Ryan Chartrand

If a dance is like a poem where each movement is a word, then the Orchesis dance company had a lot to say when they opened their 38th annual show, “Momentum,” Friday night.

Greeted by a full house, the company presented its passion and love of dance in full-hearted performances that ran the gamut from modern and emotional to hip-hop with a little funk mixed in.

The audience, largely comprised of the performers’ family and friends, was antsy with anticipation before the show began. They were quite delighted, however, when the lights dimmed to reveal three lit frames from which shadows of dancing figures began to appear, performing the opening piece, an excerpt from Davis Robertson’s “Strange Prisoners.”

From that point forward, the show took on a relatively mellow feeling, with about half of the 18 pieces being of the modern or interpretive variety. The music consisted mainly of soft, melodic persuasion and was even haunting at times.

An excerpt performed from “Lucifer’s Prance” was almost frightening as the performers, wearing all red, moved eerily about the stage, delivering a heavy mood as one performer carried another who looked as if she had been crucified.

Aside from the slower, more modern pieces, the show featured many upbeat dances including “State of Emergency,” performed to a combination of Timbaland’s “The Way I Are” and “Firestarter” by Prodigy, which was enough to cause a person or two to tap their toes to the beat.

Similarly, “Private Idaho” began with a low-key, yoga-inspired opening that quickly turned into a chaotic whirlwind of confusion. This attempt to explore the remaining calm found in the midst of a crazy world livened up the show with its quick pace and high energy.

The guest performances highlighted the night, breaking up the often slower-paced, more interpretive pieces of Orchesis. Dancers from the Pilipino Cultural Exchange performed two traditional dances to the accompaniment of traditional Pilipino music, while dancers from SLO Motion, a competitive swing dancing group, performed a conventional swing dance with a jive-y attitude.

In one of the more blatant societal commentaries, the modern repertory dancers begged the question (projected onto a video screen) “Are we saying more with less, or are we just missing the point?” in a high-paced world that’s obsessed with texting and creating digital identities.

With so many modern pieces offering the viewer a lot to contemplate, “The Black Swan,” an excerpt from the classic ballet “Swan Lake,” was one of the top performances of the evening, featuring history junior Alyssa Carnahan executing the traditional piece beautifully.

The costumes were simple for most pieces but served to compliment the messages and moods of the dances. Many consisted of black shorts with colorful tops or simple dresses and were just enough to match the ambiance but not enough to distract the audience from the bigger picture.

Perhaps the most appealing part of the evening, “Momentum” left room for viewers to infer their own meanings to the images they experienced. Everyone in attendance could easily come away with a different perspective and meaning for each dance from the evening.

Whether passionate about dance or just looking for good entertainment, “Momentum” will suit viewers’ needs and take them outside of themselves, if only for an hour or two, to look at the world in a different way through the medium of dance.

Tickets are available for 8 p.m. performances Thursday through Saturday in the Spanos Theatre.

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