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Thursday, February 21 , 2019, 2:03 am | Fair 46º


Margo Kline: State Street Ballet Does Motown Proud

Its collaboration with the Eisenhower Dance Ensemble puts a modern spin on classic hits

For anybody who’s ever been a teenager, State Street Ballet’s collaboration with the Eisenhower Dance Ensemble on Friday night — “Motown in Motion” — was pure delight.

The two companies danced before a sold-out house at the Lobero Theatre, and their razzle-dazzle infected the entire audience. Both companies boast thrilling young soloists and a high level of dancing skill, added here to recorded music by the likes of Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye, The Temptations, Martha and the Vandellas and other Motown immortals.

The evening got off to a rousing start with Smokey’s “Get Ready,” featuring the Eisenhower’s Ellie Escosa and 10 stalwarts from the State Street company. Why didn’t we know before that Motown was meant for classical dancers, and vice versa? The Eisenhower company is billed as a contemporary company, and it calls Detroit home. State Street is ballet, of course, but the local dancers boogied down right along with the visitors.

Many of the numbers were choreographed by Laurie Eisenhower, founder of the Detroit ensemble and a former dancer with, among other groups, the stunning modern troupe Pilobolus Dance Theatre. Stephanie Pizzo of the Eisenhower company created the “Get Ready” choreography and several other numbers in the program.

Other highlights included Marvin Gaye’s “How Sweet It Is” and “Wonderful One,” and “Please Mr. Postman,” sung by The Marvelettes and choreographed by Eisenhower. Diana Ross and the Supremes’ “You Keep Me Hanging On” was another contribution from Eisenhower, performed by Brittany Blumer, Alicia Cutala and Stephanie Pizzo of her company.

“Do You Love Me,” sung by The Contours, was danced by the State Street Ballet Young Dancers, to more choreography by Eisenhower. The first half of the program closed with “Heard It Through the Grapevine,” sung by Gladys Knight & the Pips to more of Eisenhower’s choreography. Amazingly, members of the audience kept their seats while dancers of the Eisenhower group and students of Gustafson Dance tore up the stage.

The second portion began with “Papa Was A Rolling Stone,” sung by The Temptations to choreography by Bill DeYoung. Here, the professional dancers of State Street came into their own: Bonnie Crotzer, Ezlimar Dortolina and Leila Drake dancing with sensational front man Jose Edwin Gonzalez.

“Motomix” was the next number, with Eisenhower dancers rocking to Smokey’s “Quiet Storm,” “Signed, Sealed and Delivered” by Stevie Wonder, “Celebration” by Rare Earth and “Final Mix” by Joel Hall, who choreographed, and Scott Sediacek. Another highlight was Michael Jackson’s “Don’t’ Stop ‘Til You Get Enough” to choreography by Pizzo, closing with a brief moonwalk by one of the men.

The evening ended on a high note with “Tears of a Clown” by Smokey Robinson and The Miracles to choreography by Gregory Patterson. Dancers from both State Street and Eisenhower flooded the stage, including some very small ones from the student contingent. The resulting rock-out left the audience clamoring for more, but the dancers had earned their curtain calls and a good night’s rest.

Rodney Gustafson, artistic director of the State Street company, joined the others on stage, flowers were delivered and people shouted their approval. In the program notes, Gustafson celebrated the combined companies’ “new creative dynamic.” Yes, indeed.

— Margo Kline covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributor.

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