By Abbey Snow
Mesquite Toes Dance Troupe presents ‘Holiday Sampler’
The Mesquite Toes Dance Troupe will be performing their ‘Holiday Sampler’ on November 19-20 at the Mesquite Community Theatre to highlight numerous holidays and celebrations throughout the year
“Since we have been stuck inside (due to Covid) and have not been able to celebrate all the normal holidays, our performance in November is called Holiday Sampler,” Vice President of the Mesquite Toes Dance Troupe Board of Directors, Cherie Kempe said. “ It will highlight numerous holidays and celebrations throughout the year. We have one number to celebrate each month of the year. We have some added performers in addition to the Toes such as; Linda Nelson, the Sun River Jazz Dancers and Sun River Western Dancers from Utah. As a special treat, some of the husbands and male friends of the Toes have volunteered to perform with us.”
Marge Westwood is the director of the Mesquite Toes Dance Troupe. She has been with the troupe since 2003, when it was founded.
“I am so excited to be back in our local Mesquite Community Theater without the Covid restrictions that we had last year,” Westwood said. “It is opening seating but masks must be worn. We love our audiences and they are so supportive!”
The Mesquite Toes Dance Troupe Is a senior dance team that uses practice and performance to promote the health and teamwork of the membership. The group was founded in December, 2003 under the name of The Mesquite Toes Tap Team by Vicki Eckman. Eckman was the director and choreographer until she retired in 2016.
“We are an inclusive group and welcome anyone to join,” Kempe said. “We currently have members from around age 60 through 77, with the average age being 65. In addition, we have men as well as women in our group, so anyone is welcome.”
Mesquite Toes Dance Troupe entire ensemble at the Spring Spectacular in April, 2021( Photo by Bruce Hughes)
Kempe said they have four main performing teams: Jazz, Clog, Intermediate Tap and Advanced Tap. They also offer Beginning Tap and Beginning Clog classes for those who have very little or no experience, but those members usually do not perform.
“The group provides all of us a sense of camaraderie, friendship, and cooperation,” Kempe said. “In addition, it’s a great aerobic workout! Many studies have proven that dance improves not only your physical well-being, but also your mental and emotional health. Learning and remembering dance steps helps your memory as you age, and being part of this wonderful group provides a sense of purpose and an opportunity to be part of the community.”
Mesquite Toes Clog Team at the Spring Spectacular in April, 2021( Photo by Bruce Hughes)
The Director and the Instructors coordinate the creative aspects of the classes and performances. The current Director is Marge Westwood, who was one of the original Toes, which was founded in 2003. Tracy Bybee is the Tap and Jazz instructor. Tracy brings with her over 40 years of dance experience, including owning her own studio in Salt Lake City. Debbie Miller is the Clog instructor and has been teaching Clogging to adults and children throughout most of her adult life, Kempe said.
Mesquite Toes Jazz Team at the Spring Spectacular in April, 2021( Photo by Bruce Hughes)
As the Vice President, Kempe assists the President of the Board of Directors with administrative tasks and fills in for her during her absence. The board of directors of Mesquite Toes oversees the operations of the organization, while the director and instructors oversee the performance, dance, and artistic aspects of the organization. She is also in the Advanced Tap and Jazz teams.
“My personal dance experience began at age three,” Kempe said. “I studied Tap, Ballet, and Jazz from then and throughout college. I assisted with school musicals during my career as a teacher, both in choreography and instruction. When I retired, originally in Florida, I joined a tap team at our over-55 community there and have been dancing ever since. I was thrilled when we moved to Mesquite to learn that there was a dance team here, so I joined the Toes as soon as I moved here in 2017. This is my fifth year with the Toes.”
Kempe has been in all the Mesquite Toes performances since she joined. They normally put on two shows per year: one around Christmas-time and one Spectacular in April. Additionally, they have performed at various community venues such as the Festival of Trees, the United Methodist Church, and the VV-Ettes Spring Dance Show. They also march in the Veteran’s Day Parade, the Parade of Lights in December, and have marched in the VVHS Homecoming Parade as well.
“One particularly memorable show was last year in 2020,” Kempe said. “ We were so ready to perform for the community after being stuck inside during Covid that we performed on a portable stage outside at the Mesquite Rec Center. It was November, and it was freezing and even rained at one performance! But, everyone was socially distanced! It felt great to perform again and the community response was very positive.”
Marge Westwood joined the group when it was founded in 2003. She didn’t have previous dance experience but loved exercising to music, so she thought she would give it a try. She has stayed with the group ever since, and in turn taken on various tasks. Her responsibilities with Mesquite Toes include: arranging details and logistics for the shows,parades and all performances; organizing the fill acts, volunteers, programs, and advertising. She also teaches the beginning Tap Class.
“I love to dance,” Westwood said. “It is good for my brain and body. When people move to Mesquite they usually leave their family and friends behind. Having a group of fun and energetic ladies that become instant friends is a wonderful feeling! We are always joking and laughing with each other and we have a great time. It is the camaraderie with the other dancers that makes it so fun!”
The Mesquite Toes Tap Team perform the finale “That’s Dancing” at the Spring Spectacular in April, 2021( Photo by Bruce Hughes)
The Mesquite Toes have previously performed on Holland America cruise ships, Knotts Berry Farm, New York(at the Nets and Knicks game pre show), Palm Springs, Branson, MO, various venues in Nevada and Utah, and many others.
The Mesquite Toes Dance Troupe is a 501 (c) 3 non profit corporation, helping in their community and performing when they can.
“I love that our group is a non-profit organization and we help the community and other non-profits in Mesquite,” Westwood said.
The Mesquite Toes has given back to the community of Mesquite in many ways. Traditionally, the proceeds from their Christmas show are donated to organizations dedicated to helping the community such as the Salvation Army, We Care for Animals, Virgin Valley Food Bank, Shop with a Cop, etc.. Two years ago, they used the proceeds to fund scholarships for local high school seniors, Westwood said.
Mesquite Toes Jazz Team perform ‘Aladdin ‘ at the Spring Spectacular in April, 2021( Photo by Bruce Hughes)
“We are open to new members, you do not have to know how to dance.” Westwood said. “Beginners will be taught from the ground up and then moved into teams. The dance teams are Jazz, Tap, and Clog. New members do not have to perform, they can be in class, learn the choreography but they do not have to perform if they are not feeling ready. It is totally up to them.”
Those interested in joining can contact firstname.lastname@example.org. New classes will be starting after the holidays. You can visit their website at www.mesquitetoestapteam.com
The Mesquite Toes Dance Troupe will perform their ‘Holiday Sampler’ on November 19th at 1:00 p.m., and November 20th at 1:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. at the Mesquite Community Theatre at 150 N Yucca Street, Mesquite, NV. Tickets are $12 and can be purchased online at mctnv.com, Mesquite Fine Arts Center, or at the Mesquite Community Theatre Box Office on Thursdays 4 – 6 pm, or one hour before the performance.