The disco ball was twirling, and the dancers were swirling as Dance with the Durango Stars filled the Henry Strater Theatre on Saturday night.
The event, a fundraiser for the Durango Derailers, offered two shows of social dancing in a contest similar to the popular “Dancing with the Stars” television show.
(I guess we’re calling it social dancing and not ballroom dancing so it seems less old-fashioned. The evening was anything but stodgy, so the name change is probably a good idea.)
The best way to describe the evening is just plain fun. The audience was fascinated by lots of different dance types – waltz, rumba, cha-cha, tango, the hustle, swing, East and West Coast swing, merengue, salsa and, new to most of us, Kizomba, which hails from Angola. Many of the couples had met after they were partnered with each other, some with virtually no dancing experience. Most couples met at least weekly for three months to rehearse, although a few had only 10 days to two weeks together after a partner had to cancel.
As proof that it was fun, the event already has a full roster of volunteers to dance at next year’s event.
Which brings me to the dance coaches, who managed to make all these people look so good on stage. Leslie Carlson and Suzy di Santo did yeowoman’s work, and it paid off. The three judges – Evonne Tocco, Jason Chapman and Wendy Graham Settle – were kind and fair, as was befitting for an event featuring generous-hearted amateurs.
Without further ado, here are the teams: Sally Zabriskie and Mike Brown, Christine Imming and Brian Zink, Aislynn and Ryan Lowe, Melanie Harshman and Devon Parson, Brooke Jaccom and Ken Duncan, Maya Bradshaw and Curtis Salinger (the high school entries), Cheo Hernandez and Kate Greenberg, Jennifer Story and Joe Clair, Autumn von Flotow and Blake Knoll and Charlotte Lenssen and Aaron Colin.
Let’s just say the judges had their work cut out for them.
When all was said and done, Lenssen and Colin were the second runners up with a splendid salsa; Greenberg and Hernandez have first runner-up honors after killing their Kizomba routine; and winning first place and taking home the disco ball trophies were Knoll and von Flotow, whose West Coast swing was “sex, sex, and more sex” or “juicy and yummy,” depending on which judge you asked.
Von Flotow also won most money raised – because this was, after all, a fundraiser. A relative newcomer to Durango, she reached out to her network of friends and brought in more than $700 by herself.
Other fun moments included Zink’s and Imming’s disco costumes (shiny pink shirt for him, silver lamé jumpsuit for her) as they danced the hustle to “Night Fever”; Salinger’s matching red bow tie, suspenders and sneakers as he cartwheeled onto the stage; and Harshman’s and Parson’s merengue, which she choreographed and danced with a lot of attitude.
Master and Mistress of Ceremonies Ryan Phelps and Laura Shelton did a phenomenal job, funny, interacting, presenting dancers’ bios and asking charming questions afterward. It can be a tough job, but she made it graceful, and he made it relaxed.
This is the second or third fundraiser I have attended that Malia Durbano and Rubistarr Randazzo have organized through their FUNdRaisers – they also organized the Durango Voice competition. Kudos go to them for organizing an event with so many moving parts.
Durango Derailers is an organization with a big heart. It raises money to support families who have to seek medical care for their children at Children’s Hospital of Denver, helping with everything from gas cards and lodging to medical care. In the past year, it has helped one or two families a day make more than 1,600 patient visits.
So many families have to make this trek to Denver. Shelton’s is one. Her son, born two-months prematurely, has to go to Children’s every 90 days to see four different doctors.
“We believe you don’t take without giving back,” she said.
The group has to raise at least $50,000 for Children’s Hospital to be able to designate the money be used for La Plata County families. While they won’t know how much they have brought in from this event until ticket sales are tabulated next week, but they brought in $3,700 in donations supporting the dancers.
This was the first year the Derailers held a community event. Their big fundraiser, said Shelton, who’s captain of the team this year, is a two-day 200-mile ride in Summit County, and the fundraising for that is underway. If you missed the fun Saturday, you still have a chance to support the cause at www.durangoderailers.com.
HHHEnjoying spring weather in between the cloudbursts for their birthdays are: Jill Somrak, Sue Jackson, Barbara Bruning, Jeanne Park, Paulette Simmons, Sherrill Dickinson, Mark Chiarito, Lacey Black, Barbara Colbert, Paul Staby, Rose Chilcoat, Stephanie Drover, Marilyn Garst, Jeff Nelson, Carol Johnson, Paul Root, Kaden Ollier, Vern Swanson, Lucille Ball, Merlwyn Clausen, Alison Asselstine, Hannah Miller, Eileen Wasserbach, Steven Chiarito, Brandie Boyd, Missy Rodey, Arlo Unterreiner, Elise Christiansen, Lee Murphy and Beth Stelz.
HHHBridge may be the single best way to keep brains sharp as we age – no two hands are ever the same – and its benefits from socializing can’t be beaten. (Another key part to aging well.) Plus, it’s fun at any age.
If you’ve been curious about the game but thought it sounded complicated, Barry Hillmer says to give him a day. He’s one of the top bridge players in the area, and he will be teaching the basics from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at the Durango/La Plata Senior Center, 2424 Main Ave.
Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 749-7590. The cost is $20 if you preregister – greatly recommended for planning purposes – or $30 at the door.
HHHLeadership La Plata may be something else that has sparked your curiosity. It was one of the most valuable experiences of my adult life, expanding my horizons communitywide and introducing me to many people I treasure to this day.
From 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday (that’s today), alumni of the program will be holding a reception in the Animas Room at Mercy Regional Medical Center.
Alumni will be on hand to answer questions, and information will be provided.
The program began in 1988, and more than 400 alumni are making a difference throughout the county. If you want to see who else besides yours truly is among them, check out the alumni and other information available at www.leadershiplaplata.org.
Applications are due June 1, and they require letters of recommendation, so it’s good to get started early.
I just noticed they were asking for RSVPs on this invitation, so it might be good to drop Sherry Exum-Peterson an email at email@example.com and give her a heads-up that you’re coming.
If you have been thinking LLP might help you in your professional or volunteer life, make 2016 the year you go for it.
HHHFlowers are bursting out all over for the anniversaries of Al and Sue Mages, Chris and Rap Dunker, Rod and Laurie Barker, Roger and Cora Landgren, Mike and Sandy Dalenberg and Field and Priscilla Blevins.
HHHHere’s how to reach me: firstname.lastname@example.org; phone 375-4584; mail items to the Herald; or drop them off at the front desk. Please include contact names and phone numbers for all items. Follow me on Twitter @Ann_Neighbors.I am happy to consider photos for Neighbors, but they must be high-quality, high-resolution photos (at least 1 MB of memory) and include no more than three to five people. I need to know who’s who, left to right, and who to credit with the photo. Candid photos are better than posed.