Dover's Ecarté Dance Theatre debuted its original spring concert in 1981, the final year President Jimmy Carter served in office.

Dover’s Ecarté Dance Theatre debuted its original spring concert in 1981, the final year President Jimmy Carter served in office.

Five U.S. presidents later, Ecarté and its spring concerts have continued to withstand the test of time, presenting audiences with its flavorful brand of modern dance and contemporary ballet.

Ecarte Dance Theatre will kick off its 34th annual spring concert at Delaware State University on Saturday.

The performers will dance to vintage rock music to modern tunes like Idina Menzel’s pop hit “Let It Go,” from the Disney animated film “Frozen.”

“Let It Go” will be performed by novice dancers between the ages of 4 and 9. Artistic Director Judith Engelgau expects young theatergoers to go wild when the song begins.

“Every little girl in the universe loves [that song],” she said.

Considering how excited her young dancers get whenever they dance to the song during rehearsal, Engelgau expects her dancers’ enthusiasm to be off the charts on opening night.

“[Recently] one little girl said after our rehearsal, ‘Ms. Judy, this is the best day of my life,’” the Dover resident said.

New to this year’s concert is the large number of choreographers at seven. Typically, Engelgau choreographs the majority of the dances in a spring show, while Ecarté Dance Theatre Ballet Mistress Tricia Massey tackles a couple.

“We tried to branch out and give opportunities for creativity to other company members,” said Engelgau, who choreographed six pieces. “Over the years, I’ve tried to encourage younger company members to learn the art of choreography. I want to pass this on.”

The youngest company members to choreograph a piece for the spring concert are Gabrielle Beish, Ruby Rogers and Sierra Manifold, who are all between the ages of 10 and 14. The dancers will perform to the song “50 Ways to Say Goodbye” by Train.

The three dancers, who have never choreographed a piece before, at first thought that creating dances would be as simple as saying, “Let’s just turn on the music and dance and have fun,” Engelgau explained.

“Of course, you want your dance to be spontaneous,” she said. “But with choreography, it still has to be planned.”

Ultimately, the director is proud of what her young dancers drummed up for the show, and she takes no credit for their accomplishment.

“All I did was guide them and help them shape it,” she said. “I insisted the choreography and ideas be theirs, and theirs totally.”

Veteran dancers Massey and Lisa Scott co-created a piece to the music of “Sail By” by the electro rock band Awolnation. In the piece, the dancers pretend to chase one another. The dancers describe the piece as being a graceful one that has an edge to it.

“It’s very fluid and intense,” said Massey of Felton.

Kimberly Cox, who’s performing in four pieces in the spring concert, attributes the longevity of the series to Engelgau’s love for dancing and her commitment to Ecarté Dance Theatre’s performers. Case in point, Engelgau has trained Cox since she was a 1-year-old. Now 28, Cox said she’s grateful to remain under Engelgau’s tutelage.

“I admire her dedication to not only dancing in general, but to all of us,” the Dover resident said. “Ecarté has been around for over 30 years, but I think over the years she’s developed a [special] relationship with all of us.”


WHAT Écarté Dance Theatre’s spring concert

WHEN 7 p.m., Saturday

WHERE Delaware State University (Education and Humanities Theatre), 1200 N. Dupont Highway, Dover

COST $15 for adult and $10 for students and seniors

INFO Visit or call 270-8124 or 674-4689