What Orchesis Dance Company Director Christy McNeil Chand wants Cal Poly students to know about Cal Poly’s dance program is that there is one.
“It’s something that’s seen as, ‘Oh that fun little after school activity that isn’t academic or anything,’” McNeil Chand said.
For the 30 dancers that make up Orchesis, dance is anything but that.
In preparation for “Synergy,” Orchesis’ 47th annual dance performance, the performers spend up to 25 hours a week practicing a variety of dance genres, including en pointe ballet, modern, jazz, contemporary, hip-hop and funk.
Tickets to “Synergy” can be purchased through the Cal Poly Ticket Office. “Synergy” premieres Friday, Jan. 20 in the Alex and Faye Spanos Theatre and runs on Jan. 21, 26, 27 and 28.
The show will consist of 12 pieces, five of which are choreographed by Cal Poly students.
The techniques the dancers practice compliment their varying majors, from psychology to architecture to engineering. Aerospace engineering sophomore Elizabeth Hawkinson will perform in several pieces in “Synergy” and says dance has helped her better understand complicated concepts within her major.
“Taking my physics classes there will be concepts that I already have a really good real world connection to,” Hawkinson said. “They’ll click a lot better with me because I’m like, ‘Oh that’s like when I turn and use momentum.’ Using my plié is a really good place for force.”
Hawkinson said that one wouldn’t think of a major like aerospace engineering working with dance, but everything in dance resembles concepts in the field, especially momentum.
“Leaps and jumps and everything in dance is learning how to use your momentum,” Hawkinson said. “Learning the mathematics and mechanics behind it in school is really interesting.”
McNeil Chand says she sees dance as an asset to majors like architecture and engineering especially. Embodying space and thinking about angles in terms of one’s own body brings Learn by Doing to life in a whole different way.
“Being able to think about the angle of an arm or an angle that your body is traveling through space I think is very special,” McNeil Chand said. “You haven’t just drawn space, you’ve lived space. You’ve drawn line, you understand texture and depth and art.”
She added that these different perspectives prove attractive to employers too, as so much of dance is about creative process and teamwork.
“You have to be able to work well in a group because so much of a dancer’s communication is almost psychic,” McNeil Chand said. “You have to feel each other, making sure you’re not hitting that person, you’re not running into the wall … your spacial awareness has to be really in tune.”
In order to change some people’s perspective on dance as a serious field, McNeil Chand and other directors aim to increase the rigor of the dance program at Cal Poly. McNeil Chand also said she’d like the public to see the multitude of research areas that exist within dance, such as dance psychology, therapy and science.