Couple tackles 'Dirty Dancing' for United Way fundraiser

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Staff photos by Cindy Beamon Dana Rabon-Smith and Doug Gardner demonstrate a move from the funny jitterbug routine they will perform at Dancing Under the Stars Saturday.


Albemarle Life Editor

Thursday, February 16, 2017

"Dirty Dancing" popped into Angela Cobb's mind almost instantly when asked if she and her husband Jim would perform at Dancing Under the Stars, a United Way fundraiser for local charities.

Performing the iconic merengue to "The Time of My Life" will not be easy, they said this week. Neither has danced for an audience before.

Although a little daunted, the pair sprang to the challenge.

Angela and Jim first watched the video of the Caribbean style of dance -- and watched it over and over again -- to see what moves from the late 1980s box office hit they could and could not perform.

Angela, the principal at Weeksville Elementary, recalls the two got stuck in a tangle when practicing one move.

They may never have unraveled except for a little coaching from Angela's daughter Kelley Stancil, a Center Player at Arts of the Albemarle, and Corey Bradford, a former student choreographer for the Center Players, now studying at the American Musical and Dramatic Arts Conservatory of the Performing Arts in New York.

Angela said the two younger, but more experienced dancers, sighed at first, then found a gracefully way for their elders to untwist.

Jim, who works at Norfolk Naval Shipyard, said learning the dance has been fun, but he's not sure how he will react to walking on stage in authentic costume.

United Way Executive Director Randy Foreman assured the dancers that they will be among friends.

The sixth annual Dancing Under the Stars has pulled together people from across the community to raise funds for 19 organizations that offer services to the community. Leading up to Saturday's event, the dancers have been seeking donations from friends, family and supporters to help the United Way reach its $20,000 goal. Angela and Jim said Facebook has helped them achieve third place so far among dancers' fundraising

Part of the evening's fun is seeing familiar faces out on the dance floor.

Five other dancing couples, besides the Cobbs, will offer the night's entertainment: Dana Rabon-Smith and Doug Gardner, Ginger and Tom Griffin, Mary and Walter North, Rick and Kelly Boyd, William Sarge Hoffman and Gretchen Carter. Emcees for the event are Diana Gardner and Andy Montero. Judges will be Rhonda Twiddy, Eula Reed, and Julian Eure.

For the first time, the event will include a full dinner, catered by Montero's Restaurant.

The night's entertainment will include a comic jitterbug by Dancing Under the Stars veteran dancer Doug Gardner and first-time partner Dana Rabon-Smith, both board members on the Elizabeth City Area Chamber of Commerce.

Gardner, a retired financial adviser, has won the coveted Mirror Ball award on previous Dancing Under the Stars. He has danced a swing, cha-cha, and waltz in five of six events before, but the jitterbug this time around will be a first.

Rabon-Smith, the director of Waterbrooke Assisted Living and a pharmacist, said she grew up dancing the shag, but performing the jitterbug on stage will be a first for her.

The two turned to veteran College of the Albemarle Performing Arts Center choreographer Mariah Schierer for help. The dance to "In the Mood" is a modified version of a performance Schierer arranged for the center's Veterans Day tribute. Gardner and Rabon-Smith will dance a slower version, thanks to technical help from Nathan Schierer.

"Nathan Schierer slowed it down 30 percent for us so two middle-aged dancers can keep up with it," Gardner said.

Gardner said this year's dance is his favorite Dancing Under the Stars performance because it's funny. Rabon-Smith added that keeping a straight face is not easy, even in practice. She's supposed to be angry at Gardner during the dance, but he has a way of making her laugh.

The scene begins with him and Rabon-Smith fighting over a suitcase as she's heading out the door. His costume, including nerd glasses and pink bow tie, adds to the humor.

Last year's Dancing Under the Stars drew a record crowd of about 250 people, said Foreman, who expects a similar turnout Saturday.

The audience gets to vote which dancing pair will win the "most inspirational" award. The Mirror Ball award goes to the dancers who raise the most donations.

The year's event will also spotlight the 30th anniversary of "Dirty Dancing."

The Cobbs expect their dance will bring back some memories.

"People will recognize pieces of it anyway," said Angela.

What's Up?

What: Dancing Under the Stars, United Way fundraiser

When: Saturday at 6 p.m.

Where: K.E. White Center at Elizabeth City State University

Cost: $40 in advance; $45 at the door. Event includes dinner

Contact: www.AlbemarleAreaUW.org/Dancing or 333,1510