Dancers leave it all on floor for Center fundraiser |

Dancers leave it all on floor for Center fundraiser

Just how hard could it be to get nine time-challenged, busy professionals, to step up and participate in the first annual Dancing With Our Stars fundraiser? It turned out to be an easy sell. And when The Center for the Arts did the asking, it was a whopper of a request.

The one request included a veritable laundry list of items: Raise $2,000 each for The Center, practice every week for three months, get down with some glitzy costumes, work with their assigned professional dancers creating two dances and perform them before 800 event attendees and three judges at The Veterans Memorial Auditorium. No problem, right? And surprisingly, all nine participants gave us an enthusiastic, “Yes.”

Julie Baker, Executive Director of the Center, explains the process, “When we began recruiting participants, it was an easy ‘ask’. And we had an overwhelming response, every one we asked was happy to lend their support. Baker continues, “The Center serves as an important social and cultural hub of the community, offering a vast array of performances and benefits for the community throughout the year.“ The participants were all regulars at The Center and believe in the mission.

The dancers highlighted this week taking up the challenge are Dr. Brian Evans, Machen MacDonald and Allison Swartzendruber.

Brian Evans, MD has a very demanding schedule as the Emergency Department Medical Director at Sierra Nevada Hospital. His job is stressful-yes, demanding-oh yes, uses a different part of the brain than dancing-you bet! But Evans is taking it all in stride. He explains, “I thought I was in pretty good shape, but after a few lifts with my wonderful and slender partner, Marni Marshall…I realized I have no upper body strength! I think I can bench press about ‘half a Marni’ at this point. But rest assured, I will be able to press a full Marni by the night of the Dancing With Our Stars event.”

When asked what keeps him going week after week for these many months? “Other than supporting The Center for the Arts, fear of public humiliation while on the dance floor, keeps me right on practicing!”

For Machen MacDonald giving back to the community was his reason for “stepping up” right out of his comfort zone and out on the dance floor. He has written several books, is the owner of ProBrillance Leadership Institute, and is comfortable giving lectures before audiences of 3,000. He advises his clients to get out of their comfort zone in his weekly, Money Monday columns in The Union. He states, ”How could I give this advice and not take up this big step out of mine?”

MacDonald has never had a minute of dance training before. He and his wife of 21 years dance at many social events. No big deal. Yeah, he can dance. He thought this would be a little easier, but memorizing steps, dancing in unison with a partner, and then performing the heck out of their routines before a live audience turns our is real work. MacDonald is focused, determined and is going to do whatever asked to make it a real competition.

He attributes his pro dancer and coach, Jamie Hogan, for keeping his energy level high. MacDonald explains, “Jamie greets me each lesson with a big smile and a hug. Her enthusiasm and passion for dance just carries me through the stress of making it to all the rehearsals and through the rehearsals.”

Each couple must perform a Swing dance (they can choose East Coast, Western, etc for this one) and the second dance is the dancers free choice, it can be a Tango, Boogie Woogie, Disco, Waltz, or Break Dance. And the couples are choosing a wide variety dance styles.

When Allison Swartzendruber takes on something, she gives it her all. As co-owner of Tru-Line Builders, she stays busy working on projects for her ciients. But she also pours on the energy for many local nonprofits, serving as president of Rotary Club of Nevada County South, as a board member of The Friendship Club and now participating in this unique fundraiser for The Center for the Arts.

She is partnered with professional dancer, Jeremy Acmoody, and they are proving to be a perfect pairing. He has extensive experience as a Break Dancer (aka a B-Boy) and they have many curious about what their free-dance will be. A Waltz, don’t think so. Tango, hmmmmm. Break-out-Break-Dance, more likely. One thing for sure, these two are goin’for it and not saying word one about it. Allison is going to leave it all on the dance floor, no amount of bruises, aches or pains (and she has them) is going to stop her from taking the prize.

Swartzendruber knows how to mix it up and have fun. At the first event meeting with all the celebrities and dancers, she let us know that she was going for the gold. She continued by stating, “The mirror ball trophy is going home with me! Everyone can just go home now.” The dancers all began to laugh, and the good-natured ribbing began. It proved to be a great ice-breaker…let the games begin!

Next week we will hear from the last three celebrity dancers: videographer Rob Lambert, creative entrepreneur Belle Star, and radiologist, Dr. Michael Hallenbeck. What tales their feet could tell.

The Center of the Arts is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to promote and present the literary, visual, and performing arts for the enrichment of our community. For more information about becoming a member or upcoming events, visit The Center’s website at

Tickets are available on-line, via phone or at The Center for the Arts.

General admission tickets from $25, Reserved Floor Seating is $45, VIP Table seating includes: reserved parking, dessert, and bubbly for $95.

It is a snap to support you local celebrity or to buy tickets. You can go online: and click on Dancing With Our Stars, call 274-8384 ext 14, or drop The Center for the Arts, 314 W. Main Street in Grass Valley.

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