For centuries, dance has been used by a multitude of different cultures as a way of communicating. “Where Dance Breathes” was this fall’s dance performance by Weber State University’s Orchesis Dance Theatre at the Allred Theater in the Browning Center.

Adopting the African dance culture, Orchesis performs a piece choreographed by Zim-Zim, an expert in African dance culture at the Val A. Browning Center.  (Nikki Dorber/The Signpost)
Adopting the African dance culture, Orchesis performs a piece choreographed by Zim Zim, an expert in African dance culture, at the Val A. Browning Center. (Nikki Dorber/The Signpost)

According to the description of the performance event, the works presented during this production “challenge the notion of what dance can be — past, present and future,” with a wide selection of pieces representing time and effort as it interconnects with human connection, community-based outreach and technological advances.

“The theme is utilizing the communication and the art and the world of dance as a way to communicate and connect with community,” Joseph “Jo” Blake, director of Orchesis Dance Theatre and co-director of Moving Company, said.

Weber State's Orchesis Dancers perform dances  choreographed by an African dancer they call Zim-Zim. (Nikki Dorber/The Signpost)
Weber State's Orchesis dancers perform dances choreographed by an African dancer they call Zim Zim. (Nikki Dorber/The Signpost)

Blake said they chose this theme by looking at what has been happening in the world with the pandemic and finding ways to connect with others. The group was happy to have an in-person audience as well, instead of streaming their performance as they had to do last year.

There were six student-choreographed pieces and one piece by the Moving Company. All pieces, according to the theme, explored the combination of technology and dance. This year’s Orchesis program also included a piece by a guest choreographer Zim Zim, who is from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

African culture dance is centered around the playing of drums. The performers dance to the beats of the drums as they are played during the Orchesis performance. (Nikki Dorber/The Signpost)
African culture dance is centered around the playing of drums. The performers dance to the beats of the drums as they are played during the Orchesis performance. (Nikki Dorber/The Signpost)

Blake said they start auditions for Orchesis week one of the semester and in the second week they start rehearsals. The choreographers, once they have their dancers, get a four-hour rehearsal period that they can split into two.

Students who are majoring in a dance degree are required to choreograph a piece for the show.

Blue lights fall on Weber State University's contemporary dancers during their performance. (Nikki Dorber/The Signpost)
Blue lights fall on Weber State University's contemporary dancers during their performance. (Nikki Dorber/The Signpost)

Kennadie Thredgold, a student choreographer and performer, explained that dance education majors only choreograph for one semester and dancer performance majors choreograph for two semesters.

Kaya Priest, a student choreographer and performer, said the choreographers get to choose the dancers for their piece, but it mainly comes down to which dancers fit within their schedule.

Creating the show is fast, but it all turns out in the end. The pieces were all modern contemporary style, which allowed choreographers and dancers to be creative in their movements.

The Orchesis Dance Theatre and Moving Company at Weber State University presents a performance of contemporary dance. (Nikki Dorber/The Signpost)
The Orchesis Dance Theatre and Moving Company at Weber State University presents a performance of contemporary dance. (Nikki Dorber/The Signpost)

The Moving Company’s piece explored a new way of dancing. They had a pre-recorded dance and movements on screen along with the dancers onstage in-person. When the dancers onstage were doing small movements, the dancers on screen were dancing bigger, and vice versa. At some points it seemed like the dancers on stage and on the screen were dancing together.

The student pieces each had their own sub-theme that connected to this year’s main theme. Each piece was unique and induced emotions in the audience during the performance. Performers were in masks, so facial expressions couldn’t be seen, but they made their dance movements bigger to compensate.

Weber State University's modern dancers perform for students. (Nikki Dorber/The Signpost)
Weber State University's modern dancers perform for students. (Nikki Dorber/The Signpost)

Blake said his hope is that everyone leaves the show with some message from their performance, though that message will be different for everyone.

In the final piece of the show, guest choreographer Zim Zim shared traditional Congolese culture, dance and music with the audience. The piece started with a slow piece which then transitioned into a lively dance.

The Orchesis Dance Theatre and Moving Company at Weber State University takes a bow at to close out their performance. (Nikki Dorber/The Signpost)
The Orchesis Dance Theatre and Moving Company at Weber State University take a bow at to close out their performance. (Nikki Dorber/The Signpost)

Zim, with the help of the WSU Percussion Ensemble, played the bongo drums and got the audience moving.

“I would love to include more [cultural pieces]. It needs to be shared and be stated,” Blake said.

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