Dancing With The Stars of Florence rocks SiMT, raises thousands for schools

Posted: Tuesday, March 31, 2015 10:48 pm

FLORENCE, S.C. – “Dancing with the Stars of Florence” rocked the Southeastern Institute of Manufacturing and Technology on Tuesday night with riveting performances from 12 celebrities and their professional dance partners, all in the name of raising funds for The School Foundation.

The competition came down to a three-way tie for the coveted judges’ technical skills award but Chris Warner of St. Jude Medical and professional dancer Meggie Baker wowed the audience with their Samba routine to “Treasure” in the dance-off.

Judges called the performance, which included Warner throwing himself to the floor for three repetitions of the “electric worm,” one that had real “crowd appeal.”

“It was my favorite of the night,” said Donna Protho, one of the three judges. The other judges were Robert Rodgers and Amanda Kinseth-Rodgers.

“I had a great time,” Warner said after the win. “My partner, Meggie, was awesome. She made me look great. When we got on stage I knew we had it in the bag.”

Warner said he was thankful he had been asked to participate. “What a great cause and I think they were the big winner tonight,” Warner said.

Warner and Baker edged out fierce competition from Susan Ninichuck of Roche Carolina and professional dancer Jovan Kindred and Robert Watkins of Johnson Controls and professional dancer Drew Arnold, who also preformed in the dance-off.

Watkins and Arnold’s salsa to Usher’s “Caught Up” was an attention-getter. Judges called it a “smooth” and “outstanding” performance.

All three dance duos earned perfect 10s from the judges in the main competition.

Ninichuck and Kindred racked up on special awards, winning the social stars, most entertaining and People’s Choice awards for their highly energetic jive to “Shake It Off.”

“I knew this would be a lot of fun,” said Ninichuck, stealing the spotlight with her spunky retro hairdo and colorful 1980s dress.

“Energy – you had it,” Kinseth-Rodgers said. “The facial expressions –it was so entertaining to watch.”

Ninichuck and Dr. Deepak Chowdhary had trailed Honda’s Michele Pridgen in People’s Choice votes by what seemed like a long shot most of the night. Just minutes before voting closed, Pridgen had 3,386.5 votes, Ninichuck 2,159 and Deepak 2,065.5. Each of those votes is worth $10 to the nonprofit Schools Foundation, which provides grants to Florence School District 1.

By the end of the night, Ninichuck’s online votes surpassed Pridgen’s and totaled 3,580 for $35,800 in donations to the School Foundation and put her in the lead for the People’s Choice Award.

Pridgen and professional dancer Jacob Coward with a jive to “All About that Bass” took second in the People’s Choice with 2,518.5 votes.

Chowdhary and professional dancer Brandi Williamson entertained the audience with their salsa routine to “Dilliwali Girlfriend.” The “Bollywood” influenced dance drew cheers from the audience and ultimately tons of new online votes. The duo took third in the People’s Choice award with 2,085.5 votes ($20,855 in donations.

Others in the celebrity lineup with performances Tuesday night were Mike Miller of the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce and dancer Cheyanne Beck; Ashley Nance of King, Love & Smith Law Firm and dancer Desiree Stokes; Fields Norwood of Lawson Turf Farm and dancer Tiffany Welsh, Steve Wade of the Morning News and dancer Kayce Smith, Will King of W. Lee Flowers and Co. and dancer Amanda Smith, Cedrick Kennedy of Florence School District 1 and Shandi Cox and Rick Ryan of NBSC and dancer Georgeanna Kelley.

The sold-out event, which included a buffet, drew as many as 800 guests and raised more than $187,180 from voting alone.

The School Foundation
320 W. Cheves Street, Suite 175 | Florence, SC 29501
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