Anna Edwards, right, conducts Saratoga Orchestra as dancers from Whidbey Island Dance Theatre rehearse for their upcoming collaboration, “All About the Dance.” Photo by Daniel Warn/Whidbey News-Times

Whidbey dancers tune their steps to live orchestra

Saratoga Orchestra and Whidbey Island Dance Theatre are aiming to create perfect harmony in their upcoming performance, “All about the Dance.”

Char Brown, artistic director of Whidbey Island Dance Theatre, said that her organization’s dancers had not performed with a big-band orchestra since before 2000.

Performances are 7 p.m. Saturday, March 25, at South Whidbey High School and 2:30 p.m. Sunday, March 26, at Oak Harbor High School.

“We are two nonprofit organizations that have decided to come together and collaborate,” said Brittany Falso, assistant artistic director for Whidbey Island Dance Theatre.

Falso said Saratoga Orchestra members approached Whidbey Island Dance Theatre with the idea for “All about the Dance,” and it proved to be an irresistible opportunity.

If all goes well, Falso said, the dance theater’s “hopes and dreams” are for the Saratoga Orchestra to play live while the theater dances its annual “Nutcracker.”

So in a sense, “All About the Dance” can be seen as a dress rehearsal for the two organizations to collaborate on the holiday favorite.

This is not to say that “All About the Dance” does not dance to its own tune.

The show’s choreography contains a combination of ballet, contemporary, modern and “ethnic West African” movement, said Bojohn Diciple, who co-choreographed the show with Falso. The two are also featured dancing together in the show.

Diciple said dancing with a live orchestra transforms both the moves and the music, creating something better through collaboration that cannot be expressed when going solo.

“This is us bringing our lives into music — the cohabitation of music and dance together is what we are expressing here,” Diciple said, adding that dance and music have always been interlinked.

“Before there was dance, somebody beat a stick on a log of wood and made a beat, and somebody else started tapping their foot, and somebody started moving their hips,” he said. “We love it because music makes you feel different things, different parts of yourself.”

“All About the Dance,” marks the first time Saratoga Orchestra has performed live with dancers. Yet a few of its members do have experience with such compositions.

“Luckily, our music director Anna Edwards performed for years in the Pacific Northwest Ballet Orchestra,” said Larry Heidel, executive director of Saratoga Orchestra. “And a number of our musicians are current members of the ballet orchestra or have performed in the orchestra.”

It will still be a challenge for many of the orchestra’s members to don their own dancing shoes.

“It will be good for the orchestra members to work with dancers,” Heidel said. “Dancers learn to move in a certain time, so if you go a little bit faster, a little bit slower, it kind of makes things interesting.”

Brown was on the same sheet of music as Heidel.

“For my dancers, especially for the dancers, it’s going to be a very powerful experience for them, because they’ve never had the live music coming from behind them or from anywhere,” she said. “These are younger dancers that have used nothing but CD music and not even a pianist.”

Heidel said that “All About the Dance” is the kind of collaboration that Saratoga Orchestra has been aiming to conduct and is the perfect way to end the main shows of its 10th anniversary season.

Over the years, Heidel said that Saratoga Orchestra has played primarily in Langley, Freeland, Coupeville and Oak Harbor as sort of a nomadic entity, hitting all the right notes in all the right venues.

“We are here for every community on the island,” Heidel said.

“All About the Dance” will cost $25 for general admission, $20 for seniors/military and will be free for students.

For tickets, visit www.sowhidbey.com or call 360-929-3045 for information.

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