Arts & Culture

Orchesis exhibits 'Vitality'

"Vitality" includes elements of many different dance styles.
"Vitality" includes elements of many different dance styles.

'Vitality” is the title of this season’s concert by Cal Poly’s Orchesis Dance Company, which features choreography by Cal Poly faculty, dance students, local choreographers and four nationally known guest artists.

The 28 Orchesis dancers are joined by 20 guest dancers from repertory classes in the presentation of 13 pieces. The eclectic program will include elements of ballet, jazz, contemporary dance, and hip-hop, and will highlight some current trends in dance, explained Diana Stanton, faculty choreographer. Fusion of dance forms is one such trend, and is reflected in the pieces, she said.

“For example, contemporary dance and urban street forms are fusing into almost a new genre.”

Guest choreographer Daniel Cruz comes from Seattle where he has his own dance company. “He uses the energy of hip-hop but shapes it artistically,” Stanton said.

Contemporary dance is coming back toward modern dance, and jazz and concert dance are being influenced by commercial elements such as “So You Think You Can Dance,” she explained.

The lines between dance styles are even being blurred a bit in a ballet piece by faculty choreographer Michelle Walter. She has set the piece, “Dead of Night,” to “Danse Macabre” by Camille Saint-Saens.

“It’s classical ballet, but somewhat tongue-in-cheek, with humor — not totally traditional.”

Many of the pieces were designed in collaboration with the dancers. Douglas R. Nielsen, an award-winning professor of dance at the University of Arizona who also has his own dance company, used the painting “Trente” by Wassily Kandinsky as the genesis for his piece, “Adagio 2014.” The painting is a composition of squares, each depicting an abstract shape or design.

Nielsen gave each of his Orchesis dancers one of the squares and asked them to create movement representing it. He also asked questions about dance, such as “How does dance begin? How does it end? What is anticipation? What defines interruption?” The dancers’ movements and motifs were incorporated into the piece, which has been staged by dancers in different places and is never the same.

Stanton used a different collaborative method for her piece, “We Belong.” She gave all the dancers a task, asking them to come up with ways to achieve certain sequences and movements, and then she fit their feedback into the final piece. It features 14 dancers in alternating casts.

Damon Rago, chair of dance at Loyola Marymount University, also created “I’ll Tell Ya Later” with the dancers. Stanton describes it as “a lyrical and thought-provoking dance that explores the subtleties of a dream sequence versus reality.”

Local choreographer Ryan Lawrence set his piece for five dancers to bluegrass music and comedy sketches.

“It’s about vulnerability and transforming life experiences into public art,” Stanton said.

The finale of the concert is “Red,” by Nancy Cranbourne from Boulder, Colo., whom Stanton said is known for her distinctive style of classy jazz. The piece is jazzy, bluesy, and uplifting.

The 13 pieces in the concert include some by student choreographers. Stanton said she is impressed by “the increasing sophistication of the student work” and the level of professionalism in the concert overall. Orchesis presents an annual winter concert, prepared during fall and spring quarters, with the dancers choosing a title for the coming year’s performance based on some component of dance such as this year’s “Vitality.” Stanton noted that “every year is different, with original pieces and new guests.”



8 p.m. Friday; 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday; 8 p.m. Feb. 6 to 8.

Spanos Theatre, Cal Poly

$12 to $20

756-4849 or