The popular event invited back all nine seasons of their alumni dancers to be part of their 10-year reunion celebration in February 2018. At least 56 alumni responded that they would participate in group routines that will last approximately 4-5 minutes. The 2018 theme is “Anything Goes.”
The “Dancing with the Local Stars” event was the idea of the WDCC’s co-chairwoman Mary Kendall, since one of her favorite pastimes is watching the original show on television. The first local show took off in 2009 and raised $17,000. The amount doubled the next year. Their most successful show, in 2017, raised $126,000.
“We are proud to announce that the first nine events enabled us to donate over $755,000 to the West Michigan-area food pantries and food programs,” Kendall said. “ We are hoping to add more to that figure in 2018.”
When Kendall invited her former dance stars back, she included a personal handwritten note at the bottom of her letter asking them to say yes. She understands the entire cast has busy lifestyles. Agreeing to participate adds another commitment that includes learning new dance moves and steps many aren’t familiar with — not to mention dancing in front of a sold-out crowd for every performance.
Kendall is pleased with the number of alumni coming back.
“This year, I feel like a mother hen with all my chickens coming home to roost,” she said.
Each group is responsible for their own routine, costume and meeting place to practice.
Dr. Mary Ball of Spring Lake has been a professional dancer for the event since its inception in 2009. Along with Andrea VanBeek of Spring Lake, the two dance pros are responsible for all the choreography and teaching their eight “stars.” After several searches for a place to accommodate the group without cost, they were offered a private residence on Spring Lake with a dance studio on the top floor for their weekly dance practice sessions.
“Choreographing for “DWTLS” is unlike any other choreography I’ve done,” VanBeek said. “You work with incredibly motivated individuals that have little to no dance experience. Their level of commitment to perfecting these dances for the common goal of raising money for local food pantries is outstanding.”
Ball wanted this year’s routine to be light and funny, so she decided on “Grease” for the group’s number, which will include vintage costumes.
“I’ve gained a reputation over the years for my serious-mood dance,” she said. “So, when I was given this group, I decided I want to make it fun and entertaining, with no stress. These folks are very busy and I want them to enjoy it.”
Muskegon County Prosecuting Attorney D.J. Hilson partnered with Ball in the 2013 show and came back to help emcee and participate as a dancer.
“This is a fun and rewarding way to give back to the Muskegon community,” Hilson said. “This experience allows me to break from my comfort zone and let loose.”
Dr. Reggie Kapteyn, Orthopedic Associates of Muskegon psychiatrist and interventional pain physician, danced in 2014 and said it’s a pleasure to give back to the community.
“I love to dance and this is a great outlet for that,” he said. “Plus, working with a diverse group of people makes it fun.”
Don Kalisz is the founding partner at Revel in Muskegon and danced in the 2011 event. He said he enjoyed the entire experience from the practice to the final show.
“I made some nice connections with other dancers along the way and had such a good time that it was easy to want to do it again,” he said. “It’s one of Muskegon’s top events and raises some big-time dollars.”
Tracy Lorenz, president of Carbon Footprint Home Improvement LLC in Grand Haven, danced in 2012. “I’m back to seek redemption for my original performance,” he said.
Jim Hanley, president and founding partner of EeComm Inc., has a competitive edge with his dance moves. “My motivation for learning to dance has a name: Greg Schiltz, the reigning Schiltz clan dance-off champ,” he said. “Box-step aside, brother-in-law, I’m throwin’ down some new moves.”
In spite of the 40-minute drive to each practice session, Lea Shampo with Michillinda Lodge in Whitehall agreed to return since she misses dancing and working with a great group of people. “It also makes winter go by fast,” she said.
Matt Kaley is the Muskegon executive director of Love Inc., and said he’s returning since the WDCC does an amazing job of putting on a first-class event.
“It was an honor to be chosen the first time and I jumped at the chance to return,” he said. “I made great friends and the impact on the community from proceeds raised at the event is phenomenal.”
Dates for this reunion event are set for Feb. 16-17 and Feb. 22-24 at the Holiday Inn & Conference Center Downtown Muskegon.
To get your tickets starting on Jan. 2, visit www.womensdivision.org.