Posted: Tuesday, January 7, 2014 9:28 pm
Ellen Meder Morning News
FLORENCE, S.C. — Dancing With the Stars of Florence will be back for another year of tangos, cha chas and jives this spring, but for the 12 pairs competing for the coveted mirror ball trophy, the journey to greatness started this week.
The annual fundraiser for The School Foundation is set for April 10 and will feature 12 sets of local "celebrities" or business people about town and area "professional dancers" or gracious student dancers and theatre buffs. Tuesday night the pairings got to find out who they would be dancing with and choose their songs.
Michelle Cato of Roche Carolina Inc. said that she decided to dance because it's a great cause to raise money for children and their education. "I've seen the real show on TV and it looks cool and fun and it's going to be a blast," Cato said. "I'm incredibly nervous too. I've never done anything like this before other than like getting on a dance floor a little if music is playing at an event. I think I have some rhythm." Her dance partner CJ Miller, who is a theatre teacher in Kingstree and has performed in many local production said he too was roped in by the good cause. "I was contacted by Rebecca Kelley [another dancer] and when she asked if I'd do it I freaked out," Miller said. "I was so excited because I do theatre around here and thought I was a Florence star now and she said 'No, no you're going to be a dancer,' so that was funny but I was excited. And then I found out it was to raise money and that was even better."
Debbie Hyler, the executive director of The School Foundation, worked with Burnadene Kelley of Kelley's Fine Arts to match up dancers and stars based on mutual interest — in Cato and Miller's case they are both military veterans.
At the event, where video of last year's DWTSF played in the background, there was an air of nervous excitement as many of the non-dancers came to terms with the fact that they will soon be strutting their stuff in front of an audience.
Southside Middle School principal Craig Washington, who is no stranger to the arts as a musician and the leader of an arts-centric school, still said it's going to be an exciting and nerve-wracking event. "I've got to get my feet moving to the music now, not my fingers," Washington said.
The School Foundation will be posting photos of the couples on their Facebook page and giving updates until April 10 so that the public can keep up with the dancers' progress with their new students.
Dance pairs for the 2014 Dancing With The Starts of Florence Competition:
(Celebrity, company they represent, professional dancer)
-Rob Ardis, Pee Dee Electric Cooperative, Inc, with Sara Johnson
-Jason Carrico, Sexton Dental Clinic, Inc, with Tiffany Welsh
-Michelle Cato, Roche Carolina Inc., with CJ Miller
-John Chase, Wells Fargo Advisors, with Lynsie Daniels
-Rakesh Chokshi, Pee Dee Spine Center, with Brandi Williamson
-Trina Folk, GE Healthcare, with Frankie Sullivan
-Fred Krainin, Pee Dee Cardiology Associates, P.A., with Brea Boatwright
-Dana Lecznar, Assurant Specialty Property, with Phillip Rast
-FitzLee McEachin, McEachin & McEachin, P.A., with Shandi Cox
-Jeff Stevens, Carolina Canners, Inc., with Rebecca Kelley
-Nick Townsend, Carolinas Hospital System, with Meggie Baker
-Craig Washington, Southside Middle School, with Cheyanne Beck
Beginning February 1 can cast votes for their favorite couple at www.FlorenceDancingWithTheStars.com for $10 a vote. At the show three couples will receive mirror balls for "The People's Choice." That night a panel of expert judges will also crown a "Technical Skills Winner" and a "Most Entertaining" couple.
The School Foundation's board member Ed Love and local celebrity Audra Coble will be master and mistress of ceremonies. The 2013 celebrities will perform the opening act and the KFA Extreme team will provide special entertainment throughout the evening.
The night of Dancing With The Starts of Florence, April 10, will begin with a 6 p.m. reception with food drinks and prizes and the competition begins at 7 p.m. A limited number of individual tickets and tables will go on sale to the public Jan. 13. Individual tickets are $75 and tables for eight guests begin at $1,000.
For more information visit www.FlorenceDancingWithTheStars.com.
The School Foundation is a nonprofit that awards grants to schools and teachers in Florence School District 1 to support education innovation and has also championed early childhood education in the area, recently kicking off the Start Smart initiative to encourage school readiness of all children.