Among the pictures of daring physical feats, fliers from past performances, ballet technique books, and other miscellaneous objects that lay strewn about Maria Junco’s office, hangs inconspicuously an ordinary, 8 1/2 inch by 11 inch piece of paper with Samuel Beckett’s immortal words: “Dance first. Think later. It’s the natural order.”
Despite the mantra hanging in the Orchesis and dance program director’s office, the opposite has proven to be the case for the dance company. After months of careful planning and countless hours of practice, Orchesis will be “Dancing on the Edge” this weekend and next in their 37th annual performance.
The dancers will take the stage tonight and Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 2 p.m., and Feb. 8 to 10 at 8 p.m. in the Alex and Faye Spanos Theatre. “This year’s concept is very interesting. We are addressing the idea of edges in dance, so most of the pieces take that into consideration,” Junco said. “Some of the dances are challenging our physical expectations of dance; others are exploring emotional or psychological edges.”
This theme will manifest itself in several ways.
As far as physical boundaries, some of the dances, such as recently graduated Rebekah Leach’s “Over the Edge,” amaze and defy the expected, Junco said.
In an Orchesis first, Leach will perform an aerial routine, dancing to the “soft, elegant vocals of Basque” while suspended about 10 feet off the ground from a red piece of fabric.
It is a piece that truly explores how one can dance without ever putting one’s feet on the ground, Junco said.
Other dances, like one choreographed by biochemistry sophomore Crystal Valdez, attempt to “spice up” traditional conceptions of dance. Her Afro-Cuban-inspired contemporary piece, “Festejen!,” with its tribal feel and Portuguese, drum-infused melodies (the music: “Magalenda” by Sergio Mendes) certainly push the boundaries style-wise, she said.
On the opposite end of the spectrum lie those dances which address the idea that dance can have an impact emotionally or psychologically on its viewers.
One such dance is entitled “Mischief,” and choreographed by architecture junior and Orchesis pressident Kate Barton.
“There’s a facade of playfulness and happiness (the dancers are portraying), but there’s an edge of mischievousness they inflict on each other, too. It’s about the edge between your real self and who you put on in a social setting,” Barton said.
“It’s more about relationships, the boundaries between you and me. It’s about how dance can bridge the gap between people,” Barton said.
Another dance by a guest choreographer looks at being on the edge of certain societal groups, Junco said.
Also joining the company will be three on-campus groups: two tribal and religious-inspired dances by the Philipino Cultural Exchange; “Los Machetes” (which will quite literally make use of machetes) by Imagenes y Esp¡ritu; and a ballroom piece by the Cal Poly DanceSports Team.
This year’s performance features 18 dances choreographed by internationally renowned guests and six students. The task has pushed the artistic and dancing boundaries of these students as well.
“It brings you to a new level of involvement in your dancing,” Barton said. “Just being a dancer is like being an instrument instead of the composer – you just can’t really put your personality into it.”
After auditioning in September, the girls in the company have been practicing approximately 20 hours per week (each girl is required to enroll in the Orchesis class, which practices 8 hours a week, as well as practice an additional 2 hours per dance each week).
But now that the time has come, they are hoping to, as Junco put it, “move you – either kinetically or emotionally, in some way or another,” thus pushing the audience to some sort of “edge” too.