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I went to the Raskin Dance Studio (2143 Partin Settlement Rd; Kissimmee Fl) to sketch an open Professional Ballet Class run byWilliam Marshall Ellis the founder of ME Dance. The class is open to all intermediate and advanced dancers every Monday Night at 8:30pm. The cost is $10 per class. I was surprised at how crowded the class got. Several dozen dancers stretched and worked at the bars. While stretching dancers got to gossip and catch up on their complex lives.

The ME Dancers would be performing at the Bob Carr Performing Arts Center for the Red Chair Affair on August 24th. They woud be performing “Journey” with music by, you guessed it, Journey.  In this piece the dancers wear loose fitting 80’s styled outfits while dancing to “Don’t Stop Believing.” Dancers who performed at Red Chair included, Rachel Aimee, Shannon MacLaren, Alex Schudde, Rachel McKeever, Stephanie MaMahon, Krista Wilson and Emily Williams. Marshall is preparing for the upcoming dance season. Incredibly most venues are booked solid. This is good news to know the Orlando dance scene is thriving but now that this new dance company has build a full repertory, they need a home to showcase it in. Visit this website.

ME Dance Inc. presented their Season Finale, Deja vu at the Winter Garden Theater. This was the second to last stop on theOrlando SketchCrawl. Two other artists joined me to document the performance, Dana Boyd and Gabe Caroll-Dolci. I saw Marshall Ellis the dance company’s founder, and shook his hand before the show. He has built up this dance company from scratch over the last several years.The first half of the show had dance routines with titles like, Love, The Passion, The Knowledge, Stand by Me and Lust.  The Passion performed by dancer Shannon MacLoren stood out in my mind. The dance began with Shannon seated on a stool, she arched her back and pointed her toes then spun into motion. Her sultry dance began to remind me of Jessica Rabbit a cartoon that couldn’t help but be sultry. By the intermission, my sketch was done and I put the sketchbook away for the second half of the show. Read More

 

Silks, new choreography abundant at Arova Contemporary Ballet’s ‘Fortuna’ (dance review)

By Michael Huebner | mhuebner@al.com on April 20, 2013 at 11:05 AM

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama — Arova Contemporary Ballet has defined itself on two fronts – aerial silks, deftly negotiated Friday night by Jamie Kilgore Foust, and overarching collaborative programming, framed in the first half of “Fortuna,” the program showing this weekend at Virginia Samford Theatre.As the program’s title might suggest, the opening chorus of Carl Orff’s “Carmina Burana” defined the show. Michelle Imhof’s two-movement work of the same title opened with Emily Cain and Davey Wofford in a pas de deux that showcased their expressive range and taut, muscular forms. Set to a guitar arrangement, it was a light romantic introduction to the ensemble that followed – the complete orchestral version playing out with Foust wrapped in aqua silks and dancers bowing ritualistically.

AROVA CONTEMPORARY BALLET: Fortuna

Friday, Virginia Samford Theatre Works by Michelle Imhof, Alison Page, Jamorris Rivers, Jennifer Medina and Marshall EllisRepeats Saturday, April 20, at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, April 21, at 2:30 p.m.

Three works bridged the theme. Alison Page’s “Lost Ones” had an intriguing premise – a colony of English settlers that disappeared in 16th century Virginia – but that message was never quite clear from the choreography. Jamorris Rivers’ “Dualité” set two dancers in playful, almost childlike imitation. Brandon Raglan’s “Impulsing Nuances” was a romantic encounter, Beethoven’s “Moonlight” Sonata forming a backdrop to a couple’s fluctuating emotions.

Imhof’s “Carmina” follow-up (Movement 3) had Foust emerging almost magically from the silk fabric. Hanging upside down, forming various contortions, and doubling her image in a mirror, she served as a kind of commentary to the embrace of a duo danced by Wofford and Cain.

Jennifer Medina, a talented choreographer whose work has become a regular feature at ACB, presented “Women of the Cove,” an ethereal work with five dancers basking, stretching and gazing longingly. Its symmetry was impressive, and beautifully executed. Page’s “Coureur de dot” (“Fortune Hunter”) returned to silks, with Foust twisting and swinging a variety of acrobat maneuvers.

A work by Marshall Ellis, an Orlando, Fla.-based choreographer with Alabama roots, closed the program. “Sonkei” (“Respect”) took the entire company through a complex web of movement. With a translucent shoji-inspired panel as a backdrop, dancers in combinations of two to eight moved freely on and off stage. Music by Hauschka, performed by violinist Hilary Hahn, added to the air of exoticism while dancers appeared in and out of silhouette. Its swift movement and rhythmic energy were fluid and engaging, and skillfully realized by ACB dancers.

Alabama-born choreographer Marshall Ellis’ “Sonkei” on Arova Contemporary Ballet’s “Fortuna” program

By Michael Huebner | mhuebner@al.com 
on April 10, 2013 at 2:35 PM, updated April 11, 2013 at 8:43 AM
BIRMINGHAM, Alabama — Marshall Ellis‘ burgeoning dance career will soon come full circle.On April 19-21, Arova Contemporary Ballet will present his “Sonkei” as part of a program titled “Fortuna” at Virginia Samford Theatre. It marks the return of a dancer and choreographer whose career got a jump start atAlabama School of Fine Arts 14 years ago.“I’m originally from north Alabama and moved to Birmingham when I was 15,” he said. “I did senior choreography work at the school’s direction. That’s when I started.”

AROVA CONTEMPORARY BALLET: “Fortuna.” Work by Marshall Ellis

Ellis had already been grounded in dance, starting jazz, hip-hop, tap, and the like at the age of 6 in his home town of Killen. But Ellis’ studies with Therese Laeger at ASFA gave him the background he needed for ballet. He was given the school’s highest award – the Prix d’Excellence de Dance – when he graduated. After landing a position with Ballet Austin II, he soon migrated to London, where he received a full scholarship to dance with “Images of Dance” at London Studio Centre. A position with Orlando Ballet followed, where he learned the ropes by dancing principal roles, corps de ballet, and serving as company representative. Branching out further, he left the company after six years to become an equity performer with Walt Disney World. He landed a role for “La Nouba,” the acrobatic Cirque du Soleil production at Walt Disney World Resort.

“I just auditioned – submitted a video and resume, and I got hired,” Ellis said. “They have only one ballet role in the entire company and that’s the one I hold – for ‘La Nouba.’ Each show has a set of characters that tell the story. I was classified as a leading character for the show.”

Not content to stick to just one or two projects, Ellis decided to start his own company, called ME Dance. Despite an uncertain economy, the fledgling company is doing well.

“Ever since I moved to Orlando, it’s something I wanted to do,” he said. “This is our second season. Our first venue was the Garden Theatre – we made almost $15,000 in six months.”

Despite the eight dance companies in Orlando, Ellis said he is not in competition with anyone.

“I promote all of them,” he said. “I want us all to do well because that’s building audiences.”

“Sonkei,” his work on Arova Contemporary Ballet’s shows, has Japanese inspiration.

“Sonkei means ‘respect’ in Japanese,” he said. “Respect your teacher, your sensei. You have one figure that’s leading an exercise at the beginning of the piece. The following is like an echo, a contagion. Then it builds and elevates on a theme through the piece. The music – Hauschka and violinist Hilary Hahn – has a Japanese feel to it.”

What’s in the PAPER?

ME Dance offers peek at heroes tribute show at ‘Play it for ME’

 By Matthew J. Palm, Orlando Sentinel Arts Writer

1:06 p.m. EST, March 8, 2013

ME Dance will host “Play it for ME,” a cabaret fundraiser, this Sunday, March 10.

Jeremy Collins of J Productions and Jayne Trinette will host the event, which features live music, singing, a silent auction and, of course, dancing.

As part of the program, ME Dance will present a work in progress for its world-premiere production of “Heroes,” which will open in May.

ME Dance debuts with first performance, 'Premiere'ME Dance debuts with first performance, ‘Premiere’

For the thrifty there are a few special offers in conjunction with the fundraiser: If you want to make an evening of it with dinner out, nearby restaurant Big Fin Seafood Kitchen is offering 10 percent off entrees if diners show their tickets to “Play it for ME.”

In addition, Big Fin will donate $3 per entrée to ME Dance.

Also, when buying tickets, if you are already planning to attend “Heroes,” buying a combination ticket to “Play It for ME” and “Heroes” will save a few dollars.

Tickets for “Play It for ME” are $20 online atmedance.org. At the door, they will be $25.

The ticket price includes wine, available throughout the evening.

“Play It for ME” will be at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, March 10, at The Sovereign Dance Academy, No. 210, 8060 Via Dellagio Way, Orlando. Big Fin Seafood Kitchen is in the Dellagio Plaza on Via Dellagio Way.

ME Dance Performance at Fringe at the Hard Rock

ME Dance presents ‘Bella’

By Matthew J. Palm, Orlando Sentinel Arts Writer

4:45 PM EST, November 14, 2012

WHAT: ME Dance’s second performance, titled “Bella,” explores stages of life in a mix of musical styles.

In “Bella,” explains ME Dance artistic director Marshall Ellis, a girl writes about life’s challenges and emotions. As she ages, her music playlist varies from classical to R&B and rock. The dances reflect both the music’s changes and the perspective changes of the girl as she grows to adulthood.

The troupe’s 12 dancers will be joined by guest artists Chris and Rachael Louk, who will perform “Young Love” by Ellis. All but two of the night’s nine works will be new choreography, including group numbers and solos. The other two pieces are favorites from ME Dance’s inaugural show, “Premiere.”

Like “Premiere,” Ellis says, “Bella” will also combine lighting and other multimedia effects with the dance. His choreography is joined by works by Michael D. Tindal.

WHERE: Lowndes Shakespeare Center, 812 E. Rollins St., Orlando

WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Nov. 23 and 24; 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 25

TICKETS: $20

ONLINE: MEdance.org

Thomas Thorspecken – http://www.analogartistdigitalworld.com/ ME Dance, Inc. is the Newest Professional Dance Organization located in the heart of Central Florida. I went to one of the final dress rehearsals for Bella by the Marshall Ellis Dance Company.  Bella is the second series of performances by this dance company. When I arrived, dancers were stretching and Marshall was sweeping the stage and applying what I’m guessing was a liquid wax to the flooring.  One dancer was wearing a white tutu and of course I felt compelled to sketch her. She was the first dancer to perform a solo. A large screen was set up onto which a video of this dancer was projected. She walked through a park and then began writing in her note book about life’s challenges and emotions. Each dance was preceded by one of these video segments in which she wrote about various aspects of life as she grew and matured. The human experience of love is designed for the sole purpose of showing you who you truly are and it is expressed vibrantly through dance.

After a full run through, Marshall Ellis asked the dancers if they could recite the dance company’s mission statement. It is, “To introduce innovative ideas through dance to create growth in the arts community. Our goal is to enrich the arts community by providing an outlet to feature talent in art through entertainment.”  He felt the first run was technically amazing but he wanted to feel that undefinable spark, the magic and joy of fully expressed emotion through entertainment. It wasn’t just about a smile, but about absolute commitment to artistic expression. With another hour to rehearse, the dancers performed a second time. This time they performed “all out”. A high energy 80’s dance number had all the dancers trying to catch their breath. Marshall has invested so much of himself to make ME Dance, the premiere dance company in Central Florida. That takes plenty of blood sweat and tears. As I left around 11PM, the dancers were still hard at work. Art isn’t easy.

Find us in the November Issue of Orlando Magazine!

ME Dance debuts with first performance, ‘Premiere’

By Matthew J. Palm, Orlando Sentinel Arts Writer

4:35 PM EDT, September 6, 2012

He’s only 28, but like all dancers Marshall Ellis sees the clock ticking.

Ellis, who danced with Orlando Ballet for six years, has started his own troupe, ME Dance, which will debut Saturday, Sept. 8, in a program at the Garden Theatre. In a profession notorious for the physical toll it takes, Ellis wanted to strike before he hung up his dance shoes.

“ENMV0002398″>”It’s something I’ve been wanting to accomplish for a while,” he says. “I wanted to do it while I can still dance, while I’m still intact.”

That helps him in his role as the company’s choreographer: “I can show the dancers more exactly than tell them.”

He already has seen what dancing can do the human body: “I’ve had knee surgery, two ankle surgeries,” he says with a grimace.

After his stint with Orlando Ballet, Ellis spent a year as the featured male dancer in Cirque du Soleil’s “La Nouba” at Downtown Disney. He currently performs as the male half of the aerial ballet duo in the “Festival of the Lion King” show at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

“You entertain 1,500 people at a time,” says Ellis, an Alabama native. “I love that aspect of it.”

He also works for Metropolis Productions in south Orange County. He teaches dance classes for the entertainment company; in return, Metropolis lets ME Dance rehearse there.

His 12 dancers — all female — come from Longwood to Kissimmee. Although the corps’ technique is ballet-based, their style is a far cry from lacy tutus.

Ellis throws out the words “athletic” and talks of “women empowerment” in describing Saturday’s show, called “Premiere.”

“It’s not dainty. Those dancers are going to be tired.” He grins. “Oh, what I’m making those girls do.”

Other choreography for “Premiere” comes from guest artists Michael D. Tindal and Addison Brasil.

The show, which will feature a mix of group numbers, solos and duos, is heavy on atmosphere, according to Ellis. A singer and musicians will provide live music. “A lot of lighting design will go into it,” he says.

As in any startup organization, Ellis is wearing many hats. Besides the choreographing, he’s running the website, creating marketing videos, designing that lighting.

“I like challenges. I knew it was going to be a lot of work,” he says. “It’s very time-consuming. I don’t go to sleep until 2 or 3.”

He’s used to hard work. Like many performers in Central Florida, he has often supplemented his passion with more mundane jobs to make ends meet.

In his Orlando Ballet days, he would open a Starbucks at 4:30 a.m., then go rehearse at the ballet all day, then serve in a restaurant at night. He worked several years at the Gap.

These days, he’s concentrating on ME Dance. He has an assistant, Alex Schudde — who is also his girlfriend.

“I’m her boss… I guess,” he says. A sheepish smile crosses his face, and he quickly adds: “But it’s a healthy relationship. She’s very respectful of my goals.”

The name ME Dance comes from his initials (his name is actually William Marshall Ellis, but he goes by Marshall). But he likes the extra layer of meaning.

“I saw it as good branding,” he says. “It has a centralized idea: that it’s all about you, yourself.”

Branding’s important to Ellis because he says he’s in it for the long haul.

“From a business perspective, it’s not going to make money at first. It’s an investment in something I want to do,” he says. “Everyone says ballet doesn’t sell here, dance doesn’t sell here — but it’s an entertainment city. I want to keep pushing the dance scene here.”

‘Premiere’

What: Debut performance by ME Dance

When: 8 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 8; 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 9

Where: Garden Theatre, 160 W. Plant St., Winter Garden

Tickets: $20

Call: 407-877-4736

Online: medance.org