Monday, February 26, 2024

Plastic surgeon, archaeologist among this year’s Dancing with the Williamsburg Stars participants

On Monday, Dancing with the Williamsburg Stars released the full list of 2018's contestants. (Courtesy Dancing with the Williamsburg Stars)
On Monday, Dancing with the Williamsburg Stars released the full list of 2018’s contestants. (Courtesy Dancing with the Williamsburg Stars)

Stars from around the Historic Triangle are coming out once again in March for the ninth annual Dancing with the Williamsburg Stars.

Although the event is several months away, twelve Greater Williamsburg business owners and professionals are training and practicing their best moves.

Competitors will perform various dances onstage, from the cha-cha to the waltz, according to the organization’s website. The competition raises money for Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Greater Virginia Peninsula and Literacy for Life.

On Monday, Dancing with the Williamsburg Stars released the full list of this year’s contestants:

  • Brittany Rolston, The Shoe Attic
  • Susan B. Tarley, Tarley Robinson Law Firm
  • Karen McNamara, Williamsburg Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • Valerie Zangardi, Alewerks Brewing Co.
  • Roger Emory, MD, Plastic Surgery Specialists
  • Lynda Byrd-Poller, Charles City Public Schools
  • Glenn Lavender, Silver Hand Meadery
  • Michael Rhodes, Virginia Beer Co.
  • Liana Dagmar, Singer/Songwriter
  • Rick Wasmund, Copper Fox Distillery
  • William Kelso, Jamestown Rediscovery Foundation

Preparation for the event is just as grueling as for its namesake television show, according to Tiffany Reaves, a board member on the Dancing with the Williamsburg Stars council.

Reaves participated in the event in 2012 and said the practicing was physically challenging, but rewarding in the end.

Under pressure

“It is exactly the pressure you would imagine,” Reaves said. “It is frightening and intimidating because it isn’t anything in the normal realm of what you regularly do.”

Production for the Dancing with the Stars event begins months in advance. A committee of experienced event planners brainstorms about possible candidates to participate, then the volunteers begin practicing as early as November, Reaves said.

That can be daunting.

“I honestly said no at first,” said Bonny Markwith, a participant in 2014. “But then I realized how much they do for the charities they support and I knew it would be worth it.”

Markwith works for WYDaily’s parent company, Local Voice Media.

Many volunteers enter the competition with no previous dance knowledge. They are paired with professionals based on their physical attributes and proximity to the dance, Markwith said.

The professional dancers start the volunteers off slowly, with basic dance steps, and then decide which particular dance works best for them.

Ginger Ambler, vice president for student affairs at William & Mary, was one of the contestants in the annual Dancing with the Williamsburg Stars competition in 2013. A first-time participant, Ambler practiced with Rick Zilonka, a master ballroom dance instructor. (Courtesy photo/William & Mary News)
Ginger Ambler, vice president for student affairs at William & Mary, was one of the contestants in the annual Dancing with the Williamsburg Stars competition in 2013. A first-time participant, Ambler practiced with Rick Zilonka, a master ballroom dance instructor. (Courtesy photo/William & Mary News)

The practices are a comfortable learning experience because the professionals are used to teaching people from scratch, Markwith said.

Participants in the show are chosen based on their community influence, involvement and love from people in the area, Reaves said. The committee tries to create as diverse a show as —possible  not only in age, gender and race but also in the types of businesses and professionals represented.

With about 12 dancers every year, the show has about 100 alumni and they are a tight-knit community, Reaves said.

Some of the alumni have continued dancing after the show, in amatuer competions or dance lessons, she added.

But for participants, the event isn’t just about mastering the moves. They also work on other aspects of the show.

Dancers have to supply their own outfits, which are just as sparkly and bejeweled as the ones on television.

And they create the backdrop for their performance, Markwith said.

“I’m impressed by the tireless dedication of the volunteers, professional dancers and Stars that come together to make this event one of the highlights of the year,” said Event Chair Joe Hertzler.

On the lookout for a judge

Dancers aren’t the only ones who work at the event.

Three judges are chosen from the area who not only provide entertaining commentary but who also have some knowledge of dancing’s finer points.

Dancers are judged on a range of criteria, from energy to style, according to Reaves.

The committee has selected two judges for this year’s competition and is still looking for a third, Reaves said.

Participants win certificates and awards such as best partnership or best costume, according to Markwith.

While the experience is nerve-racking for the volunteers, Markwith said, it’s great to know their participation helps raise money — more than $100,000 dollars in each of the past years — for local organizations.

The event is set to take place at Phi Beta Kappa Hall at William & Mary on March 3.

The show has been held there since it began. Due to renovations that will decrease the seating capacity in the hall from roughly 700 to around 400, this will most likely be the show’s last year there, Reaves said.

The production committee will search for a new location for next year’s show, she added.

Tickets for the show go on sale on Jan. 24. They range in price from $35 to $115 and can be bought either in person at the Phi Beta Kappa box office or online.

For more information call Phi Beta Kappa Hall at 757-221-2674.

Sarah Fearing
Sarah Fearing
Sarah Fearing is the Assistant Editor at WYDaily. Sarah was born in the state of Maine, grew up along the coast, and attended college at the University of Maine at Orono. Sarah left Maine in October 2015 when she was offered a job at a newspaper in West Point, Va. Courts, crime, public safety and civil rights are among Sarah’s favorite topics to cover. She currently covers those topics in Williamsburg, James City County and York County. Sarah has been recognized by other news organizations, state agencies and civic groups for her coverage of a failing fire-rescue system, an aging agriculture industry and lack of oversight in horse rescue groups. In her free time, Sarah enjoys lazing around with her two cats, Salazar and Ruth, drinking copious amounts of coffee and driving places in her white truck.

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