Maybe it won’t be the chicken dance, but Beckley’s “chicken man” has temporarily transformed into rug-cutter along with one of his favorite personalities, Megan Constantino, for the sake of a non-profit champion striving for it’s loftiest annual goal ever — half a million dollars.
Richard Jarrell, owner of Chick-fil-A’s two Beckley locations and an unknown in the category of tripping the light fantastic, says he’s sure going to try to accomplish that phrase … whatever it means.
For the past several weeks he, Constantino and four other couples have been perfecting their grapevines and lifts, maintaining their frames and, possibly inventing a few never-before-seen moves as part of a novel fundraiser.
United Way of Southern West Virginia is bringing a “Dancing With The Stars” charity competition to Beckley Sept. 14, an evening beginning at 6 p.m. at the Beckley-Raleigh County Convention Center filled with entertaining performers and hilarious outtakes. Money raised will support the local United Way’s 30-plus non-profit agencies, each defending those facing an unimaginable reality — from spousal abuse to terminal illness to dumpster-diving for food by struggling moms and dads.
The costumes, the crawl from the bottom of the amateur heap to sashaying like a pro for the grand prize. Television-watchers are amply saturated with dance through Dancing With The Stars, now awaiting its 15th season.
“We just started hearing about the idea as a fundraiser over the last year and a half,” explains United Way Director Margaret O’Neal. “It was just too popular for someone not to pick up on the idea,” she says, adding they knew if they didn’t do Dancing, someone else would.
Once committed, her group then selected the 10 busiest people in southern West Virginia to perform.
“I don’t think any of them would do this if they didn’t believe in it. There’s blood sweat and tears involved with this,” she says.
Aside from sacrifice, the competition is softening contestants to consider the circumstances of others.
“I live a blessed life,” says Jarrell, explaining his fuel for tireless campaigning on behalf of the United Way. “I just want to be able to help bring a little relief to those who are in need in our community.”
How does Jarrell describe his dance routine? By dancing around the question. The couples, which also include Bill Baker and Courtney Clark, Jeff Miller and Mendy Harvey, Victor Flanagan and Kenette Coffman and Mick Bates and Kay Bess, are keeping their moves top secret before competition night.
“It’s a potpourri,” he says, divulging at least a lift and a spin. Enter Constantino, Lilliputian and infinitely liftable, with the muscle spasms to prove it. “I am so sore,” she admits, the consequences of hours of practice with exacting choreographer Barbara Yurick.
As far as community relations are concerned, Jarrell and Constantino, a residency program coordinator with AccessHealth, go together like nuggets and barbecue sauce — acquaintances that click when it comes to supporting their community.
”If you live in this area and do community events, you get to know everybody,” she explains, admitting to another reason she’s happy to be paired with Jarrell: his near supernatural ability to offer free chicken for votes.
When it comes to giving, anything moral and legal goes, and all formality is off.
Except for the formality defining the event: red carpet entries, hypnotic mirror ball trophies, cash bars and cocktail dresses, or full-on formals for those craving an Academy Awards experience for their $75 tickets.
“You don’t have to be a fan of dancing,” claims Jarrell, who also is the 2012 campaign chairman for United Way. “This is going to be the most fun night this town has seen in a long time. Just watching the blooper cuts will be worth the cost of a ticket.”
How serious is this lift?
That’s what Mendy Harvey and Jeff Miller most want to know. They, according to Jarrell, are his and Constantino’s fiercest competition, “Because they’ve practiced their butts off.”
Technically, he’s right.
First Community Bank Commercial Lender Miller is walking fancier, more graceful these days on his way into the copy room … and 15 pounds lighter. Miller earned his personal welterweight two hours at a time, with a former model as a partner and a world-class choreographer as his motivators.
Moreover, as a new father, he was compelled to participate by the thought there may be impoverished parents in his neighborhood trying to reuse disposable diapers, a practice O’Neal has encountered and seeks to end, along with countless other problems arising out of “not enough.”
Like their competitors, beauty and the banker just want to help and have fun in the process. Unlike Constantino and Jarrell, however, Harvey and Miller didn’t know one another before signing on.
“It was motivation for me,” Miller explains, referencing being paired with Harvey, who like Constantino was in better training shape than her partner. “I’d needed to do something for a long time. I viewed it as an opportunity to get active again.”
Meanwhile, back at the gym, an active Harvey continues her grueling C4 workouts at The Place in Beckley while maintaining a hectic weekly dancing schedule and her usual soccer mom responsibilities. An avid fan of the television version, Harvey always felt herself too awkward to take up dance.
“But I love dressing up and playing that part. I’m probably taking this a little overboard,” she confesses. Expect ample spray-tanning, glitter, sequins and eyelash extensions to embellish her routine.
“I plan on doing those things as well,” jokes Miller.
The couple will perform a cha-cha customized by legend Jerry Rose, a Beckleyan recognized far and wide for his long-time Dance Theatre School, and for his talents in dance choreography, including his contributions to “Stars of Tomorrow,” a national tour he has staged and directed for nearly 10 years.
Rose is also a faculty member of the Professional Dance Teachers Association and was, in 1986, named to the National Association for Regional Ballet’s Outstanding Choreographers List.
“I’m extremely confident in our chances for winning, mainly because Jerry’s choreography is unbelievable,” claims Miller.
Otherwise self-assured, his greatest fear is of the unknown, the dance equivalent of pulling the ripcord — lights, camera, action.
Having attended other Dancing with the Stars fundraisers, O’Neal recognizes it is a grand undertaking, and is grateful for the support she has received.
“We have great partners. The Beckley-Raleigh County Convention Center has gone above and beyond to help us. L&S Toyota and Party King are working together to provide the stage, Quick Prince has done all of our printing and a 15-member committee has been working on this since January, planning the decorations and ticket sales.”
Bill O’Brien will transform into Tom Bergeron as emcee, while Brooke Burke’s doppleganger has yet to be announced. Over $2,500 in votes have already been cast online.
“We are thrilled with that,” O’Neal exclaims.
None, not even competitors, are expected to channel as much panache as Say Yes To The Dress: Atlanta star and Fayette County native Monte Durham, who is acting as special guest judge and whose undisclosed outfit is bound to be dazzling if not bedazzled.
If you’re coming to see high-quality professional dancing and care nothing for the greater good, say organizers, then maybe you’d better second-guess your investment. If, however, you want to have fun and support a worthy cause, then this is your night to shine.
United Way’s Dancing With The Stars
— Visit www.unitedwayswvstars.org to vote for the People’s Choice Awards. All proceeds go directly to the United Way of Southern West Virginia’s amped-up campaign goal. Tickets for the event are also available online for $75, including a full evening of food, dance competitions and open dancing until midnight.
— Tables are still available for groups who wish to support United Way and their favorite contenders. While the front row tables have sold out, the next two rows are available at $1,000 for 10 seats. Registration begins at 6 p.m., followed by a cash bar, food and festivities.