Dancers Take Stage Sunday Night
BY MARY ELLE HUNTER
Special to The Pilot
The excitement is building as the date for the second annual Dancing with the Sandhills Stars draws near.
On Sunday, Jan. 30, 15 couples will take the stage in the Grand Ballroom of the Carolina Hotel, in Pinehurst, vying for the top prize in a dance extravaganza benefiting two mentoring programs for Moore County's youth.
The spirited competition features a glamorous evening of cocktails, dinner and high-stepping entertainment. However, because the winners will be chosen by the total number of votes they can gather from friends, family, business and professional associates or complete strangers rather than their expertise on the dance floor, the rivalry is intense.
The couples have become very adept at getting the word out. Mailers, together with photos, have been produced and sent out en masse via e-mail and regular mail. They have taken advantage of complimentary spots on local radio station 102.5, and the social networks like Facebook have been inundated with announcements.
One of the more enterprising ways to solicit votes has been a video shown on YouTube of one couple's practicing their hip-hop moves with students at a mentoring session, and a computerized poster produced with the couple's heads replacing the original likenesses of professional dancers by use of Photo Shop.
The best part of the voting scheme is that it is open to everyone - whether or not they are residents of Moore County, or from any other place in the United States or abroad. All it costs is $10 per vote, and online voting will continue through Saturday, Jan. 29. Votes can also be given to a couple in person or cast by mail. On the night of the event, after each couple's performance, audience members will have a last chance to vote on the spot for a couple of their choice with donations.
Cathy Smith, who with partner Pat McGowan was winner of the first Dancing with the Sandhills Stars held in January 2010 and a board member of Communities in Schools in Moore County, one of the recipients of funds raised, is co-chairing this year's event.
"We are depending on people to cast their votes for their favorite couple, because votes equate to dollar signs, and it's all about the children," she says. "Ultimately, the children are the real winners in the contest."
Co-chair Holly Floyd, a longtime board member of Moore Buddies, the other beneficiary of the proceeds, agrees.
"Both of our organizations are about mentoring, and in the case of Moore Buddies, the organization has no outside funding from federal, stateregional sources, so what we raise from this event is crucial to our continuing our programs," Floyd says. "Although Dancing with the Sandhills Stars is a fundraiser, it has become very popular and well-received because it is so much fun. It's a rare combination of great entertainment combined with raising much needed funds."
The inaugural Dancing with the Sandhills Stars raised more than $100,000 for Communities in Schools in Moore County and Moore Buddies. For this year's event, the organizing committee started the planning process in late September, and they have been able to garner more than 40 sponsors and advertisers for the program book, underlining the fact that Moore County is among the top counties in the state per capita for fundraising for nonprofit organizations.
Moore Buddies matches an adult who spends time once a week with a youngster, involving them in a wide range of activities, exposing them to a variety of experiences, while the Communities in Schools program operates within the school system itself. The nation's leading community-based organization helping youth to stay in school, succeed in school and be better prepared for life, Communities in Schools focuses on adults who spend an hour each week with a student, assisting them in setting goals and aiding them in reaching their objectives.
Choosing this year's roster of dancers wasn't a problem, according to the co-chairs.
"We had several people who came forward after seeing the show last year who said they wanted to be a dancer this year, and everyone else we approached was more than willing to participate in raising funds for mentoring Moore County youth," says Smith.
"We selected people from all walks of life - a good cross-section of the community - professionals, teachers, businessmen and women, volunteers and retirees," adds Floyd.
Working diligently with Smith and Floyd and the members of the committee has been Community in Schools board member Leslie Berkshire Bradley.
"The Fred Astaire Studio has been very supportive of the program, as well," says Bradley. "Dancers received complimentary choreography and dance lessons from the studio. In addition, the couples got advice on their presentations, including assistance in finding the appropriate costumes to wear."
The style of dress for dancers mirrors the style of dance they have chosen to perform.
"It's a broad spectrum," Bradley says, "everything from the rhumba, swing, shag, hip-hop, jive, jazz, disco, even the Charleston, the mambo and yoga positions set to music."
All the preparation is distilled into a 90-second performance by each of the 15 couples.
Cathy Smith remembers last year when she and her partner were on stage.
"It seemed like forever, but then when we watched the other teams, it was over in a flash," she says.
During the intermission, while the votes are tallied by volunteers from Rick McDermott's accounting firm, the more than 450 audience members will be entertained by a chorus from the 82nd Airborne Division, presenting a program of patriotic songs, and a dance demonstration by Missy Keller and Joe Hasson, professional instructors from the Fred Dance Studio in Pinehurst, who recently won the Astaire World Championship in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Sharing the master of ceremonies duties are Rich Rushforth of Muirfield Broadcasting and independent marketing consultant Beatriz Gill, a past Mrs. Moore County. They will be ably assisted by judges David Woronoff, publisher of The Pilot, Bill Smith and Deb Wimberly.
"The event is sold out, but online voting will continue through Saturday, Jan. 29, via www.sandhillsstars.com," says Bradley. "Make a donation to your favorite dancers and help Communities in Schools in Moore County and Moore County Buddies continue their valuable programs for the youth of the county."
Mary Elle Hunter is a Pinehurst freelance writer. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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