Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Steppin' out, steppin' up

I had my doubts.

I mean, I don't even watch the real Dancing With the Stars when it's on television, so why would I care anything about Dancing With the Potential Stars, a fundraiser for the Lexington City Schools Project Potential program, at the Edward C. Smith Civic Center this past Sunday?

Well, sure. We all know Mac Parrott is a hoot, and while we appreciate that Lee Mabe can sing, does he know how to dance? I mean, really?

But my wife wanted to go, so we bought tickets. What the heck. There was no NFL football on this Sunday. So we went.

Right off, before the show even began, executive director Cathy Coles announced that the online voting for the contestants had quadrupled their own expectations, bringing in a whopping $17,000.

Then the fun started. Most of the male dancers in the show looked hesitant about their moves, like they had to think about it before actually executing a step. Heck, that's how I learned how to shag. I always think about where my feet go before I put them where they're supposed to be, and as a result, I'm usually two steps behind the beat.

Couple after couple went through their three-minute routines in the packed Civic Center, each couple as entertaining as the other, each couple bringing a smile or a laugh.

But something totally unexpected happened when Mayor Newell Clark and his wife, Jennifer, took the stage. Hizzoner was dressed in a tuxedo, his wife in a red gown. The music cued up to "What a Wonderful World" and the Clarks then glided into a graceful waltz.

After a moment, the Clarks twirled their way to a darkened stage left, where Jennifer parted with Newell to be replaced by ... Ann Easter, Newell's mother! Wow! Nice touch. Never saw that one coming. Mother and son danced for a moment before heading to stage right, where Ann gave way to ... Edna Lanier, Newell's nonagenarian (soon to be 96) grandmother! Oh my God! A palpable "Awwww" rose from the audience as Newell and Edna swayed in place to the music. Eyes moistened. Throats verklemped. What could possibly top that?

We didn't have to wait long to see. Newell then headed back to center stage, alone, and dropped to one knee, faced stage left with his arms extended ... as 4-year-old daughter Eleanor, in full tutu, ran out to meet him, and they danced.

Well, that did it. The place became one giant tear. Four generations. Are you kidding me?

Emcee Lee Jessup probably spoke for most of us when he said, through his exaggerated crocodile tears, "I thought that was going to be cheesy, but it whuddn't. It was beautiful." Then he dabbed his eyes with the on-stage curtain. Most of us were dabbing our eyes, too. We had reached our emotional zenith for the night, maybe even for the week.

Later, Clark said that Edna had not been to the dress rehearsal practice, so her appearance was pretty much unexpected.

"Jennifer and I had a couple of 30 minute rehearsals with Kelly Greathouse and one rehearsal with Edna, my mom (Ann) and Eleanor and one dress rehearsal at the Civic Center Saturday night with the cast," said Clark.

While Greathouse laid out the choreography, the whole idea for the routine came from Mickey Sharpe, an interior designer who is involved with the arts.

"Due to the fact that my schedule is very busy, he (Sharpe) thought if we broke it down into smaller pieces it would work for my schedule and Jennifer's schedule," said Clark.

There was a contingency plan just in case Eleanor opted not to run on stage.

"The backup plan if Eleanor did not come out was Jennifer picking her up and dancing onto the stage with her and the three of us doing a waltz (at home we call it a group hug)," said Clark. "However, at rehearsal she shot out and we knew that it would not be a problem for her. She loved it and was telling everyone backstage that she was 'about to go on stage.'"

In the end, the show netted about $20,000 for Project Potential, about twice what the organizers had hoped for. It was an incredible night all the way around.

What a Wonderful World, indeed.

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