included Bea Miller, X Ambassadors, and Sam Smith. 

One of the most notable dances was a lyrical routine performed barefoot to the song “Ashes.” Celene Dion’s soaring vocals and the beautiful choreography paired together made a goosebump-raising experience.

The closing number was a more grounded jazz routine performed with sass, its floorwork setting the routine apart from the rest. Danced to “Fear” by X Ambassadors, the piece was a memorable and perfect ending. 

Throughout the showcase, all the dancers displayed their considerable flexibility and control as no two numbers felt the same. They skillfully manipulated the space given to them to create a beautiful collection of their recent works.

Although all of the dancers were very excited to be able to perform the showcase, they had mixed feelings about the absence of the audience. Some prefer the pressure of watching eyes; others would rather have no one physically there at all. 

Either way, the dancers took the show seriously despite no live audience. They took pride in interpreting the theme of the show, “Shift,” through the different pieces. Taking the shift in everyone’s lives as inspiration, Strupek highlighted the strength and perseverance of her dancers in the showcase.

“It’s been a shift [from Zoom] going in-person,” Kelly said. “When we’re there we can just breathe with each other.”