Brynley Gorman is the newest member of the Mesquite Toes dance team. Photo by Barbara Ellestad.
There have been military operations that haven't seen the kind of coordination, cooperation, or precision, that you'll find backstage during a Mesquite Toes performance.
The renown dance team and "Ambassadors for Mesquite" are staging their final show of the season tonight and tomorrow night, Apr. 20 and 21, and what a production it is.
Vicki Eckman, founder of the Mesquite Toes, also serves as the Creative Director and Choreographer. She began the dance troupe in 2003 and every year since 2005 she's produced a spectacular Spring show.
Since I usually cover Mesquite Toes shows from an audience perspective, I decided to go backstage this time and see what happens when 47 women are changing costumes every few minutes and rushing to and from the stage.
Wow, what a production.
The dancers use three separate dressing rooms with women assigned to each one based on the "team" they dance with. Each room has several "dressers" who help the dancers change clothes, find missing gloves, or grab a safety pin when a strap breaks.
As much as the dancers are the 'face' of the Mesquite Toes, women like Chris King, Grace Martinez, Judy Mickelson, Gail Pallissard, Claire Patterson, Ann Rice, Joyce Stafford, Marie Veres, and Mary Youngdale are the cogs in the wheel that help make everything happen so smoothly.
Each team also has a Captain who ushers the ladies backstage and makes sure they're lined up in the right order. But these women are so disciplined and coordinated that it doesn't seem to take much to keep them in line.
As one of the teams lined up backstage waiting to enter the stage, I asked if they get nervous or have butterflies. Several of them were joking and chatting among themselves, saying they've done so many performances it was old hat. A couple others admitted they were scared to death. One even remarked "I get so nervous, I want to throw up." Kathy Lyne Jones probably said it best, "We prepare, prepare, prepare, and then bingo, it's all over."
And prepare, they do. The ladies have been working on this show since last September and practicing intensely since Christmas.
Eckman is always careful not to let these performances get stale. Introducing the packed theatre audience to yesterday's matinee performance, she said, "we have 16 brand new numbers in this show out of 28. We now have 125 different dance numbers in our repertoire. We just keep pulling these out of the hat."
She also mentioned that various Mesquite businesses had donated $700 to pay for tickets given to those who can't afford admission on their own. "We gave away 70 tickets with the help of Mesquite businesses," Eckman announced.
And she's not beyond innovating. This performance introduced 5-year old Brynley Gorman as the newest Mesquite Toe and featured her with the only male "Toe," Jim Chatlin in one of the cutest numbers, 'Dancing on Daddy's Shoes.'
It's that kind of inventiveness that keeps drawing
in sold-out audiences and has garnered so much attention to the dancers.
Even though she's only been dancing a short time, Gorman seems right at home on the stage. She performed by herself in the recent Mesquite Has Talent contest. She takes dance lessons at 'On the Beat Dance' classes at the Mesquite Recreation Center. And, she was a natural with all the other dancers.
Chatlin, who also serves as the Stage Manager, is married to a Mesquite Toe dancer, Kathie. Together they performed a beautifully choreographed number to the tune, 'Me and My Gal.'
He joked later, "I have one wife and 46 girlfriends."
Eckman likes to involve outside groups in her presentations like the League of Women Voters who helped make the opening number of Act 2 funny, yet special. And watching Marcia Swider and John Norwig dance to "Kiss" makes me wish I didn't have two left feet. How do they do that?
In the dressing rooms, between numbers, you'll find some of the dancers warming up, practicing their routines, or just resting. One of the things that has always amazed me about these women is their energy and stamina. They do four shows in three days. Think about that. The oldest dancer is 79 and the average age is 69. These performances are a lot of work for twenty-somethings, let alone grandmas.
But they don't seem to think of themselves as old. In fact, when Eckman was giving her last minute instructions before the show started, she reminded the dancers to park their cars in the furthest parking lot. "The really old people need to park up close," Eckman quipped.
Whoever thinks it takes women a long time to get dressed hasn't been backstage at a Mesquite Toes performance. Every dance number requires a different costume. A few of the dancers have only three or four minutes to leave the stage, rush back to the their assigned dressing room, slip out of one costume and into another, and make it back on stage for the next number.
Everything is so coordinated it never seems to be a problem. As I wandered through the dressing rooms, I noticed typewritten lists of costume items for each dance number included in the plastic bags holding the dancers' clothes. And laying on the tables were lists of dancers for each number. Music was piped in from the stage so everyone knew how soon they needed to line up backstage for their next dance. General George Patton would be proud of these ladies' military precision.
And the women you never see on stage help make all this happen, seemingly so easy.
All the Mesquite Toes seem to live the words of one of the songs they dance to in this, their last performance of the season - Pretty Woman.
Remaining Mesquite Toe performances are Friday and Saturday, Apr. 20 and 21 at 7:00 pm at the Mesquite Community Theatre.
Posted Date: 04/20/2012 These women have been a joy to watch. They are beautiful and graceful. They have all been so sweet and welcoming to my daughter Brynley. By: Tasha
Posted Date: 04/22/2012 Congratulations on another fabulous show. Thank You for making Mesquite AND the state of Nevada PROUD. My many Blessings to all.
Diane House By: Diane House