Orchesis Success

Brooke Ghaly

The Orchesis club perfoms. (Photo credit: Brooke Ghaly)

The house lights in the McLaughlin Theatre dim and the curtain opens, revealing a cluster of teenage girls closely huddled on the stage. Each one is carefully placed in formation, standing incredibly still facing backwards. They are uniformly dressed in tight, black long-sleeve shirts and matching cargo shorts. Their only distinguishable feature is their hair, but everyone’s is carefully slicked back into a low ponytail. Suddenly, the music starts and each dancer is moving in perfect unison. The crowd erupts in cheers. Everyone is smiling, and by the end of the dance, the excitement is hard to contain. However, each dancer must remain focused— they have a show to perform. 

Nine seniors are the first ones to take the stage that night, but more than 20 dancers across the span of one hour would light up the theater with their performances. By the end of the night, the applause was thunderous, and another season of the Wolfpack Orchesis was complete. The dancers beamed with joy as they took a bow in front of their sold-out audience. As they exited the stage, they were met with the warm embrace of their proud family and friends in the theater lobby.

The fourth season (2022-2023) of Wolfpack Orchesis started off strong with the first annual Orchesis boot camp. Over three days, dancers and prospective members trained in a variety of styles by taking master classes from acclaimed choreographers. The week culminated in auditions, which featured student choreography pitches. Quickly following this week, the dancers began setting their pieces for the season. The dedicated dancers spent their last weeks of summer working hard in the studio to create some amazing dances for the show. One of the most exciting pieces to learn was the whole company hip hop dance, choreographed by Lola Lamme. This piece was later debuted at the pep rally, along with the new Orchesis crewnecks proudly sported by each dancer. As the season progressed, the group worked tirelessly on a whole new repertoire of choreography. Numerous students brought their own artistic visions to life. 

With the show drawing nearer, the dancers were working tirelessly to promote it via social media, school announcements, and even word of mouth. The hard work paid off during senior night, which was a special dinner in the Brunswick Room. Dancers and their parents gathered to share a meal and celebrate the hard work of the whole group, but especially the seniors. At this dinner, the final ticket to “Our Fourth Show” had sold— the show was officially sold out for the first time in Orchesis history! Dancers cheered and celebrated the good news, but it was quickly followed by nerves. Would their performance meet the expectations of the sold-out audience? Would they pull it off despite the pressure?

Show week brought its own set of stressors and excitement. On their day off from school for President’s Day, the Orchesis dancers were found rehearsing in the studio for the last time. By Wednesday, they had moved into the theater and begun tech rehearsal. This is a process that involves coordinating the formations the dancers make on stage with lighting and sound. The dancers wear their costumes so the lighting crew can make sure to accurately highlight them. This is a lengthy process that spanned over two days. Thursday concluded with a dress rehearsal run-through, where each piece was performed in full costume, hair, and makeup like it was a real show. Afterward, the dancers received notes before enjoying their senior night. Finally came Friday: the big day. The dancers planned to do an entire run-through in costume starting at 3:30, and they managed to finish it with enough time to get ready for the show. With doors opening at 6:30, they did their final practice runs on the stage before getting into their first costumes. The Mclaughlin Theatre quickly filled up with students, families, and teachers all anticipating the great show that was to come.

The opening number was the senior heels piece, but it was followed by a myriad of performances in different styles ranging from hip-hop to contemporary, and even ballet and jazz. Each senior performed a solo, and the show finale was the whole company hip-hop dance. Every dancer was beaming with pride by the end of the show. They were showered with flowers and praise, but what mattered most was the opportunity to share in something they all love so much— dance. 

Wolfpack Orchesis is a concert dance club at Ignatius founded in 2020 by Dylan Krage ‘22. Its first season, only ten girls joined the club. This year, there are over 20 members. Senior Julia Kracik is the captain and works closely with director Jeff Wolfe, a professional Chicago choreographer. Julia says, “From leading rehearsals to organize the show I have grown to love it more and more every day. Being able to see every piece we create grow into something beautiful makes me so proud of what this club has come to.” 

While the club now practices in the school studio, things were not always that simple. In the first season (2019-2020), the club had to practice in classrooms in the 240s hallway, as there was no other place where the club would have enough room to stage their dances. However, the floor was dirty, and the girls couldn’t see themselves in a mirror. Founding member Elle Spear said, “It was much more difficult to clean the dances when we first started because we didn’t have a proper space. Despite the challenges, we pulled it off, and I am glad that we now get to dance in a studio. It makes the experience more worthwhile and fun.” The studio is currently located in the Immaculate Heart of Mary Center on May St, across from the teacher lot. It boasts marley flooring, adjustable mirrors, and even a large speaker that fills the room with music for practicing routines or warming up.

The second season presented a new set of challenges. With Covid protocols, the club had to follow specific rules in order to rehearse. They all had to wear masks, maintain some distance, and rehearse outside of school. However, many new members joined in order to dance during the pandemic. The number of Orchesis dancers had doubled from the first season to the second, and they were determined to share their love of dance in a time of isolation. While they were not permitted to have a traditional winter show, they filmed a full-length production and made it available for live-stream in lieu of a live performance. In spring, the group was given exciting news— they were allowed to host a live show at Saint Ignatius! Although their season had technically ended, they quickly reconvened and started cleaning their dances again. In May of 2021, Wolfpack Orchesis had its second show, entitled “Maskerade” (get it?). The show was an opportunity for the dancers to perform again after over a year of being deprived of applause and audiences. Orchesis gave the chance for dancers to express themselves in a time of so much uncertainty. Dance unified the group as they pushed past any barriers they were presented that season.

Orchesis dancers took their third season by storm, beginning with their first ever pep-rally performance. Selected dancers performed a hip-hop piece at the Homecoming Pep Rally, and they sported Orchesis sweatsuits. This got people talking about Orchesis. What was it? Who were they? After being a lesser-known club for the past two seasons, Orchesis was finally gaining some traction in the Saint . Ignatius community. 

Orchesis’ third show— All You Need is Love— was named not only for Valentine’s Day, but for the love of dance shared by the dancers in the club.  The show was bittersweet for the seven seniors, six of whom were founding members. Each of them performed a solo or trio as an ode to their time in the club. At the end of the show, they even performed a “secret” senior piece, which told the story of their Orchesis journey together. Each senior has made an incredible contribution to the club over their tenure as leaders, and Orchesis would not be possible without the foundation they worked so hard to create.

Orchesis means “the art of dance” in ancient Greek. This definition fits so well with the club because it is the art of dance that brings these students together. Over the past four years, a multitude of dancers have trained, laughed, performed, and most importantly danced as a united group. Each one has an intense passion for the art, and through Orchesis, they can come together to create something that is more than just the sum of its parts.