Dancers tell how they bust a move
By Erin Crowell
Northern Michigan radio dj Rich Nadeau regularly watches Dancing with the Stars -- it helps to get his hips moving.
The Fox FM dj is one of six local celebrities competing in SwingShift & the Stars, a local charity dance-off, a competition much like the popular reality show that wrapped up its ninth season last week. Competitors dance for the approval of the judges while raising donations for their chosen local charity.
This Friday will mark the third installment of the four-dance series, happening at the City Opera House in downtown Traverse City.
Most SwingShift competitors have had little or no structured dance experience; so theyve been paired up with six local dancing experts who have plenty.
Nadeau is partnered with Liz Reincke, a member of the Michigan Dance Collective since 2005. Like anyone new to dancing, Nadeau had obstacles.
Ive had this problem to get my hips to move. They dont move side to side or front or back, Nadeau said at a recent dance practice.
And like any good dance instructor, Reincke had a solution.
I made Rich hula-hoop, she says with a smile, and I gave him the Dancing with the Stars video.
Reincke says the extracurricular activities have worked and Nadeau has loosened up.
He picks things up very quickly, she says. Just because his hips dont move doesnt make him a bad dancer.
For competitor Ramona Pleva, the dancing hurdle is memory.
I have dancers dementia, she says. (In practice), we break the dance up one move at a time, depending on how complex it is; and I just cant remember the steps sometimes. Theres a lot going on: muscle memory, posture, how you hold your hands, the look on your face.
Pleva is partnered with Traverse City resident Ed Blackburn.
(Ed) will tell me straight up what he thinks or what I need to do and Ill do the same. Sometimes we bicker like siblings; but its all good, she laughs.
SORE ALL OVER
For each competition, couples must perform different dances, which include the tango, waltz and bolero (which are slower-paced dances); and the cha-cha, salsa and samba, or higher-paced dances.
Immediately after each competition, couples are informed what their next style of dance will be for the following event. They then have a month to work on the choreography.
Couples practice weekly. For Reincke and Nadeau, its up to four days or five to seven hours a week.
Its difficult, says Nadeau as he stretches before practice. Dancing really takes a lot of stamina.
Oh my gosh! My chest is sore, my hips, my inner thighs are sore, she recalls after a two and a half hour practice the night before. Sometimes Im like, You want me to put my leg where?
Pleva is used to sore muscles -- or working on them, rather. Pleva is a massage therapist based in Traverse City, and she has traveled as a sports massage therapist for the 2002 Salt Lake Olympics and the 06 and 07 Ford Ironman World Championships in Hawaii.
In its first year, SwingShift was an instant success, raising close to $40,000 for local charities and bringing a national phenomenon to the local level. This year, the event is well on its way to attaining that number and beyond, says SwingShift creator Judy Harrison.
Many competitors agree its not all about who wins, but about the charities and just having fun.
Theyre all worthy charities, says Pleva, a Rotary member who is representing Third Level Crisis Center. Its friendly competition. Theres a support system with all the dancers.
At one of their evening practices, Nadeau and Reincke dance in front of a long mirror, focusing on the steps ahead of them. The two are all about the business at hand, until one makes the other laugh.
The feeling is contagious.
Our last dance was the cha-cha, Nadeau says. It kicked our ass, but we looked good!
Reincke smiles at her dance partner. Yeah, we were Marilyn Monroe and Elvis out there.
SwingShift & the Stars
Dancers and their charities include the following:
Rich Nadeau & Liz Reincke for Cherryland Humane Society
Ramona Pleva & Ed Blackburn for Third Level Crisis Center
Diana Fairbanks & Hans Benghauser for Munson Healthcare Mammography Assist. Fund
Susan McQuaid & Richard Dodge for Northwest Food Coalition
Pete Currie & Erin Peck for Community Living Foundation
Dont miss the third installment of the four-dance event series where six local celebrities and their dance partners compete for charity, happening Dec. 4, at the City Opera House in Traverse City. Doors open at 6:30pm, dance lessons follow at 7pm and competition begins at 7:30pm. For tickets and more information on dancers and their charities, visit swingshiftandthestars.com, or call 231-620-6246