Orchesis’ Winter 2015 modern dance performance “Release” started off with a bang. As the dim red lights came on and the audience simmered down, the first note of the well-known “James Bond” theme song struck the stage.
The opening dance incorporated a jazzy modern feel with some Bob Fosse choreography sprinkled in. Having danced for practically my whole life, I thought bringing Fosse into a modern performance was quite impressive. As for technique, however, the dance came up short. The dancers’ legs varied between bent and straight, making it hard to know how they were supposed to look.
The choreography itself was dynamic and interesting: The formations changed constantly; there were multiple styles of dance involved; and coupled with a “James Bond” theme, you could never go wrong.
The next couple of dances made good use of props. In one, entitled “Tide,” dancers strapped carabiners to each other’s waists and used them to show they were swaying back and forth together as a wave or being pushed down like an anchor on a boat.
In the next dance, “After the Bombs Have Stopped,” the stage was set with an array of stacked chairs and tables, implying something chaotic had just occurred. This dance was the first ballet of the night and one of my personal favorites. It took place half en pointe, half on ballet flats.
Cal Poly alumnus Julia Core agreed this was her favorite dance.
“There was a lot of emotion,” she said. “I loved the pointe shoes. I’ve never seen that in Orchesis before.”
The costumes were simple, but each worked well with the different themes and pieces. It was refreshing to see costumes that didn’t need to be uniform and yet complemented each dance nicely.
“Holding To” employed green-blue costumes and blue lighting, which worked well together. It used a Hawaiian song, giving the piece a twist that people don’t see in dance performances. “Holding To” had a great balance of sharp, quick movements and slow, flowing segments. However, I did notice the dancers’ arms were pinned to their sides most of the time. I couldn’t help but wonder, if this is modern dance to a Hawaiian song, why make the arms look like an Irish dance?
Before the curtains closed for intermission, the dancers came out on stage with fiery red dresses, bringing the whole room to life with their stage presence. “Last call” was a comedic piece about drunk people at a bar. The dancers pulled on their game faces for this one and became much more theatrical.
At times, the whole audience roared with laughter. Recreation parks and administration senior and Orchesis intern Taylor Santero said comedy was the point of the piece.
“People can laugh at art, not just sit there and take it in,” Santero said. “There’s different ways to observe.”
And that dance made its humorous point clear as Santero started humping the air mid-dance.
The second half was a mix between modern, contemporary and ballet. While modern is a style of dance people do not necessarily need to understand, observers should also not sit back and think, “What the hell are they are doing?” “Rye” was the only dance in “Release” to cross that line.
In “Rye,” it was hard to tell whether the dancers were monsters or just shaking their bodies uncontrollably. Though they performed well, the choreography was too much for my liking.
However, the end of the performance brought tears to my eyes. The dance “As It Was Made To Be” was to three different Mumford and Sons songs. These songs brought in a great pop-culture bond with the audience and made you want to jump up and dance onstage with the rest of them.
The dancers had incredible energy and radiated love and unity. The style was more of a contemporary-modern dance where they pulled off technically hard moves while still letting loose and jumping around. The second, slower song used props nicely, with crouching dancers slowly carrying candles across the stage under dim lighting.
Overall, “Release” was the best Orchesis performance I’ve seen. The dancers were fabulous and the energy was wonderful. The more contemporary feel with story-based backgrounds brought a new feel to Orchesis. I would recommend this performance to anybody who likes dance, creativity or a little pop culture.