With a mirror ball trophy up for grabs instead of the title of king and queen, four local celebrities will relive their proms during the Manchester Community Music School’s Dancing with the Stars Gala Thursday, March 19.
Mike Reed, president of Stebbins Commercial Properties, will most likely wear a white or powder blue tux, reminiscent of the one he wore at his 1978 prom, but this time when he gets out on the dance floor, he’ll be performing a samba choreographed by Marlana Carroll — and everybody will be watching.
The event, which starts at 5:45 p.m. at the Radisson Hotel, is a fundraiser for the music school and features the musical talent of the New Hampshire Youth Jazz Ensemble and dance performances by four local celebrities: Heather Ramsey (partner/executive coach with Sojourn Partners), Chef Nicole Barreira (from the Great New Hampshire Restaurant team), Gray Chynoweth (COO/EVP of SilverTech) and Reed.
They’ll be accompanied by Royal Palace Dance Studio professionals — Reed and Chynoweth with Carroll, Barreira and Ramsey with company owner Miah Trost — and they’ll all dance the samba or salsa to music from their own senior proms, performed by the youth ensemble. These celebrities have their work cut out for them.
“I was caught the other day at the check-out counter practicing,” Reed said during a break from his rehearsal with Carroll at the Manchester dance studio. “I have a new appreciation for what these guys do. I’ve never taken a dance lesson in my life, but I’m starting to realize how difficult it is. It’s not just getting out there and letting the music take you wherever you want. … And they make it look so easy! I don’t think I realized the enormity of what it was.”
Less than a month before the event, Carroll had taught Reed the basic movements of the samba. They hadn’t choreographed the dance yet, but they knew they’d be dancing to “Copacabana” by Barry Manilow. Most dancers were practicing three hours a week.
This is the third year the music school hosts the event, but this is its first time at the Radisson. Last year’s gala at Manchester Community College was “tight,” said Stephanie Burnell, MCMS executive assistant to the CEO, at 300 people. So, event organizers moved it down the street in a bigger space. They hope for 400 guests, and Carroll thinks that ups the ante a bit.
“It’s not an intimate space. [The Radisson] brings the event to another level. People will be expecting more of a performance, so we’re really not only trying to have fun with the steps, but actually dance the samba so people can see the roots of the dance throughout it,” Carroll said.
Easier said than done, particularly for the males; not only do they need to learn the dance, but they also need to learn how to lead. Reed was having a particularly difficult time, and was both grateful and surprised at the enthusiasm with which Carroll taught; in his eyes, she had her work cut out for her, too.
“She looks like she’s floating on air. I look like I’m marching in the military,” Reed joked. “But really … she’s so incredibly patient with me. In her emails, she writes things like, ‘I can’t wait to teach you the samba!’ [If I were her] I’d be like, ‘Oh my God, he’s coming again?’ It’s all so foreign to me.”
Barreira will dance to “Baby Boy” by Beyonce and Sean Paul, Ramsey to “Everybody Dance Now” by C+C Music Factory and Chynoweth to “Mambo No. 5” by Lou Bega. Audiences will choose the winner of the mirror ball trophy (like from the TV show, Dancing with the Star) with loud clapping, though judges (who include Katie McQuaid Cote from the Union Leader, Cathy Schmidt, Executive Director/CEO of The McLane Law Firm/last year’s champion, and Joe Reilly, New Hampshire Regional President of Eastern Bank) will comment as well.
Between numbers, there will be an live auction, and the youth ensemble will perform a mix of jazz standards and contemporary jazz with vocals by Megan Jurnak. Burnell encourages attendees to wear prom attire and be ready to take prom photos and send out prom tweets (#mcmsprom).
As seen in the March 5, 2015 issue of the Hippo.