But whether she likes a good project or not, Shellie – a bubbly, skillful and patient instructor at PA DanceSport – got one when I walked into her studio in early March.
It was my first dance lesson in preparation for the Dancing with the Central PA Stars (yes, I am “the star” and really emphasizing the quotation marks here) gala, a fundraiser organized by the Central Pennsylvania Symphony Orchestra. The event, which benefits the orchestra and the Greater Pennsylvania Chapter of The Alzheimer’s Association, is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Saturday (April 27) at the Zembo Shrine in Harrisburg.
Now, I am no Mikhail Baryshnikov. But I’d like to think I’m better than Elaine’s wretched routine in Seinfeld. Either way, I’ve improved by leaps and bounds (ha!) since I started lessons last month.
I’ve always loved to dance (I know: That’s not always a good thing). At weddings, you have to drag me off the floor. I’ve been known to spontaneously shimmy if a good song was playing. For me, dancing is a stress reliever and great exercise, too!
Speaking of weddings, my wife Gail and I put on quite a number at our Sept. 29th reception. After an initial slow dance to The Search is Over by Survivor, the CD began skipping halfway through the ballad. I was angry; the DJ was befuddled, and of course it was all a ruse as the song Zoot Suit Riot kicked on and Gail and I broke out into a swing dance.
What followed was a medley to swing, hip-hop and Samba, ending in a dip and a thunderous applause by our guests. Though there are dozens of pictures of the routine, my wife and I wish we had it captured on video.
Back to Saturday’s event: Shellie and I will be performing the ballroom rumba, a slow, methodical, romantic dance, to Don’t Cry for Me Argentina from the 1978 musical Evita.
The phrase: “quick, quick, slow,” referring to the dance rhythm, has been drilled into my head in the last six weeks. At one point, Shellie used an exercise band to bind my legs together at the knees to teach me to take smaller steps during the routine.
She also asked me once if I was dancing with my eyes closed. It was a joke, I think.
Shellie is a great teacher. She knows how to explain steps and moves in a way this ex-football player and wrestler can understand. “Squat like you’re sitting on a table,” she told me at a recent session. I don’t make it a habit to sit on tables, but I got that.
There are six dancers competing in the second-annual gala. The evening begins with hors d’oeuvres, a cash bar and a silent auction, followed by a dancing competition featuring local celebrities paired with professional dancers from PA DanceSport in a format modeled after the popular television show.
Susquehanna Bank is one of the many business sponsors of the event. Some of my colleagues, along with my friends and family, will be there cheering me on!
First prize is a mirror ball trophy, awarded to the best dancer as determined by a combination of judges’ ranking and the most votes from the audience on the night of the event. A second competition is for the dancer who raises the most money through online voting and guest votes.
Audience member votes cost $10 per vote. You can vote for me online at http://www.centralpasymphony.org/gala/Matthew_Kemeny.php.
Tickets are still available for the event and can be purchased by calling 717-910-0313 or at the box office one hour prior to the concert. Single tickets are $75 and a table of eight is $600, with the proceeds split evenly between the two organizations.
The instructors at PA DanceSport generously donated six lessons each to the performers. I’ve already done eight lessons to this point and have another one scheduled. My most-recent lesson was the best yet, during which Shellie remarked “Hey, I think you actually opened your eyes!