There’s an excited buzz in the air about the upcoming “Dancing With Our Stars” event Aug. 18, at the Betty Leeth-Haynes Theatre.
This event will spotlight some talented local dancers who have graciously agreed to take part in the first ever “Dancing With Our Stars” ballroom dancing competition. Proceeds from the event will benefit Cullman County Relay For Life.
Although some contestants have been dancing formally for years, many have never entered a competition before, like Dr. Vicki Hawsey-Karolewics, and her husband, Dr. Vince Karolewics.
“We love to dance together socially,” laughed Dr. Hawsey. “But dancing in a competition is something entirely different.”
The couple agrees that even though practicing for the event has been physically demanding and time consuming, it’s worth it because it serves such a good cause.
For Dr. Karolewics it goes much deeper than that. His specialty is oncology, so he will see evidence of their efforts first-hand through his patients at LifeFirst Imaging and Oncology.
“For me it’s an honor to support our patients,” he said humbly. “Most of the money raised at this event stays right here in the community, supporting local residents. For some patients, that help might be in the form of a gas card, for example, to help defray the cost of traveling for treatments. This is a great benefit to our community,” he said.
The couple began taking classes in ballroom dancing about three years ago at the Fred Astaire Studio in Birmingham. They are the only pair dancing in the competition of which one partner is not a professional dancer, “So the pressure is on!” declared Hawsey.
They will dance a performance rumba, and have selected a Michael Buble song, “Save The Last Dance For Me” which segues smoothly into “Crazy Love”.
Wallace State Community College students will be amused to learn that WSCC President Dr. Hawsey, has been honing her dancing skills by watching a lot of YouTube videos, scouting out new moves.
Dr. Karolewics will wear a black tuxedo, and his wife will don a beautiful blue evening gown with the requisite high-heel shoes. “I had trouble finding a dress,” she admitted. “Most formal dresses that a person is able to dance in have much less fabric than I’m comfortable with, but I finally found one that had enough.”
Dr. Hawsey can identify with a famous Ginger Rogers quote, “I have to do everything he does, backward and in high heels.”
“That’s exactly right,” she said.
Each couple has two-and-a-half minutes in which to wow the judges with their skills.
Special guest dancer at the event is Lindsay Jones, American Cancer Society’s Hero of Hope, from Gurley, Alabama. Jones, now 16, was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, Rhabdonyosarcoma, just before her fourth birthday. The tumor, located behind her sinus cavity, put pressure on her optic nerve, causing permanent blindness. She is believed to be the first female to have this cancer, which is normally found in males.
But don’t think for a minute that she let any of this stop her.
Since the age of five, Jones has performed in front of large audiences, dancing, singing and public speaking engagements, “I’m really looking forward to this event,” said Jones. “It’s exciting, it’s for a good cause, and I’m not a bit nervous,” she laughed.
Not only will the event benefit the ACS, it is wonderful exercise for the participants. According to Dr. Karolewics, dancing is not only a great cardio workout, it also helps with mobility and flexibility. “It’s a lot like yoga in that the stretching hyper-extends the body,” he explained. “It especially benefits people who suffer from arthritis.”
Andy and Liz Page are more experienced at dancing in front of an audience. “We met in college at Jacksonville State and have been dancing ever since,” said Liz.
Andy is originally from South Carolina, so naturally, the couple has chosen the Carolina Shag for their performance. They will be dressed in Bermuda shorts and tennis shoes.
“Dancing is the best exercise, about like a brisk walk, and we really enjoy dancing,” said Liz. “We are really looking forward to it.”
Although each dance is strictly held to the time limit, two-and-a-half minutes, “It seems like a long longer when it’s you that’s doing it,” laughed Liz. The Pages agree that the most important thing about the evening is the people who will benefit. “The Relay is very important to our community.”
Dodd and Jean Holt, perhaps the most well-known local dancers, will partner with other dancers for the competition.
Jean Holt will also be the partner of Pastor Bob Kurtz for one segment of the competition, and with Dr. Don Green for another. Holt and Green have been dancing together since high school. “Fifty years ago, in 1962, when we were teachers at Cullman High School, we did a jitterbug on the CHS stage in a student body assembly program,” she recalled. “Now, 50 years later, here we are doing the same thing, except we’ve slowed down some.”
“All of that was before Don was Dr. Don Green, before he was mayor, or Burgermeister, and before he had a building named after him,” she laughed.
As a special treat for the audience, the Holts will dance to a lively Latin medley, not as part of the contest, but strictly for entertainment’s sake.
Cullman County ACS Representative, Gidgett Overton, suggested the dance competition. “I love the ABC show, Dancing With The Stars, so I approached the Circle of Hope team with the idea and they are taking it to the next level,” said an excited Overton. “The dancers are embracing the idea and we can't wait to see how it turns out — it's going to be a great night.”
Contestants in the event are Dr. Vicki Hawsey and Dr. Vince Karolewics, Dr. Jan Harris, Mr. Billy Coleman, Dr. Don Green, Pastor Bob Kurtz, Betty Leeth-Haynes, Shirley Quattlebaum, Mr. Andy Page and Liz Page, Judge Rusty Turner, Mr. Jimmy Drake, Mr. Ben Harrison, Mavis Martin and April Burgess.
Instructors are Dodd and Jean Holt, Lee Littenburg, Gordon Orr, Cheryl Harrison, Chris Bailey, Jessica Brackeen and Bill Sacra.
“Our team, Circle of Hope, has been affected by cancer so much we said, ‘Sure let's do it!’” said event coordinator, Janet Laney, enthusiastically. “Our family has benefited greatly from the research sponsored by the American Cancer Society.”
All proceeds from this event go to Relay for Life/ACS.
“We have had such great volunteers for this event,” said Laney. “Our ‘stars’ have practiced for hours getting ready for their performances. The instructors have choreographed dances for each of our contestants.”
“Please get your tickets for Cullman's own ‘Dancing With Our Stars’ and help us make a difference in the fight against cancer,” encouraged Laney.
The Wallace State Jazz Band will be playing at the dance.
Dancing With Our Stars will be held at Wallace State College, in the Betty Leeth-Haynes Theater.
Guests should arrive at 6 p.m. for hors d'oeuvres. The show begins at 7 p.m.
Advance tickets are $20 — $25 at the door. You can purchase your tickets from any of the contestants or call Janet Laney at 256-747-1644 or 256-338-6650.