Colorful choreography: The Eisenhower Dance Ensemble

Eric Gorman

Dancers pushed, pulled, and lifted each other across the stage at McKinney Theatre on Feb. 10, in an agile display of grace, sophistication and athleticism.

The Eisenhower Dance Ensemble (EDE) presented five dances, from a collection of pieces called NewDANCEfest, that offered vivid complexity and light-hearted fun throughout.

The balance of the set matched that of the dancers.

“NewDANCEfest represents a wide variety of different choreographic styles,” Laurie Eisenhower, the ensemble’s founder said. “That’s what the program is about. You’re seeing five different choreographers, so you’re seeing a wide range of different ways of approaching choreography.”

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Stunning grace and professionalism radiated from the nine dancers, who intermittently occupied the stage with a presence that an army of lesser dancers might not create.

Morgan “Mo” Williams said that the “eye-catching and intense” assortment of dances, “will always have you moving through the whole show.” Williams is the ensemble’s male lead, currently in his third season with the EDE.

“From a dancer’s standpoint, I think it presents the versatility of the company because every style is very different.” Alicia Cutaia, the ensemble’s female lead said. “Everything takes a different approach.” She has seven years in the group.

“Threads,” a piece that involved numerous sets of dancers who interweaved to Primavera, a song by Ludovico Einaudi, was specifically choreographed to the music, according to Eisenhower.

“I love the music, it gave me movement ideas,” Eisenhower said. Those movements included unique lifts, twirls and structure on the part of each pair, all of which blended into one seamless work of art.

Another work presented was “Dance Sport,” created by guest-choreographer Harrison McEldowny. The performance included a vast spectrum of sport influences. The most notable of those influences were the two sport commentators, who McEldowny recruited to “watch and spontaneously record,” the humorous narration that accompanied the music, Eisenhower said.

“Dance Sport” was thoroughly engaging: implementing props to simulate synchronized swimming, referees dispersing penalties, and much more.

Each dance was followed by thunderous applause, and the audience gave the show a standing ovation.

For those aspiring dancers out there, Williams had some advice that Cutaia and Eisenhower echoed. “Stay open-minded, be humble, and always stretch after rehearsal,” he said. “That is the biggest thing… and google Eisenhower,” he added lightheartedly with a chuckle.

To acquire such chemistry, the ensemble has had to learn “each other’s ticks and tacks,” Williams said. “It’s like a family. You’re on the road, and this is mom (referring to Eisenhower). You love each other. You’re out here for a purpose, and that’s to put on a good show. And you do build good friendships and relationships,” along the way.

Good friends and relationships aren’t the only perk of being part of this prestigious ensemble. “It’s amazing, you get to travel the world all the time, for free,” Williams continued. “Sometimes you forget. As much as we go home and we’re like, ‘Ah it’s so tiring, and I don’t like it today,’ you have to be gratful, because even though it comes with the job, you really just need to stop and say thank you, and be blessed for what you have.”

The EDE’s performance at McKinney Theatre can be attributed to Dorothy Garant, a Saddleback College Dance Instructor.

“Laurie Eisenhower and I graduated the same year from ASU’s dance department, earning a Bachelor of Education Degree in Dance,” Garant said. “The Eisenhower Dance Ensemble’s performance exemplifies Laurie’s virtuosity and creativity.  I enjoyed the concert in many ways but especially through the variety in the program and the technical precision of the dancers.  It was nice to connect with a friend from the past and view firsthand the lovely work she is doing in the art of dance.”

To learn more about the Eisenhower Dance Ensemble visit their website at http://ede-dance.org/, check out Ludovico Einaudi’s Primavera on Youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qmxFAT581T4 and head on over to Saddleback College’s Fine Arts Department to find out about upcoming events http://www.saddleback.edu/arts/.

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