Dancing With Our Stars returns with new dancers, new venue

Getting in a little practice before the big event are Dancing With Our Stars dancers Erin Blaydes, Jarrod Milsaps, Brittany Blum, Doug Jenkins, Lynne Cox, David Dwyer, Kylie Morton, Clint Woodfin, Mike Kirby, Craig Hurst, Bob Hirche, Justin Cook, Alexandra Bowen, Mika Yoshida, Kenny Yunker and Kristen Palacios.

Getting in a little practice before the big event are Dancing With Our Stars dancers Erin Blaydes, Jarrod Milsaps, Brittany Blum, Doug Jenkins, Lynne Cox, David Dwyer, Kylie Morton, Clint Woodfin, Mike Kirby, Craig Hurst, Bob Hirche, Justin Cook, Alexandra Bowen, Mika Yoshida, Kenny Yunker and Kristen Palacios.

The nine male dancers who will take the stage at the second annual Dancing With Our Stars aren’t exactly Sweatin’ to the Oldies, but they are working up a sweat as the prepare for their performances.

This dancing business, they are discovering, is hard work.

Dancing With Our Stars is a fundraiser for the Appalachian Ballet Company. The event pairs nine senior dancers from the company with community leaders to perform nine different dances in a friendly -- most of the time -- competition. Money is raised through ticket sales and a silent auction at the event, which will be 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 18, at the Clayton Center for the Arts Grand Foyer.

Dancing With Our Stars is the brainchild of Amy Moore Morton, ABC artistic director. Last year’s event packed in more than 200 people at Preservation Plaza for a sold-out event.

Morton said that besides being a fundraiser for the ballet company, the benefits of the competition are two-fold. “I think the biggest thing is for people to always realize how much fun dancing is and how entertaining it is to watch, whether it is a performance of a ballerina, a teen dancer or men in the community out there trying to strut their stuff,” she said. “I just think people enjoy watching dancing in general. A lot of times they don’t realize how much they enjoy it.”

The event also lets the audience and community see the Appalachian Ballet Company dancers in a different light.

“The dancers are working in a more light-hearted, fun atmosphere for this event,” said Morton. “I think it helps the community get to know the dancers and ballet company. Then, when they see a more serious production like ‘Cinderella,’ which the company will do in April, they feel connected and have grown to know the dancers. It is always more fun to see a big production when you know someone in it. I think it makes seeing a performance more special.”

The artistic director said the event also shows how difficult it is to dance and put on a production.

“That is what these television shows have brought -- an awareness of how hard it is and how much training it take to be good at it,” she said. “I do know from last year, all our male competitors had their eyes opened to how much practice it takes and what hard work it takes to be able to dance.”

Two of the guest dancers are returning from last year. The team of Jeff Mitchell, who is president of Benefit Consulting Services, Inc., and Caroline Anglim will try their hand this year at the Foxtrot. Blount Today editor Lance Coleman is also a returning dancer and will be paired this year with Chandler Blum for a Disco number.

New dancers and their professional partners this year are:

Physical therapist Joe Black and Kylie Morton will do the Mambo.

Glenn Zahn of Knoxville, whose son dances in the company, and Emily Pickett have chosen the Salsa.

Craig Hurst, a school teacher and pianist, will dance with Kristin Palacios to do the ChaCha.

Jarrod Millsaps, community outreach coordinator with the Blount County Sheriff’s Office, and Erin Blaydes will dance the Charleston.

Doug Jenkins, a Maryville City School Board member, will pair with Brittany Blum for a Swing Dance routine.

Kenny Yunker, owner of Creative Stone and Brick, and Mika Yoshida will dance the Two-Step.

Justin Cook, a math teacher at Maryville Middle School, will pair with Alexandra Bowen to do a Jive Dance routine.

Morton is also excited about moving the event to the grand foyer of the Clayton Center for the Arts. “Because of the number of people we had last year, we made the decision to move it to the Clayton Center in the foyer,” she said. “I think main complaint from last year was people felt they couldn’t see the dancers that well, so we hope the new venue makes sight lines better.”

The artistic director said folks will get a special treat, compliments of some of the 2010 Dancing With Our Stars competitors.

“For our opening number, we have returning competitors from last year, including Mike Kirby, Lynn Cox, Bob Hirche and David Dwyer, and also joining them will be Clint Woodfin, our board president,” said Morton.

There is a new face on the judging crew as well. Morton said Dr. Fred Tolhurst will not return as a judge, but he will be on hand to enjoy the event. “Otto Slater is returning. He was such a quick wit last year I had to have him back. Fran Leonard, our sweet, soft-spoken one, will be back, as will Rachel Brown, my sister. Last year she acted like the Mary Murphy character from ‘So You Think You Can Dance,’” Morton said. “Our new judge will be David Dwyer, our last year’s winner.”

The competitors won’t be the only folks taking to the dance floor. “Adriel McCord will be our DJ and will have great selections to dance to after the competition. I think more than even the competition, everyone enjoyed the event so much last year that they stayed afterwards and danced.”

Tickets are $50 each and are available at the Van Metre School of Dance at 215 W. Broadway Ave., Maryville, beside Tomato Head restaurant..

“Silver Spoon is catering the event for us, and there will be heavy hors d’oeuvres,” she said. “With the $50 admission, you’ll get two drink tickets, and there will be a cash bar.”

The artistic director said guests will also want to peruse the different items in the silent auction. “We have wonderful items and have had great support from the community in terms of donating things for us,” she said. “We may even have a mink coat from an Atlanta furrier.”

For information, call 865-982-8463. The Studio is open 2 to 7 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays.

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