On Friday night, the Fourth Annual Dancing with the Richmond Stars fundraiser brought in close to $100,000 to benefit the Virginia Treatment Center for Children at Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU.
Susan Adolf, the vice president of Saxon Shoes, took home the “Mirror Ball” trophy, while ABC 8News Anchor Juan Conde won “Most Dramatic Dancer.”
On the real “Dancing with the Stars” on ABC, the contestants are dancing for cash. In the Richmond version, they dance for charity, but the process is very much the same. Ten local personalities were each paired with a pro from Rigby’s Jig Dance Studio in Henrico County.
“I love to dance, but that’s just shaking it around on the dance floor,” said contestant Gail Johnson, the president/CEO of Rainbow Station, Inc.
Johnson’s waltz took more than 12 hours to learn and perfect.
“Even though we tell them ahead of time what all is involved, you don’t really know until you get into the trenches [that] you have no idea what you’re getting into,” said Eleanor Robertson, the owner of Rigby’s Jig.
“Actually, I got volun-told to do it!” joked Roman Gunn, a flight nurse with VCUHS Emergency Aviation.
Conde says that despite more than 12 hours of practice, his final performance still wasn’t perfect.
“None of the stars come to us with any experience, so it’s—they come with [a] deer-in-the-headlights look in their eyes,” said Conde’s dancing partner, Sarah Warnick. “I think most people don’t realize how much memorization goes into it, particularly for a gentleman who’s coming in, because not only do they have to learn their own part, they have to learn how to move the lady through the dance.”
Each step forces the dancer’s brain to create new neural pathways to his or her muscles, something it probably hasn’t done in years.
“That’s a lot to remember, and a lot of brain-feet movement,” Johnson said. “It’s good for me.”
But when it goes well, it’s a feeling like no other.
“It has been extraordinarily stressful, but a great challenge,” Johnson said. “Tonight was fun, in spite of myself.”
So, as you watch the real celebrities kick, twist, shimmy and turn this season on “Dancing with the Stars,” remember:
“People see ‘Dancing with the Stars,’ they watch TV and say, ‘Oh, that doesn’t look too hard,’” Robertson said. “And then they try it and they realize, ‘You know what? This is hard; this is difficult and this is why not everybody knows how to tango.’”