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Dancers shake it up at fundraiser

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Columbus Realtor Scott Taskey can move homes on the local housing market as well as anyone. But Saturday afternoon, he sold an applauding audience of 525 people on the idea that he can move almost as smoothly on the dance floor.

Taskey and professional dance partner Ronda Byers jumped, jived and wailed their way through a routine that triggered shouts during the “Sixth Annual Dancing With the Stars ... Columbus Style” at the Clarion Hotel and Conference Center. They also landed themselves in the top three vote-getters for the gathering’s first of two performances that raised money for Children Inc. child care program and Family School Partners, focusing on early childhood education.

The event paired area notables with polished or professional dancers.

The six pairs Saturday then competed in brief musical numbers to raise the most money from audience supporters through financial votes. This year’s gathering set a record of 1,125 tickets sold, including a capacity of 600 for the evening show, according to Jacque Douglas, one of the organizers with Brenda Flanagan.

“Did we ever really think we’d be addressing a crowd quite this size at a matinee?” Douglas asked Flanagan before the tunes began. “Not at all.”

Organizers aimed to top their $100,000 goal before the night was done. Though final totals could not be reported before The Republic’s deadline, supporters and sponsors generated $60,000 after the first show alone.

Joan Miller, who has attended every year, called it “the most fun show in the community.”

Audience members frequently have complimented organizers in the past for a mix of fundraising that’s tough to beat and energetic fun set to a great beat.

Oral surgeon Owen Forbes and professional partner Charlotte Battin boasted one of the quickest beats with a party-style, Polynesian number linked to Forbes’ Hawaiian homeland. The two even wore leis and brightly-colored Hawaiian headgear for a complete island feel.

“I wasn’t as nervous as I thought I’d be,” Forbes said, adding that he did his share of Hawaiian dance in his youth 30 years ago.

“If it had been ballroom or something like that, it might have been a different story,” he said.

Professional dancer Mazzy Sims’ high-energy salsa number with insurance executive Mark Thayer featured a wardrobe malfunction — that briefly stopped the proceedings — but left Sims laughing and still trying to finish her moves in the best show-must-go-on effort. Volunteers jumped in to assure that modesty would be maintained center stage.

“I was thinking, ‘Stop spinning, stop spinning,’” said Thayer, smiling afterward.

Others spun, too, to the crowd’s delight. That included a community troupe known as the Dancing Dames with a boot-scootin’ number to a Shania Twain favorite. It also featured the Black Swans, a comedic troupe of local men decked in white, frilly tutus moving with graceful humor, if nothing else.

An observer told swan member Bob Pitman that the presentation might have been the group’s best performance in its several years of ... ah, dance, at the fundraisers.

“You think?” Pitman asked with surprise. “It’s probably so hard to choose.”

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