CONVERSATIONS WITH MAINE

Twelve volunteers dance out on a limb for the elderly

Two dancers warm up for the “pros” intro dance which will open the Dancing For the Stars fundraiser event to benefit the Phillips-Strickland House on March 17.
Two dancers warm up for the “pros” intro dance which will open the Dancing For the Stars fundraiser event to benefit the Phillips-Strickland House on March 17.
Posted March 08, 2012, at 5:01 p.m.
In preparation for the “Dancing For the Stars” fundraiser event to benefit the Phillips-Strickland House on March 17, the six competing couples (one “pro” and one “star”) prepare recently at Robinson Ballet’s rehearsal space.
In preparation for the “Dancing For the Stars” fundraiser event to benefit the Phillips-Strickland House on March 17, the six competing couples (one “pro” and one “star”) prepare recently at Robinson Ballet’s rehearsal space.

What do the following people have in common: the executive director of Community Health and Counseling Services, two University of Maine undergraduates, a Bangor city councilor, a marathon runner, chief medical officer of Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems, a clinical social worker and the 1994 Miss Boston in a “Rose of Tralee” beauty pageant?

Stumped? If I add a handful of dance professionals, does that give you a clue?

Amidst trodden feet and laughter, that eclectic group gathered at the Robinson Ballet rehearsal space on a recent Sunday to prepare for Phillips-Strickland House’s fifth annual Dancing For the Stars fundraising event. In the name of supporting the health and well-being of elderly residents in the Bangor region, six couples will perform March 17 at the Bangor Civic Center. Each pair is composed of one highly talented dancing “pro” and one slightly less talented “star,” a brave member of the local community.

I say “brave” because most of the event stars will be making their dancing debut on the stage of the Bangor Civic Center. All of them, however, are willing to put themselves on the line for a worthy cause.

“It’s definitely out of my comfort zone, but I’m happy to do it,” said Ben Sprague, a Bangor city councilor.

Dale Hamilton of CHCS agreed.

“It’s a great cause, even though I can’t dance,” he said.

“My father was a fabulous dancer, but it must have skipped a generation,” said Erik Steele, EMHS chief medical officer.

Marathon runner Lyndy Rohman said she has been on stage only once before, as a nun in the Sound of Music.

“I had only one line, and when it came time for me to speak, I froze up. I think this is the biggest thing I’ve ever done. But, I’m in it for the team!”

Beyond their own trepidation, all the stars had great praise for their partners, the pros. Two of the great dancers are also college students, four are dance professionals and all have very full lives. Nonetheless, this year is the first time that every pro is giving 100 percent of his or her time as a volunteer.

The pros have been working hard to put on a high-quality performance, even though it is all about fun. I watched the six of them rehearsing an impressive intro piece that they will perform on their own.

For Stevie Dunham, associate artistic director of Robinson Ballet, it is always good to find opportunities to bring dance out into the community. Since she and partner, Sprague, went to high school together, there has been an extra layer of fun in reconnecting with an old friend and contemporary.

She is also excited that six or seven of her top high school dance students will be performing at the same event. In a musical medley of Ray Charles songs, the students will perform a show called, “Messin’ Around.” And to top it all off, there will be an after-show dance party to the tunes of the RetroRockerz.

All of the pros also feel good about contributing to the Phillips-Strickland House.

“I’m a caregiver,” said Kelly Fitzpatrick, an area dance instructor. “I take care of my mother-in-law, so I have a soft place in my heart for the elderly.”

Dance instructor David Lamon had similar sentiments.

“My grandmother just moved into assisted living. I feel really good about doing this.”

Event coordinator Stephanie Laite Lanham talked about how public funding for the elderly is disappearing. That makes fundraisers such as this especially important. I listened to her words of thanks and encouragement to the whole group of dancers. Since it was the first time they had all met in one place, Stephanie introduced everyone to each other and said to the stars, “You are all leaders in our community, yet you’re humbling yourselves in front of our community.”

“That’s about right,” responded one star, and everyone laughed.

That encapsulates the atmosphere — a room filled with dedicated, game people ready to laugh and have fun for a purpose. It promises to be a terrific show.

For more information or to buy tickets, call Sharon Nickerson at 941-2820 or email snickerson@pshouse.org.

Robin Clifford Wood welcomes feedback at robin.everyday@gmail.com.

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