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Dance fever heats up Oak Crest

Residents and staff pair off in charity dance-off

Created date

September 21st, 2010

Watching 92-year-old Evelyn Schroedl glide across the stage in perfect time, you would never know she hasn t danced since high school. This May, those smooth moves landed Schroedl in second place at a charity dance-off at Oak Crest where she lives. [caption id="attachment_14542" align="alignright" width="280" caption="Oak Crest residents and staff members performed in a live dance competition raising more than $19,000, which was donated to two of the community s charities. (Photo by Gladys Rivera) "][/caption] I had the time of my life! I really felt like a star, says Schroedl, whose dance partner, Paul O Callaghan, a restaurant manager at the Parkville community, is 60 years her junior. Schroedl and O Callaghan were among 17 resident-staff dance teams who delivered one unforgettable number after another in a show dubbed Dancing With the Oak Crest Stars to raise money for the Oak Crest Student Scholars and Benevolent Care Funds. I ve always enjoyed dancing, and I thought, well, this is for a good cause. It will be easy. I ll just follow Paul s lead, says Schroedl. As it turns out the dance routine wasn t as easy as Schroedl anticipated. I had never done the Tango before, says Schroedl. I had to learn the steps and how to hold my head, what to do with my hands, where to put my feet it took a long time to get the hang of it. The whole routine was probably less than two minutes, but it took us four months to learn and perfect the steps, she says. O Callaghan says his dance experience prior to the show was limited to doing the electric slide at weddings. I had never really danced before, says O Callaghan. I was petrified of performing in front of an audience. It was really outside my comfort zone, but in a good way. Ms. Schroedl made me appear better than I actually was. In the end, I didn t even notice the audience; I was too worried about forgetting steps. [caption id="attachment_14546" align="alignright" width="280" caption="Oak Crest s Rosa Lee Nelson and Todd Sullivan danced the Hustle to Rick Astley s Together Forever in the recent performance of Dancing With the Oak Crest Stars. (Photo by Gladys Rivera)"][/caption] Experienced dancers like Oak Crest Security Guard Arnaldo Nandy Rivera, who teaches salsa classes at the community; Gina Tona, a dance instructor from the Community College of Baltimore County; Oak Crest residents Gerry Onorato and Walt Ballesteros; along with award-winning professional dancer Darlene Carter, also a resident of Oak Crest, were on hand to help the couples learn the routines and perfect the dance steps. I m not an instructor, and I ve never taught anyone to dance, says Onorato. Walt and I have taken some lessons but we re not studio dancers. There s a definite difference. But dancing has been one of my passions and I ve been dancing since I was a little girl. So when the opportunity came for this show, I volunteered. Onorato credits Carter s professional experience with polishing the routines. Darlene was really our mentor. She came and watched all the performances and critiqued where she could, says Onorato. She proceeded to torture those of us who she saw could do extra patterns, she jokes. Oak Crest Chef Derrick Collier paired up with Onorato to perform the Cha Cha. Considering this was the first time he had ever danced, Derrick was very good, says Onorato. During that performance I did two patterns that I had never done before and he kept me from hitting the floor when I did a death drop at the end of the dance. Although she loves to dance, being on stage was something Onorato still had to overcome. Before the show, during rehearsals we had an audience watching us and I thought I had all my butterflies out, but that was a lot different from having all of your family and friends watching you, she says. On the contrary, performing in front of a crowd came naturally to Walt Ballesteros. Being on a stage doesn t really bother me because I ve danced in front of people before, he says. Plus, I m a competitive person. I entered to win. Ballesteros danced the Bolero with Oak Crest Special Trips Coordinator Susanne Howard, a faithful fan of the primetime television show Dancing With the Stars. I think anyone who watches the show secretly puts themselves in the dancers shoes wishing it was them, says Howard, who has been dancing since age five.

Raging success

Like the hit TV show, couples competing inOak Crest srendition of Dancing With the Stars were judged by a panel which included Darlene Carter,Oak CrestExecutive Director Colleen LoPresto, and Pastor Elmer Klein of the campus Protestant faith community. However, unlike the show, theOak Crestversion featured a twist: In addition to the judges scores, theOak Crestwinners were determined by the dance team that raised the most money from audience votes in the form of charitable donations of $1 per vote. All together with contributions from ticket sales, plus 11,351 purchased votes, we rose over $19, 000, saysOak CrestDirector of Philanthropy Todd Sullivan, who organized the event and danced the Hustle. Sullivan saysOak Crestresident Irma Seitz came to him with the idea for the show two years prior. When Ms. Seitz contacted me, I was still new in my job and didn t feel ready to take on a show of that magnitude, he says. In the interim, our sister communityGreenspringin Springfield, Va., put on their own version of the show and we followed their lead. Volunteers were rounded up via the community s newsletter and then paired up according to height, personality, and experience. First-place winners John Gants andOak CrestGeneral Services Director Joyce Malone received mirror ball trophies like those awarded on the television show. Gants says although he was honored to win first place, the best part was knowing he played a small part in raising money for two wonderful causes. Raising the money was what matters most, he says. Everybody really poured their hearts into making the show the best it could be. Regardless of who took home the trophies, we were all winners!