Dance is What the Heart Makes
February 19, 2015
Graceful turns, intricate footwork, and complex choreography are what a group of students at Libertyville High School work on for months. Often times overlooked, many LHS students do more than just study: they dance. They dedicate their time into perfecting what is imperfect, exercising their control of every limb and every muscle, and fine-tuning every dance move they make.
Orchesis is a dance company at LHS that features a variety of dance styles, including tap, ballet, lyrical, modern, and more. Students who take part in this audition-based company get an opportunity to work with guest, student, and faculty choreographers throughout the winter season and end with a fully staged production in March.
“Orchesis is a group where anyone who loves to dance can come and participate. It’s a lot of student choreography, so it’s very student-led,” assistant director Mrs. Lauren Pothast stated.
The Orchesis season begins with auditions in November. Clinics hosted by directors of the show, Mrs. Eryn Brown and Mrs. Pothast, are where LHS students learn the dances they have to perform for their audition. During their auditions, students are asked to perform an across-the-floor sequence, which is a series of movements through a given space, and a more modern piece that is simple for all dancers from different backgrounds and styles to follow. There is also part of the audition where students have to improv and make up a dance on the spot for an allotted amount of time.
Along with normal auditions to be part of the Orchesis show, students can also audition to be a choreographer.
“If students want to choreograph, they can do a choreography proposal where they tell us what their dance is about, the style of their piece, and then they perform a small segment of it so we can get a taste of it,” Mrs. Pothast said.
After about a week of auditions, LHS students and choreographers are selected to be a part of the show, and, Mrs. Brown and Mrs. Pothast, began to help students schedule rehearsals. Dancers also get to pick what dances they prefer to be in.
“On Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays, we have rehearsals and they’re normally in one-hour time slots. So in every one-hour slot, there [are] probably 3-4 pieces that are being rehearsed. So students can be in two dances and be here for two hours and another student may be in nine dances and be here for nine hours,” Mrs. Pothast stated.
As time progresses, Orchesis dancers have scheduled rehearsals and get straight to work with their choreographers. Student choreographers also begin to polish up dances that they have prepared for the show and start to teach them to their dancers.
Student choreographers work long hours to formulate and perfect a dance that conveys a certain mood, or even a personal story.
“How I choreograph really depends on what’s going on in my life. If it’s a really busy time in my life and I’m feeling overwhelmed, I usually express my feelings through dance. Sometimes I tell stories through my choreography that shows how I may be feeling. This year my piece is about experiences I have had throughout high school, but it also ties together that all things are not as what they seem,” senior and Orchesis student-choreographer Gina Stoll stated.
Stoll tells her dancers what the purpose of her dance is, but does not give too many details on how she would like their emotions to be conveyed.
“For the first week, I explain to my dancers what my dance is about and how I’m trying to portray it, but I stop there and let them bring out their own artistic side because it’s cool to see how other people would interpret my feelings,” Stoll explained.
Teaching a group of students, all from different dance backgrounds, is not always easy. The student population involved in Orchesis is incredibly diverse. All of the dancers come from a variety of dance studios and companies and were all taught different ways. Some LHS students involved in Orchesis may have limited dance experience.
“Everyone is so diverse. I’m from an outside dance company, and there, we are all taught the same way and in Orchesis, everyone is from different dance studios, so you have to learn to work with different people and their strengths and weaknesses, but it’s also very cool because you get to learn everyone’s strengths and weaknesses,” Stoll said.
As months pass and showtime gets closer, dancers, choreographers, and faculty all begin to prepare for the final performance.
This month is when Orchesis dancers step up and give it their all. Rehearsals start to become longer and more intense, and choreography and placements are perfected.
Dancers also start to focus on costumes. Costumes convey a specific mood in dance pieces. Many choreographers enjoy simple costumes that do not distract from the choreography, but it always depends on the type of dance and the choreographer.
“A lot of costumes are more simple dresses that are easier to move in. In a lot of modern lyrical dances, you dance barefoot. So there’s specific costumes for specific pieces,” sophomore and Orchesis dancer Molly Almer stated.
Orchesis dancers then begin to work on lighting for the show, music, and stage cues. The tech crew at Libertyville High School helps a lot with this and dancers in the show also have a huge say with what they prefer when it comes to lighting and cues. Because students choreograph their own dances, they know what works best with their pieces.
About 1-2 weeks before the show, dancers start to have nightly dress rehearsals. During these rehearsals, they have their hair and makeup done and their costumes on. Dancers also have all lighting and music present and run through the full show numerous times.
“During dress rehearsals, it’s really just running every dance consecutively and the lighting transitions and announcements of the pieces and getting all of the sound cues right. We make sure each dance is perfect and polished so the show order is mainly the most important thing,” Almer proclaimed.
And as dress rehearsals come to an end, showtime begins. This year, the show is on the evenings of Thursday, March 5 and Friday, March 6 at 5 pm.
Showtime is an exhilarating thing for all dancers involved. Dancers are finally able to put all of their hard work out there and showcase what they have been working on for months.
“The idea of stress before the show has to be my favorite part. It gets you pumped for the show and you’re very driven. You feel the drive to get stuff done and accomplish something you’ve been working hard on,” Stoll declared.
After showtime, Orchesis comes to an end. Dancers create unbreakable bonds and learn a lot from the five months that they spend together. Both student choreographers and dancers acquire leadership skills throughout the Orchesis process. Students work with a diverse group and learn to adapt and help others through the months.
“Orchesis really prepares me to work with others. I am now able to work with different people without feeling stressed that someone can’t do a specific thing because everyone’s different. It also shows that I’m not able to do everything, so I can understand my own weaknesses, with other people’s strengths and weaknesses,” Stoll said.