Local celebrities dance at annual charity competition

The performers of Dancing with the Celebrities might not be world famous, but they'll take to the stage in the same fashion as the celebrities on "Dancing with the Stars" this weekend. 

Arthur Murray Dance Center is holding its 11th annual Dancing with the Celebrities event Sept. 9 at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater.

Dancing with the Celebrities is an annual dance competition where seven local celebrities compete to raise funds for specific charities. 

“When the show 'Dancing with the Stars' came out on TV, I thought it would be fun to do something like that locally,” said Barbara Leininger, owner and instructor of Arthur Murray Dance Center. “It took off and it’s been going strong ever since.”

Every year, the event raises funds for local charities. This year its proceeds will benefit Court Appointed Special Advocates, Community Foundation, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Safe Families for Children, Monroe County United Ministries, Volunteers in Medicine and Camp Yes And. In the past, they’ve fundraised for Shalom Center, Middleway House and My Sister’s Closet.

Leininger said she wants to continue to include only local charities so the money stays in Bloomington.

“We’ve raised a million dollars since we’ve started,” Leininger said. “We’ve spread those fundraising efforts out among the Bloomington community.”

Local businessman and Dancing with the Celebrities competitor Cary Curry is representing Community Foundation and said he set up an endowment to aid at-risk families and children.

“It’s been on my bucket list to set up that endowment,” Curry said. “Dancing with the Celebrities was the vehicle to get the job done.”

Audience members donate to their favorite charities or to the best dancer. The dancer that raises the most money wins the Mirror Ball Trophy, and the dancer with the best performance can also win the Judge’s Choice Award. Every performer goes into training about five months before the competition, oftentimes with no previous experience.

“It’s like learning a foreign language but with your body,” Curry said. “It’s the hardest work I’ve ever done. But it’s been fun.”

Performers choose the charity they want to represent and the music they want to dance to. Then, performers and instructors work together to create and practice a slow dance, swing and one dance style of their choice to accompany the musical selection.

“We work for about five months, teaching them three different dance styles,” Leininger said. “It’s going from basics to really advanced movement quickly.”

Instructors also teach choreography and the concepts of leading and following. Each group also works on other theatrical aspects, such as costumes and staging.

All of it makes for an entertaining show, Leininger said.

“The audience can come in and watch a fantastic show and do something good for the community,” Leininger said. “We encourage audience participation and they can really have fun with it. People get boisterous and loud and excited.”

Dancers include business owners, IU faculty and staff, and other community members from around Bloomington. In past competitions, there have been six competitors. This year, there are seven.

“It just represents businesses willing to put themselves out there and work with the community,” Leininger said. “Most of them are extremely busy people, so it’s not easy for them to do this.” 

Curry said he hopes that Dancing with the Celebrities is ultimately a way to perform for the benefit of these organizations.

“It’s been great, but the true blessing of the whole night is what we can do in Bloomington and impact the community in a positive way,” Curry said.

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