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The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

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The Daily Eastern News


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EIU dancers present “Time of Our Lives”

Rob Le Cates
From right Mandy Transon, a senior early childhood special education major, locks hands with Rachel Wisner, a sophomore accounting major, at the end of their duet “The Other Side” from “The Greatest Showman” by Hugh Jackman and Zac Efron during the second dress rehearsal Wednesday at The Theatre at the Doudna Fine Arts Center. The two codirected the show and came up with the show’s theme “Time of our Lives” because Transon is graduating and has had the time of her life and Wisner is just now starting to have the time of her life.

With a flash of the lights, a tap of a shoe and a roll of the body, the EIU dancers took to the stage in the Doudna Fine Arts Center, performing its annual spring showcase.  

The show, titled “Time of Our Lives,” featured 20 songs spanning a range of dance styles like contemporary, jazz, tap and hip hop. The nine-person group performed at 7:30 p.m. Friday.

Junior secondary English education major Amber Benhart attended the performance to celebrate the birthday of and support her roommate Lex Coniglio, a performer and choreographer in the EIU dancers.

“I loved it. It was probably my favorite [show] in the three years I’ve seen the dancers,” she said.  

Benhart’s favorite dance of the night was “Somebody That I Used to Know.” The contemporary-style duet featured performers Coniglio and Ella Penca and was one of three songs choreographed by Coniglio for the show. 

This year’s showcase theme was first inspired by “Time of Our Lives” by Pitbull and Ne-Yo back in August.

At first, the idea for the theme revolved around the best times in our lives. However, as the directors Mandy Transon and Rachel Wisner brainstormed, the meaning evolved and broadened. 

“Time of Our Lives” moved to times. The good times, bad times, the hard times in between and the times that seem so small now that will be looked back on fondly in the years to come. 

With a broader theme, the directors could implement a wider variety of dances and emotions. 

“This show is more a sense of who you are all the time. Like, this is your life, not just what you see on the front page,” Transon said. 

For the senior early childhood special education major, this show was about reflecting on her time in college, what she described as the time of her life.

When Transon came to college, she brought with her an extensive love for dance.

“I wasn’t ready to end my dance career,” she said. 

Transon has been dancing since she was 3. She started dancing competitively at age 7 and never looked back, she said.  

“Every day after school, especially the older I got, I would go to the studio and I would be there 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday, and on Saturday I would be there all day,” she said.  

When she first came to EIU, Transon joined the Pink Panthers Dance Team. She danced with them for a year and a half before moving to the EIU dancers, where she has danced for three years. She spent this year and last year as a director, choreographing, scheduling practices, reserving rooms, creating events and more in the role alongside Wisner.

“It’s very nice, a very loving team and a good experience,” she said. “And I didn’t have to leave dance.” 

Transon’s favorite dances in the show are the duet between her and Wisner to “The Other Side” by Hugh Jackman and Zac Efron and a tribute she choreographed for those who have had cancer, are battling cancer or who have been taken by cancer to “Heaven’s Not Too Far” by We Three. 

For Wisner and the other dancers, “Time of Our Lives” refers in part to what they’re experiencing right now: life in college.  

“I like the aspect of the theme that’s like the ups and the downs because you think college is like yeah, the time of your life, but it’s not always going to be amazing,” Wisner said. 

Wisner, a sophomore accounting major who is in her first year as an EIU dance director, has been dancing for 15 years.  

She started out doing tap dancing when she was younger because of her sister, she said. Eventually in middle school, Wisner began to compete, continuing in competition through high school. 

However, the competition burnt Wisner out. EIU dance, she said, helped reignite her passion because it is noncompetitive.  

“I’m just really grateful this exists,” Wisner said. “It helped me a lot as a freshman to transition to college and from what I’ve heard from our team, I think a lot of other people agree with that.” 

Wisner’s favorite dance in this show is a duet she shared with her boyfriend Blaine Burns, who joined the EIU dancers this year just to perform with his partner. Wisner taught Burns how to dance from scratch for their shared song “Pointless” by Lewis Capaldi. 

Both directors said they preferred this year’s show theme to last year because it felt more real and relatable.  

Advisor of the EIU dancers Larry Cox was impressed with the changes the EIU dancers have made this year.

“They’ve been really fun to work with,” he said. “They’re so organized. They are dedicated to rehearsing. 

Cox was asked to advise the dancers four years ago and has been sharing the role with Director of Programming, Publicity and Promotion at Doudna, Dennis Malak. The advisers aid the dancers in organization but have little to no creative impact on the show.  

This year, Transon and Wisner started planning earlier, in September right after auditions, Cox said. Alongside the early start, the directors allocated different roles to more dancers, adding two more choreographers—Coniglio and Xiana Pettis, a social media manager—Ella Penca—and a fundraising coordinator—Kassidy Prebstle.  

“They have given people within the group different leadership roles, which is awesome,” Cox said. “Then as a student group, not only are you having people in leadership roles in terms of dance but also other arts roles that you would have out in the real world. They’ve done that really well this year.” 

This week, Cox said, the EIU dancers were in tech week, adding in costumes, lighting and the Doudna crew to the show. 

This performance was senior Estela Guzman’s first time lighting a dance show. The theatre arts major with an emphasis in technology and design has worked on many theatre productions but said dance shows were a different ball game in terms of design. 

“In dance, we use a lot of side lights so we can emphasize the dancers’ movements, while in plays we like to focus on seeing actors’ expressions and getting an understanding of the environment,” Guzman said.  

The lights in the performance also featured several back-lit moments, creating a silhouette effect on the dancers that highlighted their movements.  

“Everybody tried their hardest,” said Transon. “We’re ready to run it tomorrow.” 

“Time of Our Lives” will be shown twice more on Saturday at Doudna, first at 2 p.m. and finally at 7:30 p.m. Tickets can be purchased on its website. 


 Alli Hausman can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected].

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About the Contributors
Alli Hausman
Alli Hausman, Copy Chief
Alli Hausman is a sophomore journalism major and can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].
Rob Le Cates
Rob Le Cates, Editor-in-Chief
Rob Le Cates is a junior journalism major. He previously served as summer editor-in-chief, photo editor and assistant photo editor at The News.

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