Dancing duos wow crowd at Center for the Arts fundraising event in Grass Valley | TheUnion.com

Dancing duos wow crowd at Center for the Arts fundraising event in Grass Valley

Replete with standing ovations and sustained foot-stomping applause, an enthusiastic crowd shared its appreciation for the dancing duos of the 2017 “Dancing with our Stars” event Saturday night.

Hundreds of people packed Grass Valley’s Veterans Memorial Auditorium to enjoy the annual fundraiser for the Center for the Arts that pairs local celebrities with dance professionals in a star-studded competition.

The evening started with performers and patrons dressed in their swanky best strolling along a red carpet lined by paparazzi and cheering fans.

Welcoming the audience, Center Executive Director Julie Baker — whose husband was among the 10 celebrities who devoted long hours to rigorous practice sessions over the past six months — acknowledged the sacrifices made in the name of fundraising, pursuing perfection, and learning a new craft.

“They’ve endured bumps, bruises, leg strains, and leaving their families at home,” Baker said.

Lighting and stage props looked as if they’d been borrowed from a Hollywood film set. Costumes featured crystals and sequins, hats and canes, and anything imaginable that might help set one dancing pair apart from the others. Dance genres included swing, waltz, salsa and combinations.

At the onset, scores of seven or eight brought animated applause. As the competition progressed and pressure mounted, shrieks and wild cheers erupted when a dance routine was awarded a perfect 10. The three judges were often effusive in their praise: lifts were acclaimed as “light as a feather” and a couple’s timing was lauded as “right on!”

It was a bittersweet evening for Baker, who recently announced her departure as Executive Director. She plans to continue her support of the Center as a consultant.

“I’m moving on,” said Baker. “Thank you for supporting the Center. I look forward to bringing amazing things to our community.”

At the end of the three-hour extravaganza, mirrorball trophies were awarded in three categories. Richard Baker, paired with dance pro Maria DeCintio, raised the most money leading up to the competition.

Steven Conrad, a personal trainer, teamed with dance pro Denay Woodman and collected the most votes/donations during the contest.

“The race during the contest for the audience choice award was the closest call because it kept changing throughout the competition as to who was in the lead,” said Amber Jo Manuel, the Center’s director of development. “That shows the level of artistry among all the couples was extremely high this year and the audience loved them all.”

When all the scores were tallied at the end of the night, Dan Maliszewski, a local contractor, and professional dancer Melissa Stewart were named 2017 Dancing with our Stars champions.

“I don’t know how she got me to do that,” said Maliszewski, “because I don’t dance!”

“He’s come such a long way,” said Stewart, with delighted admiration.

DWOS, the Center’s biggest fundraiser and signature annual event, raised more than $250-thousand dollars in its first four year. The 2017 fifth annual gala competition didn’t disappoint, although exact figures haven’t been calculated.

Among those cheering on their favorite dance pairs was eight-year-old Amari Lucia, who takes ballet lessons from one of the dance pros competing Saturday night.

“It would be fun to do this someday,” she said.

Lorraine Jewett is a freelance writer who lives in Nevada County. She can be reached at LorraineJewettWrites@gmail.com.

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