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“Dancing with the Stars” Comes to Middleburg

“Dancing with the Stars” Comes to Middleburg

 Written by Carlo Massimo | Photos by Timothy M. Yantz

“Dancing with the Stars” is coming to Middleburg.

On February 24, the Middleburg Community Center will host six teams of eminent local dancers who will box step, rock step, spin, dip, and merengue each other live to the roar of their fellow citizens. It’s a new twist — so to speak — on the Community Center’s biannual fundraiser. 

“We were looking for a creative way to do it,” says Executive Director Olivia Rogers. “We’d had 20 years of art auctions, every other year. But the last time, September 2022, I felt that the energy just wasn’t there. The artists felt tapped out.”

A fresh idea came from Community Center Board President Melanie Blunt: a dance-off fundraiser, modeled on the ABC program (and its BBC progenitor, “Strictly Come Dancing”). Blunt, former first lady of the state of Missouri, had overseen a similar fundraiser in Springfield. It had come off well. Over the course of a single evening, the teams advance in the ranking based on how much money they manage to raise from the spectators — and not, perhaps thankfully, on their skill on the dance floor. The two teams that raise the most money have their own dance-off, and the team that raises more money over the course of that final duel is crowned victor.

Rogers adds that this is an extension of the Community Center’s 75th anniversary celebration, and that she hopes to raise $75,000 for a new pavilion.

She expects as many as 250 people to pack the Community Center for the event, first for cocktails and hors d’oeuvres and then to settle in and watch. The ballroom and reserved tables are already sold out, with the side room soon to follow. The event will be livestreamed, too, with virtual tickets for those unable to attend in person. Bidding will be live. Each team will dance once; and, in theory, the better they dance the more amenable the public will be to donate.

Team Purple: Cab Grayson and Anne Sittmann.
Team Red (left to right): Tom Sweitzer and Kim Tapper.

So, are they ready? Many of the dancers come from years of experience, with several of the 12 participants describing their partners as “athletic.” Tom Sweitzer and Kim Tapper of Team Red have been dancing since early childhood, with Tapper trained in the world of classical dance and Sweitzer musical theater. Cab Grayson of Team Purple has been dancing since college and enjoys, among other things, disco, while his partner Anne Sittmann is, in his words, “a very gifted dancer, and has mastered the ability to both follow but also to include her own flair… She doesn’t complain when I step on her toes or do something poorly.” On Team Green, Paul Haefner has danced for years with his wife at the Social Graces Ballroom Dance Studio in Berryville, and his partner and colleague Susan McCaskey underwent the rigors of an old-fashioned cotillion training. And Vera Stern of Team Orange told us that while she’s “no dancer,” “as a Latina woman I believe I have some good rhythm and hopefully that comes through in our routine.” 

Team Green: Susan McCaskey and Paul Haefner.
Team Orange: Sam Meek and Vera Stern.

Generally, the teams are guarding their routines closely. All that’s for sure is that none of them will likely involve the waltz, by consensus the least favorite style by far. Team Red’s will be “sexy and fun,” and Stern promises “some wow moments” from Team Orange. Team Blue was similarly close-lipped, but offered some tantalizing hints as to what to expect: “It’s fun and raw. There are elements of the cha-cha and hip-hop. It’s about moving and grooving.”

Team Blue: Kerrie Jenkins and Andrew Richards.

But this fundraiser is about more than “cutting the rug,” as so many of the participants describe it. For McCaskey, it’s a family matter; a plaque dedicated to the memory of her grandfather, Thornton “Doc” Saffer, graces the wall of the Community Center. Team Red, who have called Middleburg home for over 20 years, are looking forward to this chance to give back to their town. Grayson called the Community Center “a wonderful resource,” and congratulated the board for its dedication.

As for who will take home the final prize, it’s anyone’s game, with each team predicting a different winner. To find out, be sure to reserve your tickets and access more information available at ML

Published in the February 2024 issue of Middleburg Life.

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