Stars hit the dance floor for hospice charity

Jamie Glenn

With decades of dance styles to demonstrate and plenty of moves to bust, eight dance teams will come together to interweave their talent and dedication, aiming to raise money for a local healthcare initiative.

The fifth annual Dancing with Our Stars fundraiser will be a two-night event at the Forest Roberts Theatre Wednesday, May 24 to Thursday, May 25. All of the proceeds will benefit the Upper Peninsula Hospice Foundation and its programs to help hospice patients and their families.

“I think people can really rest easy knowing that by coming to the event they are also helping hospice patients and families,” said event founder and coordinator Lindsay Hemmila.

re-LindseyHemmila.DancingWithOurStarsThe first night doors will open at 5:30 p.m. with the show starting at 6 p.m. The second night starts with a red carpet event in Hedgcock at 5 p.m., with food and a cash bar available. Then the show will begin at 7 p.m. Dancers will give the same performance, and the winning dance couple will also be announced.

The idea struck when Hemmila, the manager of community services for U.P. Home Health and Hospice, was inspired after visiting the EUP Health and Hospice in Sault Ste. Marie and she saw a similar charity project. Hemmila and a childhood dance friend came together to create Dancing with Our Stars.

The theme for this year’s competition is “Redemption,” where past dance couples will get another shot at winning.

“We made each year have something special. We’ve asked eight couples to come back who have already participated over the last four years,” Hemmila said. “We asked couples who did really well in the competition but came up a little shy from winning either the Fan Favorite trophy or Mirror Ball trophy, to give them a shot at redemption.”

The voting categories include musicality, audience engagement, dance ability and technique, chemistry together and use of the dance floor. The judges will be Don Ryan and Doug Garrison, both returning from years past, and Jill Grundstrom, who is the program director of the NMU dance minor and is also the dance director for the event.

Dance styles in this year’s event will vary from the merengue, Viennese waltz, disco, Lindy Hop, samba and foxtrot, to the salsa and the Argentine tango.

Each team picks one of these dance styles at random. The pair then has just over two minutes to impress the audience and judges. All those affiliated with the event donate their time and hard work, and Hemmila credits the dancers for their enthusiastic performances.

“It’s the dance stars I think that have made this event interactive,” Hemmila said. “That second year and then really that third year they started coming up with ways and ideas, how they were going to raise [more] money for [charity]. So they really have made this beyond our wildest expectations.”

To purchase tickets, call 225-4545. Tickets for the opening night are still available for $25 to $45 depending on food options. As popular as in years past, tickets for the second night are sold out already. For more information, visit uphomehealth.org/DWOS.

“You can expect laughs, entertainment. You’ll be wowed at the time and energy that these non-dancers have put into an event, to put on an amazing show that’s really become, I think, one of the community’s sought-after events,” Hemmila added. “It’s not just your average recital or just dance competition. It’s truly an exceptional event.”