Gotta dance: Area ‘stars’ dance the night away for a cause
by Erin Williams
Special to The Star
Feb 23, 2014 | 5072 views |  0 comments | 48 48 recommendations | email to a friend | print
From left, Edith Couth, Osita Onyekwere, Jamie Pruitt, Alemena Free, Alex Casey, Susan LeCoq, Randy Moeller and Amber Harris are among this year's 'Dancing with Our Stars' participants. Submitted photo
From left, Edith Couth, Osita Onyekwere, Jamie Pruitt, Alemena Free, Alex Casey, Susan LeCoq, Randy Moeller and Amber Harris are among this year's 'Dancing with Our Stars' participants. Submitted photo
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The art of the dance is one that can take on many forms. Some are elegant, some are interpretative, and others are just … funky — but in a good way. Outside of a wedding reception line dance, it takes a lot of courage to bust a move in public. Unless it’s for a good cause, that is.

So its no surprise that when it’s time for our favorite local personalities to learn to tango, of course it’s all in the name of charity.

On March 8, the Anniston Rotary is bringing back “Dancing With Our Stars” for its fifth year to drum up support for 12 area nonprofits. Last year, the event brought in more than $80,000 and to date, funds have totaled more than a quarter-million dollars. Of the dozen organizations that will benefit, a third are primarily focused on the wellbeing of children.

“You can never put enough into raising a child. For that alone, that’s worth coming out and supporting the event,” said Noon Rotary Club president Jan Hurd. “We’re expecting to raise enough to match every dollar made by two.” Each organization also does its own fundraising via ticket sales prior to the night of the event, and will have a representatives present to help count dancer votes.

This is the first year that both the Noon and the Morning Rotary Clubs have combined fundraising efforts in order to drum up more support, as well as involving corporate sponsors.

“I think it gives the community a night to go out and have fun and emulate what they see on national television as a fun event, but also ... that gives back to the nonprofits that do a lot of good for the community,” says Katherine Tooker, executive director of Grace Episcopal’s Preschool Friends program. She estimates that the preschool’s tuition-free readiness program for 4-year-olds has received around $35,000 over the past five years from the event alone. “It’s been a really good relationship for our preschool to be a part of Dancing With Our Stars every year.”

The dances aren’t your simple two-steps, however — swing dance, cha-chas, rumbas and tangos are just a few of the routines that might be seen. As a former Stars participant herself, Hurd has both taught and learned her share of routines in past competitions.

“I didn’t think at the time that I would have any desire to dance beyond the competition, but I had so much fun and enjoyed learning how to dance that I began taking lessons,” she says, calling it “great exercise.”

Everyone knows a party isn’t a party without an after party so immediately following the show, VIP ticketholders can enjoy food, drinks, music and, of course, dancing. But no judges, thank goodness.

“That’s really where the fun starts. After the performance and all the competition, then you just go and have fun,” said Hurd. Plus, anyone can get a kick out of seeing their family physician, attorney — even their pastor — bust a move for a good cause.

“Most people go and they know someone in (the competition),” said Tooker. “If they don’t know them personally they know of them … and the dancers work so hard to put on a good show for everybody.”

There are three ways for dance couples to win: For the Community Choice Award, dance couples fundraise through online donations in addition to ticket and corporate table sales, where every dollar counts as one vote. For the Audience Choice Award, audience will vote for their favorite the night of the dance, and a panel of judges that includes Mayor Vaughn Stewart will hand out the Juried Award decision based on presentation and technique.

Above all, the competition demonstrates that the community will do whatever it takes to keep a good cause going.

Hurd advises newbies not to make eye contact with the audience and to just enjoy their moment on stage.

“That’s the time to rejoice because you’ve put the hard work in,” she said. “Take a big breath and get out there and make it happen.”


IF YOU GO...
WHAT: Dancing With Our Stars
WHEN: March 8 at 6:30 p.m.
WHERE: Anniston High School Performing Arts Center
TICKETS: $20 regular, $75 VIP
INFO: Online visit www.dancingforrotary.com
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Gotta dance: Area ‘stars’ dance the night away for a cause by Erin Williams
Special to The Star

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