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Learn by moving: Cal Poly's Orchesis presents 46th annual dance show 

View a slideshow of the rehearsal for Transcend.

To transcend is to be so absorbed that you go beyond the present moment or movement, going above the previously set limits.

It’s a fitting theme for Cal Poly’s student dance company Orchesis’ 46th annual concert, Transcend, which features a smattering of pieces that go outside the proverbial dance box.

click to enlarge AND THE BEAT GOES ON:  A spectrum of cultures from India to Africa are represented in the bright, lively costumes and movements of the dance Life, choreographed by guest artist Wade Madsen. - PHOTO BY DYLAN HONEA-BAUMANN
  • PHOTO BY DYLAN HONEA-BAUMANN
  • AND THE BEAT GOES ON: A spectrum of cultures from India to Africa are represented in the bright, lively costumes and movements of the dance Life, choreographed by guest artist Wade Madsen.

The show was named by some of last year’s outgoing dancers, as per Orchesis tradition.

“Dancers are constantly transcending from one movement to the next,” Christy McNeil Chand, dance professor and Orchesis director, said. “All of these dancers have exceeded what they were at the start of this.”

In the spirit of Cal Poly’s motto, “learn by doing,” three of the 10 dance pieces in Transcend were choreographed by student artists selected by the three directors through a rigorous process. One of these pieces, Descend, by student dancers Erica Croft and Sarah Dirk, features dancing shadows that are soon accompanied by their human counterparts. 

Another piece, Booked, seems like it could have been the work of a student choreographer. It begins with dancers pretending to be on a tour of Cal Poly, checking out the Orchesis dance company. The tour guide promises to take them to the dance troupe’s secret study spot, where they’ll learn the group’s favorite dance move, the worm! Then dancers perpetually lose their balance while attempting to keep books atop their heads all while leaping and spinning around stage. Because who wants to study when you can dance? (Spolier alert: No one does the worm in this number.) The choreographer of Booked, David Dorfman, isn’t a student, but one of Orchesis’ featured guest artists, who runs David Dorfman Dance in New York.

click to enlarge ROUND PEG, SQUARE WHOLE :  Militaristic movements are blended with flowing sequences in the rebellious feeling dance Jigsaw, choreographed by Cal Poly dance professor Diana Stanton. - PHOTO BY DYLAN HONEA-BAUMANN
  • PHOTO BY DYLAN HONEA-BAUMANN
  • ROUND PEG, SQUARE WHOLE : Militaristic movements are blended with flowing sequences in the rebellious feeling dance Jigsaw, choreographed by Cal Poly dance professor Diana Stanton.

“He’s very good at relating to others,” McNeil Chand said of Dorfman.

McNeil Chand’s own piece, You Can Let Your Guard Down, is a jazzy dance that has a smooth, sensual feel to it, with each movement seamlessly bleeding into the next.

“I wanted to celebrate the smoothness that dance can be and challenge the dancers with their transitions,” she said. “We all struggle with keeping a guard up and finally letting that go.”

At only $12 a ticket, Orchesis’ Transcend is a bang for your buck that includes a variety of dance styles from modern to jazz and cotemporary and even West African dance.

“The show aims to be artistic, but also entertaining and accessible,” McNeil Chand said. “There’s really something for everybody.”

- TRANSCEND THE MOMENT:  Orchesis, Cal Poly’s student dance company, is currently showing its 46th annual concert, Transcend, at the Alex & Faye Spanos Theatre through Jan. 30. Tickets can be purchased online at pacslo.org and are $12. -
  • TRANSCEND THE MOMENT: Orchesis, Cal Poly’s student dance company, is currently showing its 46th annual concert, Transcend, at the Alex & Faye Spanos Theatre through Jan. 30. Tickets can be purchased online at pacslo.org and are $12.

Ryah Cooley is dancing through life at rcooley@newtimesslo.com.

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