By the students, for the students of Central Washington University

The Observer

By the students, for the students of Central Washington University

The Observer

By the students, for the students of Central Washington University

The Observer

CWU Dance Company Fosters Independence and Friendship


Teamwork makes the dream work! At least, that’s true for CWU’s dance company, Orchesis. With the help of two staff directors, the dance company is entirely student-run. Because of this aspect, it’s imperative the students can work together.

Orchesis was initially a student club in the 1963-64 academic year. It was proven to be unsuccessful, however in 1968 Dance professor Lana Jo Sharpe revived this club, and it has been thriving ever since. Each fall and spring quarter auditions are held to be part of Orchesis. 

Over the ten weeks in each quarter, the Orchesis team works on student-choreographed dance pieces that were selected. In years past, there were quarterly shows for the team to perform their pieces. But the “Works in Progress” fall and winter performances will be postponed until the construction on the Auxiliary Gym in Nicholson Pavilion is finished. 

That leaves the Spring performance, however, which is going to be April 18-20 of this year. Held in the Milo Smith Tower Theatre, the spring performance is a compilation of all of the pieces the company worked on over the year. In collaboration with the Theatre department, students work to create visually intriguing pieces.

What sets Orchesis apart from other dance opportunities at CWU is that it’s entirely student-run. There are two directors, Gabrielle McNeillie and McKenzie Baird, however, their approach to running the dance company is to take a step back. “It’s for them [the dancers], and for them to explore their choreographic process,” McNeille said. 

McNeille feels that the dance company flows as a more positive environment because the students work on these pieces for themselves, rather than the approval of their mentors. “We allow them to create in ways that they feel are going to be successful for them at that moment,” McNeillie said. She continued by saying she and Baird are there for guidance rather than to tell the students what they should do. 

A new Orchesis member, Cesca Gossing reflected on the positive environment of the dance company. She mentioned being in dance from the age of two and how it negatively impacted her self-image contrasting the feeling with her experience in Orchesis. “It’s a competitive industry… You’re all fighting for approval is what it is, and it’s like here you don’t have to do that,” Gossing said. She continued, saying the directors McNeillie and Baird are what makes this aspect work.

Orchesis is open to anyone at CWU who wants to dance, regardless of their level of experience. Because of this, the directors aim to individualize each student’s growth. “We’re trying to help them on their journey, on their path, and allow them to grow from where they are,” McNeillie said. They don’t aim to make each student the perfect pupil, they want to help them on their personal path. 

McNeillie also highlighted the strong team bond between the members of the team. “Once they’re in the company, we see this as a team. So, they all work together. They all end up becoming friends,” McNeillie said. 

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