Arcadia High School’s Orchesis Dance Company (ODC) is continuing its tradition of incorporating both student-choreographed and guest-choreographed pieces into their performances. Even after enduring a virtual school year, ODC has found a way to pursue and expand these programs, providing more opportunities for its dancers.
“We always like to bring in professional choreographers that work and teach currently in the industry, either in the commercial dance world or in the college dance realm, where they’ve gone through a four-year university and dance program,” Orchesis Lead Director Breanne Genite explained.
Learning from professionals gives Orchesis students invaluable experience, preparing them for college dance programs and the dance industry. There will be a total of nine choreographers teaching for Orchesis this year.
Typically, Orchesis has guest choreographers come in to audition a piece of choreography and set it for Orchesis performances; however, Orchesis has added on to this program in hopes of giving Orchesis members exposure to as many teachers and dance styles as possible.
“This year, we actually tried something a little bit different,” said Genite. “The choreographers are not only coming in to set a piece, but they are working with the entire company, and they all get to learn from these teachers. They do a masterclass portion where they are teaching a piece of choreography in their specialized area of dance and they go through a very quick thirty-minute audition process, which is realistic to the dance industry,” Genite described.
“This is my first time working with Orchesis and everyone has been such a pleasure,” said John Barclay, University of California Irvine alumni, dancer in Madison Beer’s music video for “Melodies”, company member of the all-male dance company POV, and one of Orchesis Dance Company’s guest choreographers.
Barclay set a modern dance style piece on Orchesis dancers, and he’s excited to see it in costume and on the stage.
“Everyone works hard, and everyone is determined to grow specifically their movement quality and how to dance my choreography while still being themselves,” Barclay shared.
Amanda Garcia, another guest choreographer and current professional dancer, is creating a contemporary style piece for Orchesis Dance Company. Garcia noted, “I’ve been choreographing for Orchesis for about three years, and every year, it is just amazing to see how much they have grown and improved in every aspect of their dance, such as their technique, respectfulness, and determination to grow. They work so hard, and they blow me away every time.”
Aside from having the opportunity to learn from experienced dance professionals in the Los Angeles area, Orchesis members are also able to create and choreograph their own pieces.
“Orchesis members are given the opportunity to work with each other in partners to create and structure a piece for the show,” advised Zoe Lui, an Arcadia High School senior and ODC Dance Captain. “This process is quite tedious because there are a variety of choreographic elements we need to consider when piecing together a dance: music, timing, use of space and levels, and the overall theme of the piece.”
The student choreography process is very challenging but exciting for Orchesis dancers. Once the music piece has been selected, dancers are tasked with choreographing a minute of their piece to showcase to the class in a span of three to four days. Students then audition their choreography to the rest of the company, taking turns performing their pieces and being evaluated by peers.
Choreographers have about a week to teach their finished pieces to their cast before showing the company the finished product. In these final showings, choreographers and dancers receive feedback and apply it during cleaning rehearsals.
“My experience as a choreographer has definitely been a positive one,” noted Stella Luong, an Arcadia High School sophomore and one of Orchesis Dance Company’s student choreographers. “I learned how to be patient and adapt. Everyone has their own style and their own pace at which they learn and being patient is definitely important, so everyone is on the same page and we reach the end goal of a cohesive and fun piece.”
The student-choreographed dances will be featured in Orchesis Dance Company’s Charity Dance Show on Dec. 3 and 4, at 7 p.m., as well as at the Orchesis Spring Production on April 22, 23, 28, 29, and 30. The guest-choreographed pieces will also be shown in the Orchesis Spring Production.
Both performances will be held in the Arcadia Performing Arts Center. For more information about what Orchesis Dance Company offers its students and how to reserve tickets for their future performances, visit ahsorchesis.com. To learn more about other programs offered at Arcadia High School, go to ahs.ausd.net.