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SCV dancers shine for nonprofits

Charity: Dancing With Our Stars raises $200,000 plus

Posted: May 1, 2010 10:54 p.m.
Updated: May 2, 2010 4:55 a.m.

Right to left, Carla Moore and Stephen Takeo, Nick Dale and Janine Jones. Takeo and Jones were named "Best Male and Female Dancers" at the Dancing With Our Stars event.

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he Senior Center, Soroptomists and the SCV Youth Center were the big winners at the second annual "Dancing with Our Stars" extravaganza. It was an amazing evening full of stars and they were not all in the sky.

On a balmy spring night, nearly 600 people gathered at the beautiful Hyatt Regency Century Plaza on the Avenue of the Stars for the second annual "Dancing with Our Stars" fundraiser to benefit nonprofits in the Santa Clarita Valley.

The event raised more than $200,000, with $40,799 going to the Senior Center and approximately $33,000 each for the Soroptomists and SCV Youth Project.

Last year's inaugural "Dancing with Our Stars" raised nearly $80,000 for the 12 participating nonprofits.
Yet, in only one year the event nearly doubled to benefit 22 nonprofits, and due to its popularity, outgrew the Hyatt Regency Valencia.

"We had to move to the largest ballroom in Los Angeles," said co-founder Candy Spahr, who, with Anna Ott and Linda Hafizi, created an exciting and entertaining event that may become a game changer for fundraising in the SCV.

To raise awareness and support for the event, community members were encouraged to vote for their favorite dancers and/or charities at a cost of $25 per vote.

Yet many who had already donated money were so inspired, they voted again and again for their favorite stars throughout the evening.

"How often do you have so many nonprofits in one room," said Karen Mahhafy, who was supporting the Boys and Girls Club. "It's exciting."

And the 21 brave and intrepid dancers knew they were putting themselves on the line, sore feet and bruised egos notwithstanding, to best represent their chosen nonprofit.

Cocktail hour
The evening began with a no-host cocktail hour, followed by a dinner of breast of chicken and spring vegetables in a wine reduction prepared by Chef Mannee.

While guests finished dessert of mocha cheesecake, the D'Wilfri DanceArt & Entertainment Youth Team opened the show with a spectacular ballroom dance routine.

To start the party, emcee Bill Lively welcomed the guests and introduced the three judges - Stepfani Kramer, best known as tough-minded detective Sergeant Dee Dee McCall on NBC's "Hunter." Also judging was Trish Connery, an award-winning dancer, choreographer, competitor and judge. The third judge was Katie Johnson, who began dancing in high school and is now a certified ballroom dance instructor and an American Smooth and International Standard finalist.

The winners
When the dust finally settled, there were three nonprofits that received the most votes. Bringing an energetic mix of a sexy cha cha and hip hop to the floor, first place went to Alex Hafizi and Riley Bennett who sizzled for the SCV Senior Center and earned first place fundraising honors. With not much to her sparkly red dress, Kim Goldman and partner Willly Arroyo burned up the floor for the SCV Youth
Project with a rumba/cha-cha combo for second place.

"You are amazingly flexible," Johnson said of Goldman's dance moves and splits. "They were amazing moves and you have a gorgeous body."

But capturing the hearts of the crowd and a heartfelt standing ovation was the team of Harold Peterson and his lovely granddaughter Brittany Suzanna Petersen, a dancer with the Salt Lake City Ballet, as they performed a traditional fox trot that earned them a tie for second place as they danced for Soroptomist International of Greater SCV.

Best dancers
Looking like a professional ballroom dancer, Janine Jones danced a mean samba for the Betty Ferguson Foundation with her partner Nick Dale. Their performance also earned Jones the title of Best Female Dancer.

"Wow, that was just awesome," Kramer exulted

Stephen Tako performed a lovely waltz with Carla Moore to benefit the Girl Scouts of America and won the title of Best Male Dancer.

Florence Lankford and Billy Parish teamed up for the Jack and Jill of America, Inc. Foundation to dance a lively East Coast swing that won a perfect 10 from the judges.

"That routine was fabulous from start to finish," Connery gushed. "I loved the slow hook turn, which is hard to do in synch - it was fantastic."

Also looking like a professional dancer, the luminous Barbara Myler teamed with Robert Nall for the cha cha that burned up the floor and got the crowd on its feet. They also earned high marks and many votes for the Domestic Violence Center of the SCV.

Salsa and Mr. Six
One of the most hilarious surprises of the evening occurred when Six Flags Magic Mountain Park President Jay Thomas cheerfully took to the floor to dance a salsa with Ingrid Blanco on behalf of Single Mothers Outreach.

When Thomas got a bit slow on his steps, Mr. Six stepped in to sweep Blanco off her feet and save the dance. The routine got the audience on its feet and they earned kudos for effort and great hip movements.

Earlier in the evening, the tension was high as the first team, Kerena Lineback and Bob Shehab, took the stage with a cha cha on behalf of the American Cancer Society.

"I want your legs," Kramer said to Lineback. "It was lovely and sensual with great hip movement."
Pat Allen teamed up with dance pro Joseph Schneider for a waltz on behalf of the American Red Cross. They earned a standing ovation.

Then, putting on the glitz for the Assistance League of Santa Clarita was Chris Carpenter, husband of Assistance League President, Jeannie Carpenter. A three-time Oscar nominee for sound mixing, Chris teamed up with professional dancer Kristy Rivers for another amazing cha cha that earned the pair 16 points and had the crowd on its feet. "I loved your enthusiasm," Johnson said. "You owned the floor."

"You were having way too much fun," Connery agreed. "It was very sexy." It was also Chris and Jeannie's wedding anniversary, so it was a double celebration.

Benefiting LARC Ranch, Councilwoman Marsha McLean - an experienced tap dancer in her own right - joined David Chisholm for a fabulous fox trot.

"That looked effortless, you are both very musical," Johnson said. "It looked like you were having a good time."

Exuding the ultimate in beauty, charm and elegance, Debbie Heys stepped onto the floor in a stunning magenta ball gown to dance a traditional waltz with Josh Becket.

They represented the SCV Child & Family Center, as the crowd cheered when the judges awarded them high points for presentation.

"You captured the essence of waltz," Connery said. "It was absolutely beautiful."

Cha cha cha
When it was time to shake things up a bit, Bob Kellar realized he might need to keep a closer watch on his bride when Kathy Kellar shimmied onto the dance floor in a hot silver number to the beat of the cha cha with partner Raz Hakipian. They earned plenty of votes and pledges for College of the Canyons/K-12 Arts Education and the audience booed when the judges gave them low marks.

"That was fun, nice footwork," Johnson said. "It was sensuous, a good show." "You clearly had a great time hamming it up," Connery said.

Dancing for the Boys & Girls Club of SCV, Jeff Whitaker and Mary Arzumanyan tried a flip and it flopped. Nevertheless, they recovered gracefully and finished with a smile. "It's hard to be the man out there," Johnson said. "You had good attitude and great cha cha locks."

Representing Carousel Ranch, Chris Brooks and Toni Krulisky stepped up with a cool rumba and then moved into an energetic but uneven cha cha.

"You really hit the rumba beat," Johnson said. "We will excuse some of the cha cha footwork."

Wearing a very tight black dress, Lisa DeLong joined Richard Pearce in another spirited cha cha to benefit the Michael Hoefflin Foundation for Children's Cancer.

"There was some very tight footwork," Connery said. "Really nice."

The Canyon Theater Guild's Elizabeth Teagle, in a hot red dress, stepped out with Mark Estrella for the salsa.

"That was a lot of fun," Kramer said. "It was infectious and it was totally enjoyable."

Paul De La Cerda strutted his stuff for the SCV Family YMCA with Dalia Garcia in a rocking version of salsa to "Steppin' Out With My Baby."

"That was serious salsa," Johnson said. "Steamy hot, I just loved the concept."

Dressed in a black suit and hat like a hood, B.J. Atkins of the A-TEAM shook things up a bit as he and Edna Coe performed a sexy Argentine tango to "Roxanne."

"It was a dramatic presentation, " Kramer said. "You were clearly having a good time."

Due to injuries, Brendie Heter and Wiley Simpson were unable to perform for the Foundation for Children's Dental Health but they received many pledges and a standing ovation when they stepped out on the floor to thank the audience.

After the competition, the crowd filled the dance floor.

A new model
Many people felt this fundraiser may be the model for the future, offering quality, entertainment and the chance to support more than one nonprofit at a time.

Ott said she prior to the event she hoped to raise more than $100,000 this year for the nonprofits but the event earned twice that amount.

"We are not an organization, so all of the money goes back to the charities, after we pay the hotel," Spahr said.

Sponsors of the event were The Magazine of Santa Clarita, Elite Magazine, Bellaspot, Mirage Hair & Nail Studio, KHTS Radio, Choppé Advertising Group, Star Dance Studio, R & R Awards and Sally Van Swearingen and Catherine Weber of The A LIST Hair and Makeup Studio. Dance sponsors were D'Wilfri DanceArt and Entertainment; Nadia Eftedal's Rhythm Room in Sherman Oaks; Arthur Murray Dance Studios, Sherman Oaks; Star Dance Studio in Newhall and Pamela Johnston Studio in Canyon Country.

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