03/27/11 — Dancing the night away

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Dancing the night away

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on March 27, 2011 1:50 AM

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John Seegars and JoAnn Barbour dance a tango to "Santa Maria" during the Dancing Stars of Wayne County event at the Walnut Creek Country Club.

Wayne County can dance.

That was evidenced by the 26 contestants in Saturday night's first Dancing Stars of Wayne County event, a year in the making.

Dr. Debbie Grady had suggested the idea as a fundraiser for local education initiatives. Wayne Education Network and Wayne County Chamber of Commerce, along with Heritage Dance Foundation, served as sponsors for the event, held at the Walnut Creek Country Club.

As the participants prepared to go on stage, Dr. Steve Taylor, superintendent of Wayne County Public Schools, said he was "anxious, nervous but prepared."

"I'm anxious and nervous but if Kendra and Kirstie can do it, I can," said Shirley Harkey, vice president of patient services and chief nursing officer for Wayne Memorial Hospital, referring to contenders on the latest season the ABC TV show.

"Everybody worked really hard and practiced long hours, all for a good cause," Taylor said. "It's been worth the effort."

Taylor said he rehearsed 30 hours for his two-minute dance, a waltz to "Sunrise/Sunset" from "Fiddler on the Roof," with Charles B. Aycock High School student dancer Forrest Melvin.

Backstage, in the women's dressing room it was "just like a pajama party," said contestant Sue Hill, a  teacher at Grantham School.

Actually, the evening was a success before it even began. Marian Mason, president of the chamber, said tickets for the event had sold out more than a month ago.

Mrs. Grady said she had already received lots of grassroots support for future events, from both volunteers and participants for next year.

Scoring for the dancers began weeks ago, with online voting going into the night's production. Audience votes and "people's choice" selections were also taken, and three judges were on hand to make final selections -- Melissa Zwerling, head judge, Wayne County District Attorney Branny Vickory and county Manager Lee Smith.

Judging was based on two categories: technical, comprised of foot placement and technique, and performance, made up of stage presence and showmanship.

In addition, every dance told a story.

From the whimsical rendition of a cha cha by county commissioner Steve Keen and Ella Mae Hooker, depicting his visit to Madame Rue for some

"Love Potion No. 9," to a moving bolero by Curtis Stackhouse, an assistant district attorney.

Stackhouse walked onto the dance floor in an Air Force uniform, threw his weapon to the side and knelt wearily to the floor as strains of the Beatles' song "Let It Be" began to play and his partner, Ella Mae Hooker, approached and gently placed her hands on his shoulders before their dance began.

The performance drew a standing ovation for the couple from the judges and two scores of 10 -- one each for technique and performance.

Former county commissioner Jimmie Ford was another crowd favorite, for his shag to "Rocket 88" with Joy Williams. They earned three 10s from the judges and high praise from Smith.

"You're the coolest county commissioner I have ever seen," he said.

Winners were not announced before presstime. A complete list will appear in Monday's newspaper.

Two scholarships were announced. The Dr. Charles and Melissa Zwerling performing arts scholarship applications will be sent to all high schools and private schools by April 1, for students interested in studying performing arts in college. The scholarship is worth $1,000 and will be an annual award honoring the Zwerlings for their dedication to the dancing event.

Norman Hooker and Ella Mae Hooker dance student of excellence award, also an annual scholarship, for $500 worth of dance lessons at Top Hat Studio went to participant Lou Stubbs, a teacher at O'Berry Neuro-Medical Treatment Center.