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Orchesis: A Peek Behind the Curtain

Orchesis Dance Company has been performing its annual shows for years, and the group has grown from a small company into more than 100 members per year. The production is now an autumn tradition on the Allegheny campus, one of the most attended events each year. But what the audience doesn’t see is the months of work leading up to the two-hour final product.

It is one of the biggest productions on campus–this year it was staged on Nov. 8-11–and it begins a full year before the actual performances, on the nights of the previous year’s recital. Dancers arrive for the shows hours early, partly to get in costume and stage makeup, partly to stretch, and partly to vote on the next year’s board members. On the final night of performances, the last of the board positions are announced, and next year’s show is set in motion. (Choreographers pictured below)

The show begins to form in the spring, when members who have been part of the company for at least one year can propose choreography for a dance, with the elected board choosing which ones to include in the next year’s show.

In the fall, the audition process begins on a Saturday two weeks into the new academic year, a two-day process where every dancer who auditions is placed into at least one piece. By the following Monday, rehearsals begin and the dances start to develop. (Picture from auditions below)

Kalena Grimes ’19 has been in Orchesis for three years, and this was her second year as both the Historian board member as well as a choreographer. “As a board member, I feel as if I am able to give something back to the company after all that it has given me. I am able to make a difference in the company and help it grow each year to become more meaningful to all of the company members. Being a board member doesn’t allow me to brag or be boastful, but instead it allows for others to expect more from me. That alone motivates me to build the company to be as strong as possible.”

The choreographers have eight practices–one per week–to construct their pieces and get them show-ready. “You have to find a balance between the time it takes teaching choreography and the time you need to clean the dance, and depending on how long your piece is it can feel like a rush to the finish line,” says choreographer Gavi Winer ’18. (Picture from the final dress rehearsal below)

Every aspect of the show is student-designed–the choreographers pick out costumes, student tech members run the sound and lights, and the Orchesis board manages every aspect of the promotion and logistics of the show–creating posters, ordering costumes, handling news releases, scheduling the various dress rehearsals. The final show is entirely a group effort, and it shows in the pride that every member feels in presenting their work to the audience.

The week leading up to the shows is when costumes are worn, stage makeup is layered on, and the lighting cues are set, and suddenly the show feels real. Anticipation builds until the first show night–Wednesday, the Community Show, where professors, Allegheny staff, and the Meadville community get the first look at the production. (Below is the group photo from Carissa Lange’s ’80s Mashup piece)

“When I see my dance on stage I feel proud and accomplished,” says Grimes. “My dancers have brought my vision to life the past two years and I couldn’t have wished for a better outcomes. The dancers are very dedicated so the costumes and lighting simply enhance their incredible talents. Orchesis is an outlet for me, one that allows for me to interact with a rather large group of incredibly talented humans. I am forever grateful for each and every person that orchesis has given me. I am thankful for each rehearsal, performance and every other experience I have had because of Orchesis. It is so much more than a dance company to me, it is an additional 90 or more people that I consider to be family.”

Emma Wasko is a first-year student, and says her favorite part of the process was getting to meet and bond with people sharing the same love of dance. “As a freshmen, you’re coming into life at college knowing no one and scared out of your mind, so it’s nice to meet other people who you can actually get along with,” she says. “When I auditioned, as soon as I walked into the auditorium, everyone was SO nice, optimistic, and welcoming. Auditions went well, and I ended up making it into three pieces! It was also a great opportunity to meet upperclassmen, who gave great advice about Allegheny and about life, honestly.” (Pictured below is Emma Wasko in Toni Donofrio’s piece “Lay Me Down”)

Performance Photos by Ed Mailliard; Rehearsal Photos by Laura Allston. Click on photos in the performance gallery above to enlarge them.

Allegheny’s Instrumental Chamber Ensembles to Perform

Allegheny’s Instrumental Chamber Ensembles will perform their biannual concert in Ford Memorial Chapel on Thursday, Nov. 16, at 7:30 p.m. The concert is free and open to the public.

There are six groups performing: the Woodwind Quartet, Trumpet Ensemble, Flute Ensemble, Saxophone Ensemble, Clarinet Ensemble, and Brass Quintet. Each ensemble works with one of three faculty coaches, either Bronwell Bond, Jennifer Dearden, or Julie Hepler. Bond will serve as conductor of the Flute Ensemble for the performance.

The groups will perform a variety of music from composers such as J.C. Bach and Giuseppe Verdi, to Mozart and the Beatles. Together, they have 29 students involved, and two community members. A few students participate in more than one ensemble.

Allegheny Presents First ‘Unusual Combinations’ Piano Competition

Allegheny College will present its first biennial “Unusual Combinations” Piano Competition on Saturday, Nov. 11.

The competition, sponsored by Kawai America Corporation, features top high school student pianists from western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio. Two of the judges, Jonathan Kuuskoski and Paola Savvidou of the New Muse Piano Duo, will kick off the competition with a free recital entitled “Music of the Future: 21st Century Piano Music” on Friday, Nov. 10, at 7:30 p.m. in Ford Memorial Chapel. (more…)

Orchesis Dance Company Stages Annual Recital

The Orchesis Dance Company will hold its annual dance recital with four shows Nov. 8-11 in Allegheny College’s Shafer Auditorium. The Nov. 8 performance at 7 p.m. is the designated Community Premier Show for members of the Meadville community and Allegheny faculty and staff. The shows on Nov. 9-11 start at 8 p.m. All shows are free and open to the public.

The production is entirely student-run, from choreography to stage setup, and has been one of the most attended events on campus. Students begin with choreography proposals in the spring of the previous year, and then in the fall hold open auditions for each piece. Every student who auditions is guaranteed one dance, to make the organization as inclusive as possible. Once each student has been cast, the choreographers have eight weeks of rehearsals to construct their pieces and get them performance-ready. (more…)

Allegheny’s Playshop Theatre Presents ‘Romeo and Juliet’

The Allegheny Playshop Theatre, now celebrating its 88th season, is performing “Romeo and Juliet” November 16-19. Performances are at 8 p.m. Nov. 16-18 and at 2:30 p.m. on Nov. 19 in the Gladys Mullenix Black Theatre.

William Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” is a centuries-old tragic tale of star-crossed lovers, feuding families, and “violent ends,” taking place in Verona, Italy. The play captures the passions of teenagers experiencing independence, love, and familial duty during an important phase of their lives. Beth Watkins is directing the play, with stage-manager Rachel Ellis, Betsy Sumerfield choreographing the dance and stage combat scenes, and Jim Bulman serving as dramaturg for the production. (more…)

Allegheny’s Outing Club Has a Rich History of Trekking

Outing Club trip

The Allegheny College Outing Club is among the six oldest collegiate outing clubs in the nation, joining with 13 other groups to form the Intercollegiate Outing Club Association in 1932.

Allegheny’s Outing Club was founded in 1928 by Cora LeRoy, women’s physical education instructor, at a time when there was a push to expand women’s activities as well as early conservationist movements. Under LeRoy, the club was exclusively for women and went on hiking trips to Pennsylvania’s Round Top as well as various biking outings. (more…)

Allegheny College Senior Receives Prestigious Award to Study Swahili in Tanzania

Allegheny College senior Melissa Mattwig has received a prestigious Boren Award and will be a part of the African Flagship Languages Initiative (AFLI) beginning in the summer of 2017.

As a Boren Scholar, she has been selected to study Swahili in Tanzania for a year and will receive a $20,000 scholarship for her studies. Mattwig is a double major in biology and environmental science, and a double minor in French and Spanish.  (more…)

Alumni Council and Global Health Studies Seek Alumni Volunteers

Editor’s Note: The Allegheny Alumni Council has partnered with the Global Health Studies (GHS) Department to identify alumni who work in global health fields who are willing to share their knowledge and expertise with current Allegheny GHS students and perhaps be featured in Admissions publications to highlight the remarkable outcomes of an Allegheny education.

The GHS program at Allegheny began in 2012 and is a rapidly growing major. Global health includes research and practices that improve health, seek to achieve equity in health for people worldwide, and protect societies against global health threats.

If you work in a GHS field and are willing to help, please complete this interest form to tell us about your work and the ways you would like to be engaged in the program. Please direct questions to Dr. Caryl Waggett, Global Health Studies department chair, at

Allegheny’s mission to encourage personal and social responsibility, and its strategic priorities – to build new interdisciplinary programs, enhance collaboration among curricular and co-curricular programs, and to diversify and internationalize the campus and curriculum – were brought together in the development of the Global Health Studies program.

Erica Bryson ’15 was one of the earliest Allegheny Global Health Studies majors to graduate. Since then, she has worked for the Allegheny County Health Department as a National Health Corps Pittsburgh (AmeriCorps) member and now as the Health in All Policies (HiAP) coordinator for the Chronic Disease Prevention program. Under the county-wide wellness campaign, Live Well Allegheny, she has developed and implemented a learning collaborative and training curriculum for participants.

“The ultimate goal is to improve chronic disease outcomes by surrounding residents with healthier options,” Bryson says, “whether creating a smoke-free park, promoting active transportation, or providing guidelines for healthy food procurement.”

HiAP is defined as a collaborative approach to improve the health of all people by incorporating health considerations into decision-making across many public policy areas. Bryson’s position as coordinator allows her to look into which practices best serve Allegheny County’s 1.2 million people, and the best ways to disseminate the information to county agencies. Ultimately, the health department’s goal is to improve chronic disease outcomes by creating a healthier county environment.

Global Health Studies at Allegheny is a relatively new program, but it is growing rapidly. Currently, the campus is working to expand the program’s capacity and the benefits it provides to students. One way they are doing so is through alumni outreach. Keri Fadden, director of Alumni Engagement at Allegheny, says, “The Global Health Studies department is relatively new on campus, starting in 2012, but is growing rapidly in size and student interest. We are searching for alumni who work in a variety of aspects of Global Health to become more involved.”

Global health is a modern field of research and practice that prioritizes improving health equity and equality for all people worldwide and protecting societies against global health threats. The field is divided into researchers and practitioners.

Researchers seek to understand the underlying cause of social and environmental determinants of diseases so that they may be further acknowledged and addressed within unique populations and cultures. Practitioners focus on improving population health through multidisciplinary approaches, directly engaging in widespread population-level disease prevention and treatment of diseases, and indirectly by practitioners in fields as diverse as urban planning, food security, transportation, environmental and occupational health, architecture, and park services, each of which create the infrastructure that can lead to community health and wellness and less incidence of disease.

Allegheny’s GHS program stresses its interdivisional core, to promote a multidimensional understanding of global health issues in relation to patterns of socioeconomic development, bringing together courses on the environment, ethics, politics, economics, society, and culture.

Bryson believes the focus on interdisciplinary relations is what makes the GHS program so beneficial. “It is very fitting considering that public health depends on the collaboration among different sectors as well,” she says. “Another advantage is that the program provides an opportunity to look at health at a population level – something that I think could benefit all medical professionals.”

The program seeks to cultivate future scholars, practitioners, and leaders who possess the knowledge, skills, and ethical outlook required to respond effectively to existing and emerging challenges. For this reason, creating a strong connection between our developed alumni network and current students is invaluable to the growth of the GHS program and the students involved. Involved alumni might collaborate with the program by coming to speak on campus and directly mentoring GHS students.

Student mentoring is an esteemed role, through which involved alumni would help to generate momentum to assist students on the path to graduation and beyond, to the starting point of their global health career. Other alumni in targeted fields might be tapped to collaborate on short course offerings to enhance and deepen the student experience, or to network in regions with high student and faculty interest. The GHS program is hoping for approximately 30 to 45 alumni in a wide range of career paths, to help provide a diverse variety of guidance and career advice to students.

“In addition to traditional internship opportunities and job networking, an increased alumni presence would benefit the GHS program given the international experience requirement,” Bryson says. “I believe that as the college continues to grow the program, we will need to accommodate students with an increase in opportunities to intern, volunteer, or shadow abroad. Many of these experiences are possible because of alumni donations.”

Though the GHS program is still relatively new, it has already made a positive impact on Allegheny’s campus. It has shaped the futures of many students by opening new doors and providing vital opportunities of study and interdisciplinary work. The program has already had 19 GHS majors and 28 minors graduate, and currently there are 62 declared majors and 74 minors, though there are many still undeclared who intend to follow the GHS path.

If you are an alumnus interested in becoming involved with the program in any way, complete the interest form here. More information about Allegheny’s Global Health Studies program can be found here.

Photo Caption: Erica Bryson ’15, at right, now works as the Health in All Policies (HiAP) coordinator for the Chronic Disease Prevention program in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania.

Three Days, Three Concerts at Allegheny

Allegheny College will showcase the musical talents of its students, faculty, and members of the Meadville community with events spanning three days, beginning Saturday, April 29 with a performance by the Civic Symphony. The Civic Symphony will perform at 3:15 p.m. on Saturday, April 29, followed by a performance by the Wind Symphony and Wind Ensemble at 3:15 p.m. on Sunday, April 30. The Percussion Ensemble will wrap up the concerts on Monday, May 1, at 8 p.m. All shows will be held in Allegheny’s Shafer Auditorium and are free and open to the public. (more…)

Allegheny Chamber Singers Perform Opera Scenes

The Allegheny Chamber Singers will perform their annual Opera Scenes program on Saturday, April 29, at 7 p.m., in Ford Chapel. The ensemble includes 10 Allegheny students, and is co-directed by Vicki Jamison and Carol Niblock. (more…)