For the past two months local participants of the first annual Dancing with the Turlock Stars event to benefit the Salvation Army could be found in dance studios, gyms, classrooms, and cafeterias across Turlock honing their dance skills and practicing routines for their big showcase tonight. As I peeked my head into several practices to interview participants for our Studio 209 video episode I was given a sneak preview of the dancers’ routines. After witnessing a cha-cha, a rock and roll performance, and a western medley, it’s clear that the array of dances is as diverse as the participants themselves.
Modeled after the nationally successful television show, the Dancing with the Turlock Stars event will showcase 28 local individuals half of which are ‘professionals’ and half of which are ‘stars.’ While the stars and pros have yet to take the stage, the evening has already proved a success as the sold out event promises a crowd of nearly 1,000 people.
Similar to the television show, community members have been able to cast their vote for their favorite couple online and at ballots stops around town. While there will be several awards, the couple that gets to hoist the coveted Mirrorball Trophy at the end of the night will be the one who garnered the most votes — and thus the most money for the Salvation Army.
There has been a buzz around town for several weeks in anticipation of the event and when I attended the practices I witnessed participants’ nerves and excitement, but I also felt a sense of selflessness. While the professional dancers are not unfamiliar with dancing in front of crowds, for many ‘stars’ this was their first dance lesson. Ever. As I chatted with the dancers it became clear that they were not participating in this event for their own fulfillment, but rather for others. They are dancing for the Salvation Army so that the organization can continue to provide clothes, food, and services to the underprivileged. They are dancing for their friends and family who will be cheering them on tonight. They are dancing for the community that they serve in positions such as fireman, principal, farmer, and Realtor. These participants are putting themselves out on a limb not for their own benefit, but for the collective joy that is generated when people give of themselves whether that be time, money, or in this case dance skills.
Plus, the general opinion has been that the competition has proved a nice reprieve from the demands of daily life for the participants. According to mayoral candidates Mike Brem and Gary Soiseth, finding the time to practice between work and campaigning possibly proved more difficult than mastering the steps of their respective dances. However, once that music came on counting steps and perfecting dance combinations took priority for the next hour. While it is clear that participants are taking their performances seriously, they are also approaching the event with a positive attitude and collaborative spirit.
“I don’t see it as a competition but more of as a team effort,” said professional dancer John Paul Padilla.
“A team effort across all 14 couples,” added his partner, Salvation Army Major Debi Shrum.
While the Dancing with the Turlock Stars event may feature dancing couples, the success of the event is determined by far more than dancers as the judges, the attendees, the voters, and organizer Kristin Bettencourt and her team of supporters have worked tirelessly to ensure that the local community enjoy their charitable giving.
Don't forget to tune in on Thursday as our episode of Studio 209 will launch with not only footage from the event, but behind the scenes interviews as well.