Annual dance off provides much more than entertainment
Celebrity dancers quite literally went toe-to-toe April 25 at the finale of the Take the Lead Winston-Salem.
Take the Lead models itself after the hit show “Dancing with the Stars.” Local notables are paired with professional dancers or dancing instructors. The duos practice regularly during the weeks leading up to a culminating dance-off.
For four straight years, the event has raised tens of thousands of dollars for the Bethesda Center for the Homeless by urging the public to donate $10 per vote to support their favorite dancer. The finale also raised money through ticket sales, sponsorships and by giving the more than 800 event attendees a chance to vote for their favorites.
“It’s been phenomenal, particularly for Bethesda, because we’re able to raise a sizable amount of money that really is important to the continued operations of Bethesda Center,” said Bethesda Executive Director Peggy Galloway.
Take the Lead is the only signature fundraiser for Bethesda, which has a homeless night shelter for both men and women. It also has the city’s only day shelter, which provides a refuge from the elements, case management and other services. Overall, the fundraiser raised $220,000, which is an increase over last year.
The local celebrities were selected more for their public/fundraising appeal than their lightness on their feet, but the amateurs did their very best to impress a panel of judges.
ECHO Network Executive Director Natasha Gore’s partner was technically not a professional dancer, but Mayor Allen Joines is a Take the Lead veteran, having danced in all three previous events.
It was Gore’s first Take the Lead, but she’s no stranger to the dance floor, having taken classes at Fred Astaire Dance Studios. Gore choreographed the routine, which cast her and the mayor as a dancing couple whose cha cha is interrupted by Joines’ dance floor flirtations with other women. Gore said Joines was easy to work with and took direction well. She was pleased to do something she loves to help put a dent in homelessness.
“There are people on the street today, people on the street tomorrow,” she said. “That’s a critical need and an immediate need and I can’t imagine what it’s like to be in that situation and it feels great to help in that way.”
Wake Forest University senior Ethan Groce’s elaborate number had him dancing the hula while singing an Elvis song. He danced with dance professionals Eryn White and Julianne Harper and many others, including banjo and drum players and several men in grass skirts. Groce, an Elvis impersonator and education major, was supposed to give a toast at his senior dinner that night but missed it for Take the Lead.
“It’s been so much fun working with these people,” he said of his dancing partners and supporting cast.
Attorney David Daggett said that it was his first time dancing publicly. He danced with his wife, Cynthia, a former ballerina. The pair took on the roles of Clark Kent and Lois Lane, doing a tango in front of a phone booth facade. The number ended in a twist, as Cynthia Daggett turned into Superwoman and David Daggett, an Ironman triathlete, carried her on his shoulder as if she was flying. The couple finished third in fundraising.
“I’m going to have two smiles on my face while dancing,” said David Daggett before he hit the dance floor, “one is for my beautiful bride and knowing that we’ve helped people, but by the grace of God, could be us.”
Wells Fargo’s Elizabeth Madden finished second in fundraising. The top fundraisers were twins Dick and Tom Stockton, who danced with their wives, Bunky and Jean. The Stockton brothers are the sons of Norman Stockton, whose eponymous upscale clothing store began in 1909.
The other celebrity dancers were: Winston-Salem Foundation Vice President for Community Investment Michael Clements; Artist Leslie Baker; Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust President Karen McNeil-Miller; Inmar Vice President Melissa Parker; Centers for Exceptional Children Director of Development Denni Peebles; Aladdin Travel and Meeting Planners Owners Sally and Ricky Shore; community volunteer Kim Hobin; Bethesda Center Shelter Director Carl Potter; and Winston-Salem Symphony Music Director Robert Moody, who danced with the Children’s Theatre of Winston-Salem Artistic/Education Director Cheri Van Loon.
Also during the show, Dancing Classrooms, which Bethesda partners with to put on Take the Lead, performed. Founded by Ann Guill, the nonprofit offers dance classes at schools. Students from Kimberley Park Elementary School showed what they have learned in the program during the finale.