'Dancing for the Arts'

February 1, 2012

By ERIC STEINKOPFF - Bulletin Staff Writer

Area residents will be polishing their dancing shoes and practicing their steps for a “Dancing with the Stars”-type contest to be held April 21 in Martinsville.

Called Dancing for the Arts, the event is a fundraiser featuring 16 area residents in a primarily ballroom dance competition. It will raise money for Piedmont Arts Association educational programs at Carlisle, Martinsville and Henry County schools.

“It benefits the education programs that the Piedmont Arts Association supplies to all three school systems,” said Piedmont Arts board member J. David Martin during Tuesday night’s introduction of the dance teams.

The “Dancing with the Stars” television program is a ballroom dance competition in which a celebrity is paired with an experienced dancer. Viewers can vote by phone or by Internet for the couple of their choice. One couple is eliminated each week until the winning couple remains.

The local competition likely will be held at either Martinsville High School or Bassett High School, said Martin, who came up with the idea for the event last spring.

It will be shown on Channel 18, and viewers or interested residents may vote for their favorite dancers for $1 per choice. Or they can double their voting money by joining Piedmont Arts Association at any level.

The public can vote by phone, online or in person at the event, and those votes will be added to the votes from the judges.

“They’re able to vote on the spot as well,” Martin said, adding that there will be four to five judges, primarily from the Martinsville community, who will be announced at a later date.

“Vote as many times as you wish,” Martin said. The winners “will be announced at the conclusion of the event.”

The dancers were announced Tuesday with considerable suspense.

“We asked for a lot of nominations on the side — from the community. At least someone on the council (selection committee) knew” the dancers, said Martin, who served on the selection committee with Martha Ferrell and Joan Montgomery, who also is on the Piedmont Arts Association board.

The individuals selected gathered at Piedmont Arts on Tuesday, where they were interviewed, photographed and paired with someone compatible in appearance and personality.

“We took pictures the first introduction night” to see “how they look together,” Montgomery said. “Some of these people have danced a little bit, but others haven’t.”

The selection results were a secret until Tuesday night.

“There are only three people in the room who know, and we’re sworn to secrecy,” Martin said before the event.

The couples chosen were: Clay Campbell and Kathy Rogers, John Collins and Ann Nichols, Joe DeVault and Joanie Davis, Tom Fitzgibbons and Susan Shively, Greg Hackenberg and Katrina Perry, Trey Harris and Ama Waller, Devin Pendleton and Crystal Bowles, and Ed Reynolds and Debbie Lewis.

Each leader, or male dancer, was announced, and then he was joined by his follower, or female partner, when she was announced. Each woman involved drew the name of a dance from a hat that was passed around the room. That will be the couple’s primary dance. Each pair is to come up with a free dance of their choice with their coach to be announced by Monday.

“The way it works, the coach will give them an assignment,” and “their rehearsal schedules are up to them,” Martin said.

The free dance has almost no limitation on style.

“They can choose any dance or combination of dancing” so long as it lasts “between a minute and a half and two minutes,” Martin said.

As they practice over the upcoming weeks, there likely will be opportunities for interviews with the couples making progress and overcoming setbacks.

“You will see their confidence level grow,” Martin said.

“You’re going to be sore, but you’re going to have fun,” he told the competitors.

He said tickets to the competition will likely go on sale in mid-March.

“Tickets should be about $10,” Martin said. “We want to make it so everybody can come.”

Piedmont Arts is a nonprofit art museum and educational outreach center in Martinsville that facilitates ongoing enrichment of the lives of the people of Martinsville, Henry County and the surrounding area, through positive exposure, education and experiences in the visual and performing arts.

Piedmont Arts is a statewide partner of the Virginia Museum of Fin Arts and is accredited by the American Association of Museums.

For more information visit www.piedmontarts.org.


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