Steele residents to test dancing skills
Eight couples from around Steele County will show off their newly found dancing skills with hopes of impressing both the judges and the audience at the fifth annual Dancing With Our Steele County Stars event this Saturday, April 25, at 7 p.m. in the Medford High School Auditorium.
The event raises money for the non-profit organization Healthy Seniors of Steele County that aims to provide services to seniors who are in need of caregivers and empower them to live happy, safe and independent lives in their own homes for as long as possible.
“It is for a really good cause. We are trying to get people to know about our program, so what a fun way to do it, with an event that is kind of exercise but yet we have couples who are willing to put theirselves out there and put the time into learning a routine,” said Healthy Seniors Executive Director Edna Ringhofer.
The couples first met with professional choreographers Brian and Lynette Dawley in November to learn about some different types of dances and be matched to which style best fit them.
“They are just phenomenal at matching the program to the dancer. You would never know that some of these couples have no dance experience prior to,” Ringhofer said.
The couples got to work the first Sunday of February and have since met once a week for an hour with the Dawleys to learn and perfect their routines. On top of that they are asked to practice on their own during the rest of the week.
Rinhofer says the fun part for her of this whole process is seeing the reaction on the couples’ faces when she asks if they would be willing to participate in the event, the progression of their skills and seeing the audience enjoying themselves at the event.
“It is a fun thing. It is really neat to see the progression from seeing them that first day when all this choreography is thrown their way and then seeing them that night. It is a neat feeling because a lot of times we get people who are a little nervous and by the time they are done they have had so much fun,” she said.
Ringhofer added that the competition this year is ging to be very close.
“This year’s show will not disappoint. The dancers look really good and they are very entertaining. Some years we have had couples who are way better than others or some that are not as good, but this year we don’t have that, they are all equal so it will be about how they turn it up on the stage,” she said.
The couples will be judged on three categories: fundraising, audience choice and judges score. In the end the points they earn from each category will be added up for an overall score putting the highest scoring couples in first, second or third place.
Friends Callan Paffrath and Michael Wurdeman, of Owatonna, went to high school together and met through mock trail. The two were approached separately by Ringhofer to see if they would consider participating in the event.
“She asked me to do it one day and I told her I would do it if she could find me a partner and she definitely found me a partner,” Paffrath said.
Paffrath has around 13 years of dance experience and was also a figure skater. Wurdeman on the other hand has “zero” dance experience, however Paffrath says he is doing very well.
Besides the weekly practice with the Dawleys the two try to practice at least two times during the week.
“It has been going really good actually. At first when we first started doing it, we kind of looked at ourselves and were like what did we get ourselves into… but it has been really good,” Paffrath said. “We are so happy that we decided to get outside of our comfort zones and be able to say we did something like this because it is fun and it is a good opportunity to fundraise for the Healthy Seniors.”
The two are doing a Lindy Hop dance to “Getting in the Mood” by the Brian Setzer Orchestra and have two flips in their routine. The most challenging part for them was learning the choreography and polishing it up so that the dance looks easy.
“We got one of the most energetic dances possible. You don’t get a chance to breath during the dance. It is a lot of hopping around and moving your arms and legs,” she said.
Paffrath says she has really enjoyed getting to know new people and getting back into dance, as she hasn’t danced in a few years. She is excited to be able to perform again, see the other couples’ routines and see how much money they were all able to raise together. With all that excitement though, she still has some nerves.
“I just don’t want to screw up on stage. I have a nasty habit of if I miss a move or a beat I will just stop and freeze, so I am nervous of freezing up on stage and not finishing the program on stage like I should,” she said.
Amy and Rod Baker, of Owatonna, have known Ringhofer for a while and known other couples who have participated in the event and always joked they should participate. Last year the two attended the event and decided they wanted to do it.
“Everyone just looked like they were really having a good time and of course we want to support Healthy Seniors, but dancing wasn’t exactly the aspect we were looking at,” Amy said. “We just thought it would be fun to give it a try.”
Neither Amy nor Rod has any prior dancing experience.
“I kind of thought that I would be more of the leader with it, but it really has been Rod that has been able to carry us through at this point,” Amy said.
Besides their once a week lesson with the Dawleys, the two try to practice two to four times a week for 20 to 30 minute intervals.
Amy says she has really enjoyed being able to support Healthy Seniors, having their lessons with another couple, Paul and Glenda Smith, and when the whole group gets together.
“The most enjoyable is when we get together with the whole group, but that doesn’t happen very often,” she said. “It is nice to be supporting and helping the Healthy Seniors and everything that they do.”
The Bakers are doing a Foxtrot to the song “I Can’t Dance” by Boppin’ B.
“It is very flowing. In comparison with the other dances I noticed that in our dance the moves are more together,” Amy said.
The main challenges for the Bakers have been finding the time to practice and fundraising for the event.
Amy is excited for when it is all over and nervous about the final performance in front of a crowd.
“We are just excited that it continues to be a successful event and being a part of that. I am excited to have all of us together on Saturday night and then the wrap up,” she said. “It is adding another new piece. We kind of learn each phase of the dance, then we add music, then we perform it in front of the other couples that are dancing and how this is going to be for the audience.”
The other participants include: Jeanne and Dean Rhoades, Glenda and Paul Smith, Jessica and Clint Williams, Amber and James Konz, Beth and Brent Svenby and Angela and Cory Michaelson.
Last year’s event raised around $20,000. The funds raised go toward the organization’s programming including conducting background checks on volunteers, recruiting volunteers and matching them with seniors, completing various assessments, networking with other senior agencies, education courses and social activities.