By Patrick McArdle
Fans can root for their favorites at the Dancing with the Rutland Stars event but organizers want everyone to know: It’s not a competition.
Steve Costello, a vice president at Green Mountain Power, member of the organizing committee for Dancing with the Rutland Stars, or DWRS, and a former star himself, described it as only “technically” a competition.
“People are purposely selected to be in it for the right reasons and not as a competition,” he said. “It may sound funny, but there’s an enormous amount of time that goes into selecting dancers who will be in it for the right reasons, who will become part of a cause much bigger than themselves and who will gel.”
Costello added, “It’s important that all seven teams get along and work together and promote the event together. So, yeah, a couple of people will walk away with a mirror ball, but it’s not about that really.”
Scheduled for at 7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 7 at the Paramount Theatre, DWRS, like the television show that inspired it, pairs an experienced dancer with a novice celebrity. For the Rutland version, the celebrities may not be as familiar as the TV show’s stars, but include people like Mike Abatiell, owner of Abatiello Design Center; Dr. Robin Leight from Rutland Women’s Healthcare; and Rutland City Police Department officer, Commander Matthew Prouty.
The goal of the show, which is in its seventh year, is to raise money for a Visiting Nurses Association and Hospice of the Southwest Region program called Kids on the Move, which provides home care for children.
Costello said it was more, however, than just a fundraiser.
“It’s really become a cornerstone of Rutland community development,” he said. “It brings together hundreds of people to raise money for a really important cause and ensure the continuation of Kids on the Move and Pediatric Services, but it has built bonds that go way beyond that.”
Last year, the event raised about $35,000 for Kids on the Move. Shannon Poole, another member of the organizing committee, said she hopes this year to raise between $40,000 and $42,000. She said the money is raised through a combination of ticket sales and sponsorships.
According to Poole, the sponsorships have grown because of the popularity of DWRS.
But those involved with the show know that some follow DWRS because it’s an event for a good cause, but others just love an exciting dance routine.
Tracy Tedesco, of Fitness Made Fun, and Bill Kelley, of Pyramid Holistic and Wellness, have both been the professional half of a team for five years.
Tedesco said she doesn’t do anything to create the routine until she meets her partner in June.
“I spend some time getting to know that individual, find out where their comfort level is and how I can get them to feel at ease in this whole process, because they’re scared on many levels,” she said. “I mean, it’s a scary thing to be on stage when you don’t think you can dance.”
Sometimes, Tedesco said, she thinks creatively.
“Right now, my partner, Mike Abatiell, if I put it out there like a dance step, he would do his best to try, but when I turn it into a football move or something like that, he’s right on it like nothing,” she said.
After five years, Kelley said he has yet to meet a “typical” partner.
“Every year I’ve had such a different person,” he said. “Their personalities are very different, their backgrounds are different. The level of comfort with movement in public are different, but the one thing they’ve all had in common is a strong desire to be in this community and help the community.”
Tedesco said her appreciation for participating has grown over the years.
“I enjoy the process. To me, it’s so much fun, helping people step out of their comfort zone and do something they never thought they could do,” she said.
Kelley said one thing hasn’t changed across five years. He said people are always asking him about what kind of routine he’s doing or what song they’ve chosen.
“It’s like, those (questions) are silly,” he said. “We’re not going to tell you those things, but they keep asking.”
Kelley added, “From what I’ve seen (for 2017) of the other groups, people are going to see variety, surprise, people that they know in the community who they’re going to see in a whole different light. Mike, for example, is going to blow people’s minds with what he’s going to do. My partner (Elissa Hewitt, a pediatric speech-language pathologist) is amazing. I know that the other dancers are pretty amazing too. So fun, color, energy.”
For those who can’t get to DWRS, the event will be recorded and broadcast by PEG-TV.