Dancing for the Arts

May 2, 2012

Clay Campbell and Kathy Rogers took the silver globe trophies home Saturday night, winning the first Piedmont Arts’ Dancing for the Arts presentation.

The non-profit arts group raised more than $49,000 in votes and ticket sales by night’s end. The money will be used for Piedmont Arts’ educational programs at Carlisle, Martinsville and Henry County schools.

The event was a “Dancing with the Stars”-type contest roughly modeled on the television program in which a celebrity is paired with an experienced dancer. Viewers vote for the couple they think is best.

Dancing for the Arts in Martinsville was a fundraising event featuring 16 area residents in a primarily ballroom dance competition. After weeks of rehearsals, the dancers took to the stage in full costumes and performed assigned dances as well as free dances of their choice.

There were rumbas and cha-chas, waltzes and the fox trot. Some dances had a Latin flair, some were elegant, some had a swing. Some dancers were lifted and spun; one slid through her partner’s legs.

The competition was held at Martinsville High School where huge video screens on each side of the stage gave close-ups to those in attendance.

That was enough for the crowd of nearly 1,700 people to watch a Minds in Motion presentation by local school children before the couples performed their assigned dances. Each couple remained on stage to receive comments from the judges and scores.

During a brief intermission, the audience was allowed to vote in the lobby and the staff compiled online voting results, while dancers changed into their costumes for the free dances of their choosing.

That was followed by three exhibition dances while the audience voted again and votes were tallied. At about 9:30 p.m. the winners were announced and the trophies were presented.

“I cannot describe how wonderful it is for the community and Piedmont Arts,” Rogers said. “I’m overwhelmed at the reception and everybody who set foot on that stage is a winner.”

Campbell, president of Martinsville Speedway, and Rogers, executive director of PAA, said agreed that all the dancers were winners in the event. He and Rogers also thanked the donors who helped raise the $49,000.

John McGhee grew up in Bassett and recently returned to the Martinsville area with his fiancé Debbie Stanley. Saturday’s event was the first dance competition.

“I’ve never been to a competition before,” McGhee said. “I’ve only seen it on TV, but never in person.”

It was also the first time for Nancy Philpott of Bassett to see a dance competition in person.

“This is the first time we’ve had the chance here,” Philpott said. “This is wonderful and very exciting. (I hope) this will be a yearly event, I’m sure.”

Shirley and Wayne Eanes of Fieldale were at their first dance competition as well.

“I’m having fun already,” Wayne Eanes said at the beginning of the event.

“It’s great to see the whole community involved, from every walk of life,” Shirley Eanes said.

The last half of the event gave patrons a look a variety of styles and choreography.

Campbell and Rogers strode out unto the floor, paused and gave a rousing Broadway-style performance. They moved from side to side, paused and simulated tipping hats and tapped canes. At the end, Campbell swept Rogers off her feet — literally.

John Collins and Ann Nichols’ free dance began with a dramatic beginning — forward and backward, then a bump together in a distinctive cha-cha style. They added some retro disco hustle moves and Collins demonstrated his strength by lifting Nichols over his head.

Joe DeVault and Joanie Davis began their free dance in two easy chairs with a lamp between them, like a living room setting. Davis stood up and mussed DeVault’s hair playfully and they began a romantic rumba variation.

Tom Fitzgibbons and Susan Shively began with Fitzgibbons on one knee. Then they entered into a retro swing routine with rapid foot movement, forward and backward kicks. Shively danced around Fitzgibbons, they separated and performed several classic steps such as the mashed potato and twist in unison. Fitzgibbons spun Shively in the air, they embraced and he pulled her between his legs for their grand finale.

Greg Hackenburg and Katrina Perry performed an East Indian rendition. It was similar to a veil dance, like a belly dancer would use, with rapid synchronized arm and leg motions. Hackenburg spun Perry and they ended in a dip.

Trey Harris and Ama Waller’s free dance began as they walked out with old hats, canes and cloaks, as though they were much more mature and their bodies were ravaged by time, before they discovered the fountain of youth and erupted with energy into a swing variation. Devin Pendleton and Crystal Bowles began their free dance with a platform and performed a sad but romantic lyrical about love lost to death at the hands of cancer. Their routine included a long flowing motions suggesting an angel of the spirit world.

Ed Reynolds and Debbie Lewis performed a waltz that included several styles of that dance. Lewis demonstrated her flexibility with high leg lifts and splits. The couple embraced and Reynolds turned several times with a one-arm lift. Their routine included several lifts and spins, at one point as many as five turns in rapid succession.

Although Dancing for the Arts raised money for a worthy cause, it also was fun for the dancers.

“We started over there,” Davis motioned to one side, “and now were over here. I turned to my partner and said, ‘Joe (DeVault), we’re dancing for real.’”

“It was an enjoyable event and there was a lot of adrenaline flowing in front of the crowd,” Fitzgibbons said after the event. “Everyone always thinks they could have done a bit better, but overall I was happy with the way it turned out.”

“There was a lot of community support,” he added. “It was exciting, especially considering the amount of money raised — nearly $50,000. It will do wonders for the arts.”

Leigh Ann Meadows of Martinsville originally is from Woolwine and takes ballroom dance lessons locally.

She attended the event and would like to compete next time, she said.

“I just love ballroom dance,” Meadows said. “It’s wonderful exercise and a way to express one’s inner self with flashy clothes and the attitude. I brought both of my sons and several friends. I had so much fun, I couldn’t stay in my seat.”

Carole Brown of Brosville, a teacher at Tunstall Middle School, said she attended the event by herself.

“I came all the way from Pittsylvania County,” Brown said. “I went to see a friend of mine. I enjoyed it. I’m a beginner dancer and really appreciate how hard they worked to do what they did. It was really good. I liked the demo dances, too.”

The event was organized and hosted by a team from Piedmont Arts Association. It was chaired and emceed by David Martin. The event also was his brainchild.

“The event was a tremendous success, thanks for everyone — all the dancers, all the crew, everybody made it a success. It went off without a hitch, dancers where having fun and I had a great time doing it,” Martin said after the program.

A check for “49,055 is what I was handed tonight (Saturday),” he added.

“That is going to probably change, due to sales of DVDs. You can order those on the website or stop by Piedmont Arts.”


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