Dancing with the Stars Season 8 proved again on Friday night that the United Way of Southern West Virginia fundraiser is “the event of the year” in Beckley, as creativity and passion merged into a “once in a lifetime opportunity” for the six couples onstage and their choreographers.
At the end of the night, their dance moves meant that $208,355 was raised to provide help for their neighbors who are struggling.
The amount topped the $184,000 raised last year by about $23,000, United Way of Southern West Virginia Executive Director Michelle Rotellini announced.
“Thank you, thank you, thank you!” Rotellini said, closing the night.
The non-profit organization provides a wide range of services, from child advocacy to domestic violence resources to feeding those who are without food.
“I promise you that the stories you hear make you feel guilty just for having running water,” Rottelini told the crowd of about 930. “The need is really great in West Virginia.
“This is where your dollars go.”
Six couples have worked since May to raise the money through personal solicitations and fundraising events. Meanwhile, each couple worked with a choreographer to dance in the competition.
On Friday night, they took the stage at the Raleigh County Convention Center to put on a show for the crowd.
Two couples scored a “Perfect 10” for their dance performance in the competition.
Dewanna Waters Grillot and Dr. E.J. Salon had the crowd dancing with a number that started as an timeless ballroom dance. Choreographed by professional dancer Donald Laney, the dance took a desultory turn when Salon tore the long train from Waters’ dress, revealing a flamenco-style skirt, and the music capriciously changed to a bluesy tune.
“When in our lifetime are we going to do this again, in front of 800, 900 people?” Salon had asked in an introduction video that was played for the audience, prior to the dance. “While it is happening, you should go out and enjoy it.”
Grillot, a yoga instructor, said the couple had started early and practiced often, and they demonstrated their perfectly executed dance steps — including several lifts and a split by Grillot — in a medley that included a sassy salsa and a techno dance.
“They put the time in. They worked hard,” Laney told show host Ted Weigel. “It was amazing.”
The second couple to get a score of “10” from the three judges — Matt Barber, Amanda Barber and Gabrielle Colombo Massie — was a couple from Mercer County.
Amanda Barber late compared them to Ginger Rogers and Fred Astair.
Marie Blackwell and Matt Hamilton’s classic and elegant dance moves offered a perfect complement to a timeless and ephemeral piece choreographed by Katie Tiller.
“Take a bow,” Weigel told them at the end. “Get out there, and take a bow. A perfect score.”
Hamilton said it had been “an absolute blessing” to get to know Blackwell and others. Blackwell said the two had not known each other prior to being paired for the fundraiser.
“It’s been a great ride,” she said.
Grillot and Salon were named “first place winners” of the Judge’s Choice by one-tenth of a point.
The winner of People’s Choice was Stephanie Allard and Dr. Andrew Dickens, who raised $57,370. The couple razed the crowd and got tons of cheers for their dance moves and lifts, inspired by “Dirty Dancing” and choreographed by Alyssa Young.
Allard’s pink dress got notice from the crowd and compliments from a judge and from Weigel.
“I almost wore the exact same outfit tonight,” he quipped.
Dickens’ lifts and moves drew praise from the judges, too.
“I thought you said you weren’t a dancer,” remarked a judge. “Your lifts were great. Great job.”
Kelli Snuffer, dressed beautifully in a red dress and black boa, and the dapper Mingo Winters raised $49,330 and took home second place in People’s Choice with their Gatsby-themed costumes and a few flips during their classic Charleston-inspired performance, arranged by choreographer Sharnice Taylor. At the end, Winters raised Snuffer into the air, and they showered the crowd with “money.”
Weigel said Winters had realized a dream at the event and asked him to tell it.
“I got to share my love of dance moves with the City of Beckley,” deadpanned Winters.
Snuffer said she was excited and thought the fundraising would be “a great experience.”
Jane Price and Tom Cantor, a pair of old friends, gracefully performed an energetic medley that was arranged by Jill West, Price’s daughter.
Price and Cantor showed off diverse and edgy dance styles in a cleverly arranged medley that offered“Jailhouse Rock,” an energetic Cuban beat, Sir-Mix-A-Lot and “Bohemian Rhapsody.”
“I think they’ve been holding back this whole time, and…they brought it,” West said, adding she was “very proud.”
Lindsay Oliver and Luke Lively delighted the audience with a number, arranged by Brittany Lester, that offered an unexpected array of dance styles set to “Country Roads Take Me Home.” Their dance moves changed with the music, which incorporated Celtic notes and techno and banjo.
Oliver, in a gold dress, did a “toe touch in heels,” as a judge noted.
“You guys did a fantastic job,” judge Amanda Barber told the couple, who danced last. “Way to wrap it up and bring it home.”