The word “Orchesis” means “to dance” in Greek, and that’s just what 25 Weber State University dance students did during the WSU Moving Company’s Orchesis dance-theater performance, Origin.
Orchesis is a dance performance that happens every spring and fall semester to help showcase WSU dance majors. The main performance style is modern dance, but each of the pieces involves a different element to help get the choreographer’s interpretation across.
“Every piece has some other element that has been integrated with dance to create a theatrical hold,” said Erik Stern, the show’s director, who has been teaching dance at WSU for about 18 years. “Whether it’s video or live musicians or an unusual lighting design, there’s incredible variety. No two pieces are similar.”
Stern also choreographed the Moving Company piece COIL, which featured 15 dancers and an oversized nylon rope that was worked into all the choreography. According to Stern, the piece was based on an idea written by English poet John Donne that stated, “No man is an island, entire of itself.” The performance also featured a collaboration o
f live music from the WSU Chamber Choir.
“The whole dance is based on community,” said dance major Alicia Trump, who performed as a dancer in COIL. “”Overall, it was like you couldn’t have one section be the dance. Everything as a whole created what (the dance) is. I feel like every bit of that dance is important. Even though it’s just minor, it’s like we all work together in this community and make this piece come together.”
Trump was also the student choreographer for the piece “Symmetric Transformation,” in which she tried to create the feeling of mirrors and symmetry in her dance. The dance also featured a live band.
The show itself was named after one piece in the line-up called “Origin,” which was performed by WSU alumnae Josie Patterson-Halford and was inspired by the experience of her recent pregnancy.
“While I was pregnant, I had a hard time knowing how I was going to keep dance in my life,” Halford said. “So I filmed myself eight months pregnant, and I used the footage and choreographed a duet with it. So I’m on stage dancing with myself from the past.”
The dance involved three song changes along with a projection of Halford’s pregnancy footage on a fabric screen, showing the abstract evolution of her three-month experience. At one point, Halford continued her dance behind the curtain, resulting in a performance by her, her eight-month pregnant self and her silhouette.
Other pieces included a techno-themed duet and a piece that made use of “Bloom,” the iPad app that synthesizes music and elaborate visual patterns.
The show ran from Nov. 17-19, giving audiences three opportunities to enjoy the abstract modern dance.
“I can’t really describe it,” said Alexa Gallegos, a WSU student there to support her friend, Amanda Burkes, a dancer in Trump’s “Symmetric Transformation” piece. “Unless you know a lot about modern dance, as the average audience member, you just have to see it for yourself to decide whether you like it or not.”
Some of the pieces featured at Orchesis will still continue to be performed and adapted. Stern’s COIL is said to be in a “rough draft state,” with the final version being performed at the dance department’s spring concert. It will also be shared with a group of sixth-through-ninth graders at the Browning Center’s Austad Auditorium on March 29 and 30 as part of the Moving Company’s outreach program. Halford’s “Origin” will also perform at Salt Lake City’s Masonic Temple on Nov. 21 at 7:30 p.m.
“Modern dance is about taking it as your own and making it what you want it to be,” Trump said. “Even if you don’t learn something like the story or the meaning, if it’s just pure enjoyment, that’s fine.”