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Small parts in a grand machine

Cal Poly's Orchesis Dance Company's Immersion is a veritable dance buffet

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What is torque?”

Diana Stanton—choreographer, Cal Poly dance teacher, and director of Orchesis Dance Company—wanted to know. Her students, many of them aspiring mathematicians, engineers, scientists, and businesswomen, were quick with the answer.

“I work at a polytechnic,” Stanton explained at a recent rehearsal. “They said, ‘Oh, it’s the rotational energy that goes into forward motion.’ I thought, ‘That’s movement. That’s dance.’”

‘WHAT IS TORQUE?’:  Ochesis’s 42nd annual dance concert, Immersion, boasts everything from tap to breakdance to ballet. Director Diana Stanton’s opening piece, “Torque,” envisions dancers as particles of energy. - PHOTOS BY KAMIL KONRAD PHOTOGRAPHY
  • PHOTOS BY KAMIL KONRAD PHOTOGRAPHY
  • ‘WHAT IS TORQUE?’: Ochesis’s 42nd annual dance concert, Immersion, boasts everything from tap to breakdance to ballet. Director Diana Stanton’s opening piece, “Torque,” envisions dancers as particles of energy.

“Torque” is also the name of the opening piece of Immersion, the 42nd annual Orchesis Dance concert. Choreographed by Stanton, the work seems to imagine dancers as conduits of energy, sometimes even as energy itself. One moment they move with the calculated, angular fashion of small parts in a grand machine, the function of which their passive faces never question. Their arms are turbines, slicing the air. The next moment they are near-fluid organisms, pulled across the stage like jellyfish washing ashore with the tide—helpless, but devoid of expression. Accompanied by haunting, siren-like vocals and the deep, rhythmic boing-ing of a jaw harp, “Torque” conjures a landscape that’s alternatively ancient and industrial.

Following “Torque” is Dr. Moon Ja Minn Suhr’s “Whale Song V,” a piece choreographed to a recording of the eerie, echoing song of humpback whales, accompanied by the soothing narration of biologist Roger Payne, whose observations glide effortlessly from technical to philosophical.

But if you’re trying to make any connection between these pieces and the show’s title, stop. Despite the company’s mysterious, one-word titles—Shift, Continuum, Impact—there’s typically no overriding theme to an Orchesis concert. What can be counted on, however, is the show’s persistent variety, embracing everything from breakdance to tap to classical ballet, and emphasis on original, often experimental ideas from student, faculty, and guest choreographers. And for a university with no dance major, the annual show is an impressive feat indeed.

WHO’S THERE? :  Guest choreographers Holly Johnston, Markeith Wiley, and Mark Esperanza showcase their talents in Immersion. (Pictured are dancers from last year’s Orchesis concert, Shift.) - PHOTOS BY KAMIL KONRAD PHOTOGRAPHY
  • PHOTOS BY KAMIL KONRAD PHOTOGRAPHY
  • WHO’S THERE? : Guest choreographers Holly Johnston, Markeith Wiley, and Mark Esperanza showcase their talents in Immersion. (Pictured are dancers from last year’s Orchesis concert, Shift.)

Danielle Dahlerbruch—a business major with an accounting concentration—choreographed “Poursuivre,” a work she says explores “those moments in life of connection, and people who come in and out of your life.”

Other student choreographers include computer science major Ryan Badilla, who presents “Coexistence,” a piece inspired by schizophrenia, heavily influenced by breakdancing, and set to the music of French composer Yann Tiersen (a strange mix of accordion, toy piano, violin, guitar, synthesizer, xylophone, and typewriter).

Biology major Misty Moyle’s “1 Corinthians 13:4-13,” set to the music of Mumford and Sons and Hans Christian, is about “a lesbian couple, and the relationship between the LGBT community, society, and religion,” she said.

“I’m kind of going for the irony thing,” she added of the piece’s title.

Guest choreographer Holly Johnson, director of the San Francisco- and Los Angeles-based dance company Ledges and Bones, choreographed the highly athletic “The Fall We Know,” which could read as an intriguing study in inter-reliance—perhaps even codependence. Dancers seem to be constantly trying to assess where they are in space by feeling about blindly for the others. They form partners and momentarily move in sync, one using the other’s body like a trapeze. But when one partner weighs too heavily, the other lets him or her slide down, bit by bit, onto the floor. When, at the end, they all slowly collapse onto the stage, they disappear, through lighting trickery, into total blackness. Stanton characterized the mood of the piece as “surrendering to the unknown.”

   

- GET IMMERSED:  Cal Poly’s Orchesis Dance Company presents Immersion at the Alex and Faye Spanos Theatre Jan. 27 to 29 and Feb. 2 to 4. Tickets are $13 ($10 for students). Visit pacslo.org or call 756-ARTS (2787). -
  • GET IMMERSED: Cal Poly’s Orchesis Dance Company presents Immersion at the Alex and Faye Spanos Theatre Jan. 27 to 29 and Feb. 2 to 4. Tickets are $13 ($10 for students). Visit pacslo.org or call 756-ARTS (2787).

The list of artists goes on. Seattle choreographer Markeith Wiley presents an excerpt from his evening-length piece “City Council,” which weds hip-hop, breakdance, and modern dance, followed by Lisa Deyo’s “Plaza de la Ville,” set to music from Carmen. Orchesis co-director Michelle Walter created the traditional-style ballet “Hinterland,” performed by members of the Advanced Ballet Repertory Class. Leann Alduenda presents “Metric,” a tap dance with none of the Shirley Temple adorableness commonly associated with the art form.

And while much of Immersion is modern and experimental, the concert’s finale taps into a virtually universal favorite: The Beatles. “Our Plan,” performed by dancers dressed completely in white, is a sprawling piece by Mike Esperanza featuring “Imagine,” “Let it Be,” and “Yesterday” (music performed live by Monica Mills).

“You’re getting a whole bunch of shows in one,” Stanton claimed.

She’s not exaggerating. “Our Plan” is a surprisingly tender, honest, and perhaps conventional note on which to conclude. But having already embodied energy and surrendered to the unknown, where else are we to go?

Arts Editor Anna Weltner is fully underwater. Contact her at aweltner@newtimesslo.com.

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