01/26/12 — Dance contestants keep eyes focused on their partners -- and the prize

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Dance contestants keep eyes focused on their partners -- and the prize

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on January 26, 2012 1:46 PM

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Allison Carter

Instructor Sue Gregg, left, practices dance moves with George Worrell Wednesday at Top Hat Ballroom Dance Studio. Worrell is one of 25 contestants in the upcoming Dancing Stars of Wayne County event, to be held March 24 at the YMCA. Proceeds from the competition will benefit education projects.

With eight weeks to go until the second annual Dancing Stars of Wayne County, the competition is well under way, organizers say.

The 25 contestants have been busy scheduling rehearsals, said Debbie Grady, chairwoman of the event, and Top Hat Ballroom Dance Studio has stepped up its response.

"They've increased the number of practices," she said. "They teach beginning ballroom lessons on Mondays and Thursdays. A lot of our stars are taking those in addition to the free private lessons. I expect this year's will be a very professional show."

The event, planned for March 24 at 6 p.m., will be held at the YMCA. The Heritage Dance Foundation, a non-profit organization, partnered with the Wayne Education Network to create the fundraiser, which benefits local education projects.

From the outset, space has been an issue, as tickets quickly sold out for the 2011 event. Organizers said they hope that will be improved upon this year by the move to the Family Y, which affords additional viewing areas in the gymnasium as well as the walking track.

Dr. Charles Zwerling, owner of Top Hat and executive producer of the upcoming show, has taken it a step further.

He recently purchased the building adjacent to his dance studio on Center Street, the former Acme Theater.

"The purpose of buying it was to create a performing arts rehearsal center that would work in conjunction with the Paramount Theatre," he said this week. "In the last few months we have really done the major renovations. We're open, but we haven't had the grand opening."

Right now, the 4,500 square foot space -- featuring a 2,400 foot dance floor and an adjacent 26x18-foot stage area -- offers the ideal area for contestants in both the dance event as well as upcoming Miss Goldsboro pageant to practice.

"We can configure any stage from the Paramount to Johnson or Wayne Community College," Zwerling said. "So the stars at least have an orientation of that as they rehearse."

The local ophthalmologist has his sights set on even bigger things for ZPAC -- Zwerling Performing Arts Center.

"I see the potential for other groups to use it," he said, hinting at a possible March date for the targeted grand opening. "I will invite the artistic companies just to show them the space is available."

He also anticipates making a more official announcement in the near future concerning Hailey Best, the reigning Miss North Carolina, once she relinquishes her crown in June.

"She will be theater director," he said. "Right now she has been helping setting things up. She will officially take over. She's got a ton of ideas."

For now, the building is in the renovation stages, and Zwerling is pleased to accommodate the fledgling dancers preparing for the March fundraiser.

"Some of these (contestants) are very good. They didn't even know it themselves," he said. "This is a win-win. I can't think of a better project to be involved in.

"It's one of the main reasons I bought the building."

For more information on the Dancing Stars event, the contestants or to vote online, visit www.thedancingstars.org or www.wayneeducationnetwork.org.