Author William Purkey has urged people to “dance like no one’s watching.”
Try telling that to the six “stars” of Northern Pima County, the courageous souls who are going to dance before hundreds of people on Nov. 8, when the Northern Pima County Chamber of Commerce holds its annual fund-raising gala.
Mary Snider, Bonnie Kampa, Suzy Baxter, Ken Blanchard, Gregg Forszt and Paul Kappelman have been practicing for weeks now at American Dance.
“Everyone has been wonderful,” American Dance owner Elizabeth Keyes said. “They’ve tried so hard, they have great attitudes, and we’re doing this for charity.”
Half the money raised from Dancing with the Stars of Northern Pima County goes to the chamber, and half goes to the charity of the dancer’s choice. To date, the event has raised just over $8,000, according to Jane Cannon, the chamber’s special events director.
And so they dance, for good causes.
Kampa admits dancing “has not been a big part of my life.”
Forszt was “certainly a fish out of water” when he stepped onto the floor.
Baxter found herself “out of my comfort level.”
“It started off to be very intimidating,” Snider allowed.
Now, these four performers are personally and physically stretched, a little nervous but now polishing their two-minute routines, and in better shape than they were.
“I’m not a dancer, and it’s the kind of thing you want to do to help a charity, but you’re out of your comfort zone and you’re going ‘yikes’,” Snider said. “It’s gone from frightening to fun.”
American Dance donated 15 lessons to each student. Keyes “personally choreographed each routine, and chose the dance and music.” She did so after evaluating the Stars, studying their height, strength, fitness levels, attitudes and “how well they’re going to be able to move.”
Snider is “a very lucky woman,” Keyes said. She’s going to dance the East Coast Swing with Adrian Vega and David Davis, two American Dance instructors who are making careers of it. To the strains of “My Guy,” one waits in the wings while she dances with the other.
“It’s a fast, energetic dance,” Keyes said. “I think it’s my favorite, fun and playful.”
Baxter is dancing the tango with Vega. “It’s quite dramatic,” Keyes said.
“I hope to do it justice, because it’s a very dramatic dance, and one that requires more skill,” Baxter said. “I’ve spent a lot of time practicing.”
Baxter has found dancing to be “physical. It’s not as easy as people might think. I want to do very well. Hopefully I’ll be at least average. I’m learning that routine, and I know now exactly what I need to practice.”
Kampa is dancing the salsa with Davis. “It’s fun, fast and flirty,” Keyes said. “Bonnie is doing super.”
“It is great exercise and good fun,” said Kampa. “He’s a good partner, encouraging and patient. It’s going to turn out nicely.
“For a non-dancer, a non-professional dancer, there’s always an element of concern,” Kampa said. “‘Will we get this? Will we be good enough?’ But it’s fun.”
Early on, Kampa was “trying to understand what this routine was going to look like, trying to get the big picture.” Now, she says, “I have a much higher comfort level.”
Forszt, chamber board chairman, was “very nervous and tentative” when he began practicing.
“But I think I’ve had 10 lessons, and I’m really enjoying every minute of it,” he said. “I wasn’t sure I’d be able to do this. Now I know I can get through it and probably look half-way decent.”
Forszt, a product of the ’60s and its formless body gyration, is dancing the Fox Trot with Tasha Rogers, a Keyes protégé.
“He is an elegant gentleman, and this is the perfect dance for him,” Keyes said.
Forszt describes Rogers as “phenomenal.” Keyes and her staff are “very encouraging, very professional, very patient and very flattering. It certainly makes you want to go back and get better.”
He admits to some nerves.
“I’ve got about 20 of my fraternity brothers from college coming to this,” said the Purdue graduate. “I’m more nervous about them attending from all parts of the country than anything else.”
Snider’s charity is Project Graduation, a longtime personal cause. “For me, every dollar that Project Graduation can get will help them in this economic time. And it’s an opportunity to keep the project alive in the minds of the community.”
Baxter’s charity is the The Humane Society of Southern Arizona. “I love wildlife and domestic animals,” Baxter said. “They do a wonderful job there.”
Kampa is the executive director of Interfaith Community Services, and it was easy to choose her charity. ICS fills “major gaps in the community, helping seniors stay at home, and stay independent in their home. We’re seeing a tremendous need right now. Now more than ever we need the support of the community.”
There are benefits beyond charity.
Kampa has enjoyed “pushing yourself in a way that you haven’t been pushed before, reaching out and doing something different. It’s for fun. I’m sure all of us are taking it a bit serious. We want to do our very best, but it’s about having a good time.”
Baxter likes the workout. “I think my legs look nicer,” she quipped.
Snider goes to a dance lesson, “all stressed out from the day,” then dances for an hour and finds “a smile on my face. It’s a great attitude adjustment.” And, when called upon to dance at a wedding or some function, “I will be able to dance and not embarrass myself,” she said.
Forszt joined a gym ahead of the competition. “I’m in much better shape than I was 2-1/2 months ago,” he said. “If you’re going to be in front of 500 people, you want to look as good as you can.”
Blanchard is doing The Hustle with Rogers. He’ll be doing lifts, and more, to the Bee Gees’ “More than a Woman.” Kappelman and Keyes are performing the Cha Cha, to the music of “A la Playa” by S.B.S. Africano Cubano.
Baxter has watched fellow “stars” Blanchard and Kampa dance.
“It was so much fun to see them dancing,” Baxter said. “I’m hoping everyone enjoys all of us. Six of us have stepped up to the plate with this. Half the time, we look like deer in the headlights.”
Several of the dancers saw one another at the Oro Valley State of the Town event on Sept. 11. “We were sharing our anxiety stories,” Snider said. “We should be the charter members of the Good Sport Club of Oro Valley.”
Some tickets are available. Donations in support of the charities and the chamber are welcome, and may be sent to the chamber at 200 W. Magee Rd., Suite 120, Tucson, 85704.
“They’re going to miss one heck of a show if they don’t attend,” Forszt said.