Weber State's Orchesis Dance Theatre leap to inspire

Wednesday , November 12, 2014 - 3:53 PM

Sonja Carlson

Orchesis — the Greek word for the art of dancing — holds special meaning to Weber State University since its dance company has taken the word quite literally for the past 30 years.

The Orchesis Dance Theatre at WSU puts on a concert each semester to allow students to showcase their skills and the knowledge gained through the department with rigorous, emotional performances.

“Dance is important to me personally,” said Amanda Sowerby, a WSU dance associate professor and director of Orchesis Dance Theatre’s fall concerts. “I think in a larger scale since the beginning of humanity we've always moved to express ourselves. Dance is born out of that use of the body to communicate.”

This semester’s concert will be held Nov. 20 through 22, with a special fundraising performance on Nov. 20.

The mission of the dance department and Orchesis Dance Theatre is to train dancers and choreographers, Sowerby said. Students who participate in concerts gain communication and collaboration skills, she said, and gain the discipline and vision to see what can be accomplished through the art of dance.

Used throughout human existence to express emotions such as compassion and sorrow, dance is one of the most comfortable forms of communication for many, Sowerby said.

“To express the human experience through movement and we need that because its a way that many of us are most comfortable expressing ourselves — it’s most understood and most clear,” Sowerby said.

Orchesis’ fall performance will feature pieces to take audiences through range of topics the choreographers and dancers have been researching, Sowerby said. She also said they will be expressing personal experiences they have had with religion and relationships — such as the family and friend dynamic.

Maddi Jones, who is choreographing the segment “Elect” for her senior thesis, was inspired by her testimony of and love for the Lord as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“I’m Mormon so I drew all my inspiration from … the atonement and how the Savior and the gospel can bring true happiness and true light into your life,” Jones said.

Jones said being able to see her testimony displayed on stage is an unreal experience.

“It’s like nothing you’ve ever felt before because it’s expressing something in a different way than you could ever express anything,” Jones said. “And being able to see that is emotional. It’s really emotional and it’s powerful and I feel like it’ll be a really great way to share my testimony and reach out to others who don’t have the opportunity to hear my testimony but they can see it on stage.”

The dancers in Jones’ piece will be all dressed in white, and the music is peaceful and uplifting, so as to inspire light and joy, she said.

Sowerby said the WSU faculty is very proud of the dance students.

“(I’m) impressed with their time and emotional investment … (and) how much they want their art to communicate with and reach out to the audience,” Sowerby said.

Any way Jones can fulfill her natural need to create, such as dancing and choreographing in Orchesis Dance Theatre, has allowed her to grow as a person, she said.

“It touches you physically, it touches you intellectually, it takes a lot of thinking and growing in that direction and so it really has meant so much to me in those areas,” Jones said. “I know people don’t think of dance as an intellectual degree but it really has helped me in that area and I just love to dance. I love to express how I feel, things that I believe, things that I know, things that I’m passionate about and be able to express that without words.”

Working with Sowerby, who said she feels like the students involved in the fall concert are like her own kids, has helped Jones accomplish that vital growth.

“She’s so supportive and so knowledgeable about choreography and dance itself that getting her advice and having her come watch my rehearsals and help me with things that aren’t making sense, things that need help, things that need work -- she’s always there whenever we need her ... she’s just very supportive and she just wants us to be able to create what our vision is,” Jones said.

The athleticism of the dancers is exciting to Sowerby. “It’s just amazing to watch what these verging on athletic bodies can do and how they hurl themselves into space with such control and beauty,” she said.

She hopes the audience is curious when viewing the performance.

“What I personally ... hope is that audience members come with an open mind and curiosity and understanding of the work and the impulse that led the artist to move in the direction they move in,” Sowerby said.

Audience members should sit back and reflecting or notice the moments that are beautiful or surprising to them, Sowerby said, instead of approaching the dances as a puzzle or equation to solve.

The fall concert will also feature “Body in Motion,” a collaboration with dance professor Erik Stern’s Moving Company and The Dance Program of the Department of Performing Arts. The performance will be a trial of sorts for a larger production in the Spring.

Moving Company is designated WSU Center for Community Engaged Learning course. It is also a year long project that integrates dance and science, said physics professor Adam Johnson, who has been assisting Stern.

The company is creating interesting, new and innovative ways to view dance, Sowerby said, and the students are thoroughly enjoying it, as they are gaining new insights to their art form.


  • WHAT: Orchesis Dance Theatre’s fall concert 
  • WHEN:  5:30 p.m. Nov. 20, 7:30 p.m. Nov. 21 and 22
  • WHERE: Allred Theater, Val Browning Center, WSU, 3848 Harrison Blvd., Ogden
  • TICKETS: $12-$25 Nov. 20, $10-$12 Nov 21 and 22;, 801-626-7000 or 801-626-8500

Sign up for e-mail news updates.

Related Stories