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August 28, 2014
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Benefit event spins success for Center, dancers

When Michelle Litton Ogaidi stepped out on the dance floor Saturday night to perform hip-hop and salsa routines before 750 spectators, she was a little outside her comfort zone.

Litton Ogaidi is a local teacher, not a dancer. But for one night, she took a risk and was rewarded with a wealth of memories and new friends.

The emotions are something Julie Baker can relate to well. As the executive director for the Center for the Arts in Grass Valley, she’s familiar with taking big risks. And after Saturday’s second annual Dancing With Our Stars benefit event for the Center, Baker also knows what it’s like to reap the rewards.

The event featured 11 local celebrities, such as Litton Ogaidi, paired with 11 professional dancers, who competed against each other for the coveted mirror ball trophies for Judges Choice, Best Fundraisers and Audience Choice. Each couple was required to raise a minimum of $2,000 to compete.

Celebrity Julia Amaral, a property manager and local philanthropist, along with partner Jimmy McCammon, secured the trophy for best fundraiser. Professional juggler and performer Barry Friedman and professional dance partner Marni Marshall took the title of Judges Choice, with Litton Ogaidi and partner Jeremy Acmoody taking Audience Choice.

Between the sold-out Grass Valley Veterans Building, funds raised by the dancers and the community’s paid votes, the event grossed $95,000, according to Baker. The actual figure of what was raised won’t be known for a little while as expenses continue to come in, but Baker said preliminary reports indicate the Center will net about $60,000 to $70,000.

That’s the reward.

This year, it will help support the Center’s general fund and make up for the risks the nonprofit arts organization incurred this year that didn’t work out as well as Dancing With Our Stars. The postponement of a sold-out Jewel concert in August is one example. The musician injured her back shortly before she was scheduled to perform in Grass Valley, and what was an anticipated profit from a big show turned into a slight loss on the books for that month. Another major musical event the organization had planned to produce this year had to be canceled because of circumstances that were beyond their control, Baker added.

In the nearly six years Baker has been at the helm of the Center, this was the first year the organization was facing a loss because of unexpected changes and facility improvements to the aging building at 314 W. Main St. that were required by the fire department and city, she said.

Baker is the first to admit they take on risks booking large shows, but acknowledges that they also pay off for the Center and the community when successful.

For Dancing With Our Stars, the Center had professional videos of the dancers projected onto a large screen at the Vet’s Hall, introducing each person before they performed. The screen also allowed audience members in the bleachers a better view of the action on the dance floor. There was professional lighting and elaborate costumes, all of which contributed to the success of the event.

“The word I use most is joyous,” Baker said of the evening.

The event, by many accounts, had people laughing all night. And, of course, there were the celebrities.

In a small town like ours, celebrities are the teachers, doctors, accountants, Baker said.

“We are celebrating what makes this community special,” she added.

For dancer Michelle Margulies, the experience has changed her perspective. Margulies owns bookkeeping business Accountability and co-owns Matteo’s Public with her husband. She is a self-professed math geek, according to her bio, and has a “bitter sense of confidence.”

“It’s opened up a lot of opportunity for me for things I’d like to do in the future,” said Margulies, who has never danced before this, much less in front of 750 people.

Margulies, who with partner Phillip Storey performed a jitterbug and salsa, plans to continue with salsa dancing and is getting her husband into lessons as well.

To contact features editor Brett Bentley, email flavor@theunion.com or call 530-477-4219.


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The Union Updated Aug 28, 2014 01:01AM Published Aug 28, 2014 01:01AM Copyright 2014 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.