It’s time once again for local notables to hit the dance floor as Dancing with the Stars Columbus Style returns for its eighth year.
The annual fundraiser, which benefits Columbus-based nonprofits Children Inc. and Family School Partners, replicates the experience of the popular national TV show, “Dancing with the Stars.”
The concept was conjured up more than eight years ago by Children Inc. Executive Director Brenda Flanagan and former Family School Partners Executive Director Jacque Douglas. Working with dance instructor Charlotte Battin, they found local celebrities, paired them with choreographers, and produced a vibrant fundraiser. The event debuted in 2009 to immediate community support, both in forms of talent and ticket buying.
“The community has been so receptive of this event from year one,” Flanagan said.
Story continues below gallery
The event, which is conducted in the large ballroom at the Clarion Hotel and Conference Center, raises money for the kid-friendly organizations in two ways: Participants sell tickets in their name to reach a personal fundraising goal. During the two performances, attendees can use dollar votes to help their favorite dancers garner even more cash.
New to 2016 is online voting, so participants can stack up the amount of funds raised, even if their friends aren’t in attendance.
The star that raises the most wins the event but, Flanagan said, all of the participants and stars are heroes. In fact, the 2016 theme is “superheroes.”
One “superhero” who has been with the event since 2009 is local dancer Charlotte Battin.
From the event’s inception, Battin has served as the event’s dance coordinator. This means that she makes the phone calls to the stars, asking local notables if they will take on the daunting task of becoming a dancer and performing in front of family and friends for DWTS Columbus Style’s two performances. For Battin, who owned a dance studio in Columbus throughout the late 1970s and ’80s, the event is a labor of love.
“Of course it’s been wonderful for the two organizations,” she said. “And it really has stirred an interest in dance. The excitement that you see — the dancers all love it. The choreographers are all very dedicated to dance. A lot of people have referred to Dancing with the Stars Columbus Style as the best or most fun fundraiser in town. It makes the audience happy, just the way it does the dancers.”
Much like the TV show, stars and choreographers are tapped to participate months before the event.
Laura Moses, program director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Bartholomew and Brown counties, will perform this year as one of the stars. In hindsight, Moses said she gave Battin the fastest “yes” in the event’s history.
“I immediately said yes, which was really surprising to her,” Moses said. “I always said to myself, ‘If I was ever asked, I would say yes and then figure out what in the world I just said yes to.’ The event is something totally different.”
For Moses, who has been partnered with choreographer Donnie Ritzline, becoming a dancing star was a chance to step out of her comfort zone. Working with Ronda Byers, she and Ritzline put together a dance to a medley of songs. Fully committed to delivering a spectacular performance, Moses commissioned a local dressmaker to make the outfit she will wear Jan. 16.
Courtney McCoy, director of service business process at Cummins, also will be a star. The father of three boys said he has been plugged into the community since his children started frequenting Foundation for Youth. McCoy sees the services provided by Children Inc. (affordable child care) and Family School Partners (support in creating a parent/school relationship to advance education) as valuable to the community.
“I like supporting organizations that have goals like that,” he said.
McCoy was a slightly more reserved than Moses when he received the phone call from Battin.
“I said, ‘You want me to dance? I know how to dance, but not like that,’” he said.
He had a change of heart when he considered the fundraising opportunity, quickly psyching himself up to learn a salsa with choreographer Mazzy Sims. She put McCoy in her dance class at Total Fitness. Since August, McCoy has learned to shake his hips and move his hands.
“I just have to figure out how to shake my booty,” he said.
For McCoy, who is working in tandem with fellow competitor Mike Johnston to raise money, the experience boils down to raising money and trying something new.
“All you’ve got to do is dance,” he said. “Reach outside your comfort zone. It’s a really good way to move your body and learn something new and boost your energy. I hope I win. But if I don’t, I’m going to raise as much money as I can.”
Once dances are nailed down and muscle memory has set in, the dancers prepare to perform during the family friendly matinee and the raucous evening performance.
Couples will take the stage, dancing their hearts out in front of the audience. Performances by other local dance groups — The Dancing Dudes and The Dancing Dames — are interspersed throughout the evening. Dollars are tallied and the winner is announced at the end of the evening show. Last year’s Dancing with the Stars Columbus Style netted more than $56,000.
For Flanagan, who might pause for a moment in the middle of Dancing with the Stars Columbus Style to take things in, the evening is magic.
“I’m always humbled to be associated with the whole event,” she said. “The dancers make it special. They bring their own level of enthusiasm and charisma to the whole event.”
Dancing with the Stars Columbus Style
When: 2 p.m. matinee; 7 p.m. evening performance, Jan. 16
Where: Clarion Hotel and Conference Center, 2480 Jonathan Moore Pike
Cost: $15 matinee, $35 for evening; $200 a table
Information: dwtscolumbus.com, 812-314-3860
The stars/The choreographers
Mike Johnston/Charlotte Battin
Courtney McCoy/Mazzy Sims
Tim Green/Diane Clancy
Andrew Laker/Ronda Byers
Holly Downey/Brent Byers
Heather Mollo/Chris Holzhausen
Laura Moses/Donnie Ritzline