Amateurs will pair with professionals to showcase new dancing skills in an effort to help the community’s children at “Dancing with the Stars Columbus Style — Hollywood Nights.”

A benefit for Children, Inc. and Family School Partners, the ninth annual event at the Clarion Hotel and Conference Center raises from $80,000 to $100,000 a year to help children and parents in the Columbus community.

Money raised is used by the two United Way agencies to help provide child care for local families, provide quality early education to families and provide activities to help meet the educational, physical, emotional and social needs of children.

Performances will be 2 and 8 p.m. Jan 14, with tickets at $20 for the matinee performance and $40 for the evening performance.

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Fundraising for the event is already underway with the community invited to choose their favorite dancing pair even before they dance at $1 a vote online on the “Dancing with the Stars Columbus Style” website. The seven dancing couples who are competing are:

Sarah Cannon, a vice president at First Financial Bank and financial adviser, dancing with Nathan Frasier, a sports chiropractor and trainer with Frasier Chiropractic and Sports Clinic.

Kelly Benjamin, newly elected Bartholomew Circuit Court judge, dancing with Matt Nieman, a youth minister at Immanuel Lutheran Church, Seymour.

Johnny Tsai, a thermal and fluid engineer at Cummins, Inc., dancing with Yu-Han Huang, a registered dietitian and nutritionist at Four Seasons Retirement Center.

Mary Weiss, Elwood Staffing Services controller, dancing with Donnie Ritzline, chief financial officer for R&B Architects LLC.

Christine Nesci, owner of Sky Sport Fitness, dancing with Tim Green, on-air personality at QMIX 107.3.

Curtis Hartwell, digital media specialist at Bartholomew County Public Library, dancing with Katrina Hardwick, histology tech at Schneck Medical Center and a Body Rock instructor at Snap Fitness.

Larry Perkinson, Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. student assistance coordinator, dancing with Diane Clancy, retired CSA Fodrea principal.

A group of Dancing Dames and Dancing Dudes will also perform during the event, with choreography by Ronda Byers. The Dancing Dames include Rose Ellen Hoeltke, Robin Hilber, Whittney Loyd, Jill Tasker and Sara Beth Merz. Dancing Dudes include Scott Ballard, Todd Boilanger, Frasier, Green and Ritzline.

The dancers have spent months preparing for the performances, working with choreographers to put together dance routines that fit the theme of “Hollywood Nights.” The event will have a red carpet feel with planned decor, said Stacy Findley, program coordinator for Family School Partners and one of the organizers for the dancing event.

Green said he and dancing partner Nesci started practicing for the event in September, spending about an hour per week then, and increasing it to two practices a week beginning around Thanksgiving.

“Going into the final stretch, we’re practicing quite often,” he said. “We just want to make sure we put on a good show.”

The choreography for Green and Nesci’s performance was created by Sonya Denney, of Sonya’s Dance Zone. Green said they kept the Hollywood theme in mind when choosing music, and came up with a list of movies that feature music that they loved.

“We narrowed it down and Christine (Nesci) chose what she wanted to do,” Green said. “It’s kind of jive/freestyle routine — it works well with the iconic music we’ve chosen.”

Cannon has been dancing since age 5, taking ballet and tap lessons. But when it was time for her childhood recital, she got the chicken pox.

“I was crushed,” she told fundraiser organizers, who included her story in the program. “Not only would I not dance, but I wouldn’t be wearing the amazing costumes my mother had made. I don’t recall why, but that was the end of dance lessons.”

While those dreams were put on hold, Cannon is returning to the dance floor to give back to Columbus, “a community I love so much,” she said.

“I love the mission of Family School Partners because I believe it is critical that parents be engaged in preparing kids for lifelong learning,” she told organizers. “And I still want to dance.”

Benjamin says she took tap dance lessons early in life and ballroom dance lessons 20 years ago and has involved herself in dance routines for community events every now and then.

She told organizers that she decided to dance for this event because “there is no better reason than to do what we can to help children.”

“As children, we dance without abandon and care not who watches. If it turns out silly, we giggle,” she said. It was time to return to that … for a good cause … and I love to dance.”

BCSC’s Perkinson has been rehearsing diligently for his performance, but admits that what he’s hoping for is some sort of distraction so audience members aren’t watching his feet.

“I have never danced — ever,” the long-time educator said. “But it’s been fun. And my dancing partner, Diane (Clancy), has been very kind — not just kind, forgiving — very forgiving.”

He admits he doesn’t hear or feel music the way natural dancers do and also admits to being directionally impaired, although he’s a good sport and finds humor in it.

As luck would have it, his choreography is to “Puttin’ on the Ritz” from “Young Frankenstein,” a tune so well known that Perkinson believes it too could be a distraction from his two left feet.

The tune, written by Irving Berlin in 1927 and once performed by Fred Astaire, was played for laughs in the movies when Gene Wilder danced and sang it with his created Frankenstein as a sidekick, both clad in tux, tails and carrying a snazzy cane.

“I do get to tap and twirl a cane in this,” Perkinson said of the performance. “Even a creature can dance, and that’s my kind of dance.”

No matter what happens, Perkinson said he knows he is going to have a good time.

“And I hope my dancing makes someone smile,” he said.

If you go

What: “Dancing with the Stars Columbus Style — Hollywood Nights”

When: Performances 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday

Where: Clarion Hotel and Conference Center, 2480 Jonathan Moore Pike

Cost: $20 for the 2 p.m. performance, $200 for a table of 10; $40 for the 8 p.m. performance, $400 for a table of 10. Individual votes for the winner are made by donation cards

Advance voting: Ready to vote without seeing the couples dance? Couples are raising money by seeking votes at $1 a piece online at

Benefits: Children Inc. and Family School Partners

About Children, Inc.

Children, Inc. is a licensed child care program for children from toddler to age 12 with out-of-school options available. The organization welcomes families regardless of economic, social, religious or cultural differences. The United Way agency provides activities geared toward the educational, physical, emotional and social needs of children.

For more information:

About Family School Partners

The mission of Family School Partners is to assist parents in their role as their child’s first and most important teacher. The program provides home visits to parents of preschoolers, ages birth to 5. Families receive educational lessons for each child and engage parents into the teaching process. Parenting skills are modeled and families receive information about community events and opportunities with community agencies as needed.

For more information:

Author photo
Julie McClure is assistant managing editor of The Republic. She can be reached at or (812) 379-5631.