11/05/10 — Chamber tries to recruit dancers to become stars

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Chamber tries to recruit dancers to become stars

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on November 5, 2010 1:46 PM

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Bubba and Joy Williams demonstrate a dance routine during a recruitment reception for Dancing with Wayne County Stars. The event is a fundraiser that will support various Wayne Education Network projects including scholarships for prospective teachers and other Wayne County students.

Two by two Thursday evening, instructors from Top Hat Ballroom Dance Studio of Goldsboro demonstrated possible options for potential dancers in the upcoming Dancing with the Wayne County Stars gala event -- the mambo, rumba and disco among them.

Seated at one of the tables, former county commissioner and state legislator Jimmie Ford said to no one in particular, "Are you going to do this?"

"I'm ready," replied Dr. Steven Taylor, schools superintendent.

"Yeah, about 50 years ago," came county commissioner J.D. Evans' response.

"I'm looking at my two left feet," said Chuck Allen, mayor pro-tem.

"You guys don't have to worry, everyone will be looking at the ladies," said Steve Hicks, executive director of the Chamber of Commerce.

The reception, held at Murphy's Place, was an opportunity to "take a step in support of education," with the first step being to elicit participants for the spring fundraiser.

Dancing with the Wayne County Stars -- to benefit the Junior Leadership Program, mini-grants for teachers and scholarships for future educators -- is being sponsored by Wayne County Chamber of Commerce and the Wayne Education Network. It will be held March 26, 2011 at Walnut Creek Country Club.

"We're looking for 20 to 24 dancers," said Janet Brock of the Chamber. "What we don't get tonight, we'll be making some personal phone calls over the next week.

"We're really excited about this. ... We have probably got a half-dozen that said 'yes.' We have military support, the schools, we have got the city, young professionals association, private sector, Chamber leadership. We have got a lot of good folks involved."

Thursday's presentation was an opportunity to sell potential dancers from the community on the idea and give them an idea of what to expect if they agree to take part.

"We're doing this to help promote education in our county," Debbie Grady, chairman of the event's planning committee, told the gathering. "The reason we invited all of you special guests is because we consider you stars in Wayne County -- people who show leadership, people who have influence with people in your community."

Rest assured, she encouraged, each will be paired with a trained instructor to guide them through the dance steps.

"I hear some people coming in tonight saying, 'I have two left feet,'" she said. "That's OK. They can work with two left feet."

But Dr. Charles Zwerling, owner of Top Hat Studio and event director, said it is a physical impossibility to actually have two left feet.

"I have never in my life seen anybody with two left feet," he said. "That's an excuse, but it doesn't exist. We can get you to dance. I promise you, if you can walk, we can teach you to dance."

Norman Hooker, one of the instructors, took it a step further.

"In all my years -- I started teaching in 1980 -- I have only had one lady walk out on me and say she couldn't dance. She didn't want to be there in the first place," he said.

Certainly, it will be a challenge, Hooker added, and will require a commitment of 20 to 25 hours for lessons in the coming months.

While that may have bolstered some, for others it may be a detriment.

Taylor, still trying to back up his earlier claim of being ready to sign on, admitted later, "The only thing I was concerned about was, is 20 hours going to be enough time?"

It's all for charity, Mrs. Grady reminded the group. And for local education.

"What we're trying to do with WEN is support public schools but also provide additional resources to help in educating our children," said Dr. Ed Wilson, chairman of Wayne Education Network. "Another part of the program is scholarships for potential teachers, sponsoring a career fair for seventh-graders. We're working on a program now to provide mentors for classrooms in grades 6-8.

"What we're trying to do with our emphasis in the middle grades is try to get the kids to keep from dropping out of school."

The dance instructors were also enthusiastic about the upcoming gala and the chance to share their expertise.

Forrest Melvin, perhaps the youngest at 17, is a senior at Charles B. Aycock High School. She began doing ballroom dance about a year ago, but has actually been dancing for about 13 years.

"She is a very good dancer, very graceful and has a lot of poise," said Carl Williams, also an instructor.

He said dancing is not only an enjoyable activity, but it brings people together.

"I enjoy the ability to teach other people to dance and see how much fun it is," he said.

"I'm going to sign up, I want all the rest of you to sign up," Wilson told the audience.

Joe Huffman, city manager, agreed to participate but was undecided on which dance he would likely choose.

"It depends on who I'm dancing with. I'll see what they want to do," he said.

Does that mean he's feeling confident going into it?

"Absolutely not," he said. "But I'm OK with that. A lot of what I do I'm uncomfortable going in. If I knew how to do it, I wouldn't even learn. But it's scary."

"I feel pretty good," Ford said. "I look forward to it. It's going to be for a good cause. The money goes for education and that's my main reason."

Ford said he will probably choose to do a swing dance, or the cha cha, two of his favorite dances.

"(The instructor) said the swing was easy, right?" Taylor mused. "Then I'll say between the swing and the foxtrot and the cha cha."

The cause was definitely the motivating reason to sign up, the superintendent said.

"It's just going to be a great way to raise money for educational efforts but also have fun while you're doing it," he said. "It's a little bit more exciting than a reverse drawing.

"It's a new creative way to kind of bring the community together for a lot of fun. But you don't have to be a professional (dancer). At least they told us we don't have to be a professional. I just think it will be a great evening for the whole community."