Orchesis owns the stage

Senior Gailie Glover has been dancing since she was three years old. As a freshman, she knew about Orchesis, OPRF’s dance company, because a friend’s sister was involved.

She was too nervous to try out that year, but as a sophomore, Glover overcame her nerves. “I really wanted to try out and see how it went, so I did,” she said.

Four shows later, Glover is choreographing a dance for the fall Orchesis performance. She has been thinking about choreographing since her sophomore year. “I knew a bunch of the choreographers last year and my sophomore year,” she said. “They said it’s a really fun experience and it’s something different to do than just dance. You get to put your own style to it.”

Orchesis has existed at OPRF for a long time, but it’s unclear when it began. Orchesis’s head director, Betina Dunson-Johnson, doesn’t know. “I know it dates back well beyond the ‘90s because I have found pictures from the ‘90s of dancers in Orchesis,” she said. “I have had students who have said their parents participated in Orchesis. It’s been going on for a long time. I have no clue when it started.”

Dunson-Johnson has been the head director of Orchesis for five years. She choreographs a few pieces in the spring show but leaves the fall show to student choreographers. “It’s really special to see (a student’s) voice in dance and to help them tap into their artistry,” she said. The only piece not choreographed by a student this year is by a guest artist, new OPRF teacher Lucas Pang.

To become a choreographer, Glover and senior Grace Dalton submitted a two-minute excerpt of their dance to Dunson-Johnson. They had to do it before the season started on Sept. 5. Dalton picked the song “Bad Blood” by NAO for their dance. “It’s a slow, hip-hop style. It’s very different from what you would normally see in Orchesis- the lyrical and the contemporary stuff,” Glover said. “It’s pretty unique, which is nice to bring to Orchesis.”

With about 30 dancers in Orchesis fall shows, communication can be tough.  

Dunson-Johnson has the same problem on a larger scale. Her responsibilities include casting each piece, scheduling rehearsals, and supporting dancers and choreographers. She said it’s “just all the little pieces coming together to create a show and making sure that every dancer (and) choreographer feels good about what’s going on and feels comfortable and feels like this piece is of stage quality.”

Glover has noticed a change in the makeup of Orchesis. She said the company is more inclusive than it was when she started. “It used to be seen as, ‘Oh, you (have) to be a dancer in order to be in Orchesis,’” she said. “but now, I see a lot of people auditioning who haven’t even danced, but want to. They get in, which is really awesome.”

When asked what her favorite thing about Orchesis is, Glover didn’t mention dancing. She talked about the people. “Everybody’s so close and we do a lot of activities together, freshmen through seniors. We try to get together and do a lot of bonding things,” she said. “In the fall, we all go to a pumpkin patch and pick apples and go through corn mazes. We get to know each other more on a personal level than just inside the school.”

Orchesis fall shows are at 7:30 Nov. 3-4 and at 3 pm Nov. 5 in the Auditorium.