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A passion that lives on: Orchesis still dancing nearly 50 years later
Monday, January 27, 2014

A passion that lives on: Orchesis still dancing nearly 50 years later

The 2013-14 Orchesis Dance Company board surrounds Founder Carol Prevet. They are, clockwise from top left, Secretary Sarah Peace, Treasurer Abigail Donegan, Vice President Lauren Orlowski and President Sydney Thomas.

By Lauren Orlowski , ’15

           There are more than 150 student organizations on the Fredonia campus, but one group stands out among them: the Orchesis Dance Company. Founded in 1967, this student-run organization has come to be one of the oldest and largest constituted groups. The company has spent the past 46 years building and maintaining the respectable reputation it has today.

The woman who began it all is Carol Prevet. Her passion, love, and commitment to dance shined for 27 years while she served as a professor in the Department of Health, Physical Education and Dance from 1967 to 1994. Prior to coming to Fredonia, Ms. Prevet completed her bachelor’s degree in Physical Education at SUNY Cortland. During her time there, she took every dance class she could. She knew that dancing was her calling, and she did everything in her power to make that dream a reality. She obtained a Master of Fine Arts degree in Dance from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and then spent a year as a graduate fellow at the University of North Carolina.

Afterward, she knew she wanted to continue teaching, so she applied to various universities. Luckily, Fredonia was one of her choices.When she first visited the campus, she said the thing that she loved most was the dance facility in Dods Hall. She immediately envisioned herself teaching students and working creativity through the space.

Shortly after beginning in 1967, she decided to start and serve as the advisor to Fredonia’s Orchesis Dance Company. At the time, the company had a mere 13 students, compared to the 50 it has today. Those original 13 had little training in dance, but Prevet worked to train them in various genres.

During her time at Fredonia, Prevet would organize over 20 productions and choreograph 30 pieces for Orchesis. Astonished by the success of the company, she worked with the department to institute a Special Studies concentration in Dance, and shortly following this change, a Dance major was put into place. To cap her career in 1994, Prevet conducted her final concert piece for Orchesis, “Afro Caribbean Suite,” consisting of four dances and choreography contributed by Clara Reyes, a native of St. Maarten in the West Indies.

Teaching dance was more than just a job for Prevet — it was a way of life. She loved leading the dance company and working with students to help them work toward their true potential. When asked what her favorite part of being a dance professor at Fredonia was, Prevet said, smiling, “Students. They were another family to me…like my own kids.” Her love for dance was more than just a career, but an opportunity for her to inspire students, and be inspired by them.

Today, Orchesis still upholds Prevet’s love and passion for the art, and frequently receives visits from her throughout the year. The company orchestrates two productions per year comprised of dancers, choreographers, and stage technicians. Sam Kenney, associate professor of dance, is the present Orchesis faculty advisor.

“Orchesis provides students with a unique opportunity to explore and develop their creative impulses as both dancers and choreographers,” said Ms. Kenney. “This creative process teaches students the value of collaboration, and gives them hands-on experience with the administrative and technical elements that are essential to concert production as well.”

Today, students of every major become involved and find their own niche within the company.

 “I am so glad that I got involved in Orchesi this year,” said freshman Kara Murray, a Communication major. “It was so nice to have a creative outlet to express myself and de-stress from school work. It was such positive experience and I am excited to see what the future holds for Orchesis!”

Sydney Thomas, a senior Dance major and Orchesis’ current president, shares her love for the company. “Orchesis is a community of students who all have one thing in common — their love for dance. At Fredonia, I’m happy I have Orchesis as an outlet from the stress of classes and everyday life. The e-board has become my family, and the dancers within the company are friends that I imagine I’ll have long after graduation. I feel blessed to have been able to be a part of, and will always cherish my time spent with Orchesis Dance Company.”

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State University of New York at Fredonia