The Apache Pow Wow

Orchesis Choreography Process

Alex Kim, Staff Writer

As a self-choreographed dance group, Orchesis Dance Company (ODC) works year-round to create a three-hour production of various styles of dance. Starting as early as September, the extensive choreography process lasts until the Spring Show in April. Beyond the movements, the dancers must think about all elements of a dance, such as formations, dynamics, group specialties, levels, and lyrics.

First, the 30 members will look for one other person to choreograph with, forming 15 different pairs. Many times, they will partner with someone who has a similar personality or dances with the same style. This usually allows the process to run smoothly. However, while it’s more difficult, they also find that it’s strategic to work with someone who has a different style, as it may result in a more diverse, interesting piece. After pairs are formed, they submit song selections of three different genres, and one is chosen for them to work on.

From Monday to Wednesday of choreography week, the dancers furiously prepare a one minute section of their piece to audition with on Thursday morning. “Choreography is stressful,” commented Vice President junior Scarlet Yang, “but it’s a great creative outlet.” She emphasizes that it’s important for them to listen to the music, feed off both of their ideas, and think outside the box to come up with unique moves and interactions. On audition day, each pair performs their dance in front of the directors and other members of the company, who score them based on musicality, choreography, and originality. From there, three are chosen, typically with dances of different genres, and the rest of the members are split to be cast in their pieces.

In the following two weeks, the chosen partners teach the dances to their cast. Historian junior Jenny Namkoong said, “having limited time to choreograph, set formations, teach, and successfully deliver the meaning of a piece is a difficult and chaotic experience, but choreographing for the company is a great honor.” She added that even outside of school, she and her partner spent several hours each day working to express their ideas for the piece and highlight the specialties of each dancer. On the final day, each dance is performed for the company and critiqued.

Even after the pieces are completed, the dancers must go through one final step known as cleaning. In it, dances are picked apart move by move to make sure that everyone is in the correct position at the right time with the same energy. Jenny explained that although it is tedious, it plays an essential role in how ODC stays in-sync for its performances. It is also a time for each group to discuss the meaning of their piece, and often, the dancers become very connected to it. “We continue with patience, hoping that the dance will be a source of communication to the audience and touch their hearts,” she said, “We cannot wait to see their reaction!”

During the year, this process repeats two more times with different partners and new dances. ODC is in a constant state of creating and improving to ensure its spring production is as enjoyable as possible.

 

Photo by Jessilin Lee

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Orchesis Choreography Process