Cal Poly’s Orchesis Dance Company debuts its 48th annual winter show Jan. 19 with a collection of songs written and performed in the 1980s. “80’s Mix Tape” is a showcase of the work done by student dancers since the start of Fall 2017.
The group of 30 students auditioned for a chance to be members of the company directed by Christy McNeil Chand at the start of the academic year. Since then, the troupe of dancers has been hard at work rehearsing. Select students were chosen to choreograph numbers for the show alongside industry professionals and guest choreographers.
“The song talks about constantly being on a pathway but not knowing where you’re going to end up,” architectural engineering senior Erica Croft said about the piece she choreographed to: “Road to Nowhere” by the Talking Heads. “The whole theme of the piece is — since I’m graduating in the spring — I have a plan to graduate, but not really knowing where I am going to end up after that. That is the true inspiration of the piece.”
This is the first year the dance show has had a theme. Chand chose to go with music created between 1980 to 1989 because of its diversity, popularity and accessibility to audience members and dancers.
“My favorite thing is the diversity in the music,” sociology senior and student choreographer Anna Charney said. “The style and variation ranges a lot in the ’80s.”
Orchesis is a part of the dance minor offered at Cal Poly as a way for students from a variety of majors to bring their passion for dance with them to college. The dance company meets weekly as a class to rehearse and learn from Chand and guest artists and choreographers, including Drew Silvaggio, Lisa Deyo and Gen. McArthur Hambrick.
“In the past, choreographers could pick any song, any genre — anything that they wanted to do,” Chand said. “That is what makes this show very different.”
There is a variety of approaches when choreographing a show of this size. Students auditioned to be choreographers with a song and movement in mind, and over the course of Fall 2017, taught their dances to the other members. For Charney, it took listening to the songs on repeat to get a sense of the music.
The show premieres Friday at 8 p.m. and continues Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., then continues for a second weekend Jan. 25 to 27 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $12 for students and $20 for general admission available for purchase at pacslo.org.