Orchesis dancers move to their own beat

Addie+Heskett+leaping+across+the+stage

Addi Rexroat

Addie Heskett leaping across the stage

The audience took their seats, the curtain went up and the music started, filling the room with sound. Then the dancers started to move, flowing across the stage, lifting people up and running in circles.

The annual fall Orchesis Showcase took place Oct. 21 through 23 in Oak Park and River Forest High School’s main auditorium.

Orchesis is a primarily student-led club meant for dancers offered at Oak Park and River Forest High School. Many dancers who dance outside of school join Orchesis to do different styles of dance and have more creative freedom.

The Orchesis fall showcase was brought to the stage by student dancers and teachers like Betina Johnson, or Ms. D.J., as everyone calls her.

The performance was made up of two group dances and multiple solos, choreographed by students.

Johnson, the club sponsor, has been a dancer her whole life and danced at The Ohio State University before coming to work at OPRF. Johnson started the gym class Company Dance to allow students who wanted to dance to be able to do it at school. Company Dance allows dancers at the school to connect and learn about choreographing and different styles of dance.

Orchesis holds auditions right after Labor Day and from there the dancers get to decide if they want to be in the fall or spring season or even both.

Johnson looks for many things when admitting people into the club. “I look for dancers who are at an intermediate to advanced level… and then from there, it’s not just enough to be a good dancer, but you must be a good person. So I look for a good character. Who are you when no one’s watching?”

The pieces put into the show are picked by Johnson. Many of the solos and duets are choreographed by members in the Company Dance class. She then sees who’s interested in choreographing and then it all falls into place for the group dances.

“As far as choreographing, usually it’s the students who are interested in it, but occasionally there are students who I see do something in Company Dance, and I’ll encourage them,” Johnson said.

The students who choreographed their solos had total say in everything, from music to the lighting to their outfits.

Many members of Company Dance were dancers before they got to high school. Orchesis is another opportunity to dance with friends and meet other people who don’t dance at the same studio.

According to the Orchesis page on OPRF’s website, the group “represents a diverse group of prestigious dancers with multicultural backgrounds who obtain a common goal to grow and prosper by taking an enthusiastic approach to learning, bonding and gathering memorable experiences.”

Olivia Sardenberg, a junior at OPRF, has been dancing her entire life and has been a member of Orchesis for her high school career. When asked why Orchesis is so enjoyable, Sardenberg said, “It’s just a different environment, so it creates a different energy, and because it is so student based, it creates a fun place where there’s…. less of an authority based process.”

Since many of the pieces are choreographed by students, it creates a different environment compared to a traditional company.

“It’s a little bit more chill I’d say, and it creates this fun environment where you’re kind of learning off of each other and it makes you a little bit more comfortable,” said Sardenberg.

Since Orchesis is contemporary-based, a lot of dancers enjoy the freedom of looser, freer movements. It’s “always fun to try out new movements,” Sardenberg said.

On the days of the shows the dancers got ready as their family members and friends filed into the auditorium. Everyone got seated as the dancers took their places. The lights went up and the curtain opened as the first dance started.

As one piece ended the next one started. Dance after dance. Rounds of billowing applause for every one. Most of the solos choreographed are of contemporary movement, primarily by juniors with a few seniors.

The group dances, which are made up of most of the cast, are lively. Dancers are lifted into the air by one another. The dances are upbeat, with dancers rolling on the ground as someone walks, or leaping in a circle.

After the show, the audience waited to congratulate the performers. “I can see their personalities come out in their dances,” said Tryn Masoncup, a fellow dancer who isn’t a member of Orchesis. “The way the songs and lighting correlate to the pieces makes everything tie together and draw you in as an audience member.”

Dancers come together to rehearse throughout the week, and before a showcase they have a tech week. There are two Orchesis showcases throughout the year with three performances each.

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