03/28/11 — Dancing trophies awarded

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Dancing trophies awarded

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on March 28, 2011 1:46 PM

The first annual Dancing Stars of Wayne County event was a rousing success, even before all the trophies were handed out, said Dr. Debbie Grady, who introduced the concept more than a year ago.

With 26 contestants and countless hours of dance preparation by instructors and principals from Top Hat Dance Studio, it all culminated into a four-hour event Saturday night at Walnut Creek Country Club. Sponsored by WEN, Wayne Education Network, and the Wayne County Chamber of Commerce, the gala was a fundraiser for area education initiatives, including scholarships for prospective teachers, teacher mini-grants and a middle school career fair.

More than a dozen trophies were handed out to top performers, but the ultimate prize went to the president of the Mount Olive Area Chamber of Commerce, Tyler Barwick.

A vision in red, Ms. Barwick and her partner, Scott Reinier, performed a tango/paso to "Roxanne" from the movie "Moulin Rouge," earning some of the highest marks during the opening segment, with all 9's for technical and performance from the judges.

Their grand winner trophy represented the highest combination of all scores and votes, both online and at the event.

People's Choice award, for the star with the most votes from the audience, went to John Seegars, vice president of Seegars Fence Co.

A crowd favorite from the moment he literally dragged his dance partner, JoAnn Barbour, across the floor, their tango to "Santa Maria" earned them the first "9" scores for the evening from the judges.

Interviewing Seegars after the performance, Craig Doubt, co-host for the evening, asked, "Which would you rather do every day, the tango or fencing?"

"Fencing," came back the quick reply.

"Would you do this again?" Doubt asked.

"Yes, for the same cause (education), for the children," Seegars said.

Online People's Choice Award, for the star with the most online votes, was Lori Dubose, member services director at the Goldsboro Family YMCA. She performed a quickstep with Marty Barbour and was also recognized by the judges with the trophy for best technical female performance.

The Judges Choice award, for technical quality, level of difficulty and dance performance for the night went to Jimmie Ford, former legislator and county commissioner.

Ford earned three 10's from the judges for his performance as a man having to choose between buffing his sporty car and dancing with his partner, Joy Williams. The shag also netted him a second trophy, for best technical male performance.

Ms. Grady said she couldn't be more pleased with how everything turned out.

"I think the event proved to be entertaining, fun and at the same time allowed us an opportunity to raise money to fund our education projects," she said.

Although she did not have final totals of how much was brought in by the fundraiser, between online voting and the night of the event, she said she anticipates it will be an impressive contribution for expanding educational efforts.

"We want to grow a large scholarship base in Wayne County, not just for those who want to be teachers, but those that want to continue their college education," she said. "In this economy, students are struggling. Not only have state dollars dwindled but federal dollars."

For its first outing, she said she was pleased with the response and potential for future years. There's only one down side, she added.

"We need a larger venue because we actually sold out in less than 34 days," she said. "We regret that we did not have a larger venue but it was just not possible to change it."

The vision for the dancing event may have been introduced over a year ago, but her awareness and research into it began even further back.

When she was asked to help WEN by writing a grant and realized how scarce those were becoming, she knew the time was right for a fundraiser that had already been proven successful in other communities.

"My thinking was the funding for grants has decreased just like funding for scholarships has decreased," she said. "I realized we're just going to have to make our own money."

She herself became interested in ballroom dancing in early 2009. With the increasing popularity of the TV show "Dancing with the Stars," it seemed an easy sell for the community.

While it was in theory, there was one hurdle, she said.

"When we initially started discussing this project, everyone was confident that we would not be able to sell these tickets at $100 each," she said. "I held fast that I had done the research, other communities have done this and because it was something for education and something that we believed in, that it would.

"I just knew that the commitment was there."

Reflecting on the entire process Sunday afternoon, Ms. Grady said she was happy with the outcome.

"What I loved about last night's event was that it was packed and everyone was excited," she said. "I saw people get confidence on that dance floor that I didn't see three months ago, that were absolutely terrified at doing it in front of a lot of people. ...

"I think everyone that participated in this, whether they were dancing, instructors, a volunteer or somebody's mother that came to watch them, they were part of the mission. I just felt the love in the room -- not just for the dancers but the family members. Everybody had those stories."

The weekend is scarcely over and Ms. Grady said she is already looking forward to next year's event. She has heard from volunteers and interested participants for the next one and said she will soon meet with her chairpeople to discuss what was most effective and what areas could be improved upon.

Meanwhile, other awards handed out Saturday night included:

*Female outstanding performance, judges choice: Dee Dee Doherty

*Male outstanding performance, judges choice: Dr. Ed Wilson

*Most Inspirational performance, voted by the stars: Dr. Steve Taylor

*Most Improved male dancer, voted by the instructors: Dr. Anthony Hamm

*Most Improved female dancer, voted by the instructors: Patti Mitchell

*Heritage cash scholarship awards, for the young dancers who are students: Allen Grimes, Forrest Melvin, Teghan Bland

*Norman and Ella Mae Hooker ballroom dance scholarship award for a student who showed excellent interest in dance: Lou Stubbs.

The Dr. Charles and Melissa Zwerling Performing Arts Scholarship award will also be presented to a Wayne County senior who intends to major in a performing arts degree program. Applications will be sent to all high schools and private schools and available to home-schooled seniors. Applications may be obtained through Wayne County Chamber of Commerce. Deadline is May 1.

Photographs of the event will be made available by The Gain Gallery, www.caingallery, and a DVD of the performances can be purchased for $25. For more information on that, visit www.wayneeducationnetwork.org.