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10 area celebrities shake their groove thing for charity
Dancing for a Cause competition Saturday night in Gainesville
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Cameron Davis, a dance instructor from Marietta, and commercial real estate agent Charlie Hawkins practice for Dancing with a Cause competition Wednesday at the North Georgia School of Dance and Music in downtown Gainesville. Each Dancing for a Cause pair chose a song, came up with a routine and will perform for an audience Saturday. - photo by Erin O. Smith

Dancing for a Cause

What: Dance competition among community celebrities and their professional partners to raise funds for four charities

When: 8 p.m. Saturday; Doors open at 6 p.m.

Where: Chattahoochee Country Club, 3000 Club Drive, Gainesville

Cost: The event is sold out, but a waiting list is online

More info: dancehallcounty.com

After hours of rehearsals, adrenaline and excitement are building for the celebrity dancers involved in the Dancing for a Cause competition Saturday.

“Everyone is so hyped about their performance,” dance organizer Justin Holland said last week.

The performance will start at 8 p.m. Saturday at the Chattahoochee Country Club, 3000 Club Drive, Gainesville. Doors open at 6 p.m. with a dinner buffet beginning 45 minutes later.

The 10 celebrities competing range from an Episcopal priest to a former college president. They were nominated by a public vote or contacted by the contest organizers.

These 10 untrained Hall County residents were paired with 10 professionals, who specialize in different dance styles, and tasked to move and groove for charities.

At the event, three judges — Katie Dubnik, Jean Hawkins and Brian Rochester — will comment on each couple’s dance and score it on a scale between one and 10. The public may vote online (dancehallcounty.com) for their favorite dancing celebrity with a small donation. The winner will be determined by a ratio of the amount of money raised and the judge’s score.

To prepare for the dancing contest, the celebrities practiced for 10 hours over the course of three months. The celebrities are Martha Nesbitt, Avery Niles, Stuart Higginbotham, Enrique Montiel, Kent Tench, Lydia Sartain, Charlie Hawkins, Jaimie Harrison, Raleigh Merchant and Martha Zoller.

Nesbitt, who underwent open heart surgery in February, didn’t let it stop her from competing.

“The first couple of months were really tough,” Nesbitt said. “But when we started practicing, I was getting back to normal.”

Nesbitt agreed to compete in the event after a friend, who participated last year, made the suggestion. Her partner is Paul Akins.

Finding the professional dancers such as Akins turned out to be easier than expected. Holland recruited professionals from talent agencies in Atlanta.

“Because Hollywood has moved to Atlanta, we have them all here now,” he said.

Professional dancer Danielle Aikens-Holland is paired with Niles, the commissioner of the Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice. Their dance will be musical theater and jazz-inspired, featuring Niles as Batman and Aikens-Holland as The Joker.

This is second year Aikens-Holland has contributed her time to the dancing fundraiser.

“Last year was a lot of fun,” she said.

But dancing is not the only way she contributes. The 36-year-old donated her studio space at Northeast Georgia School of Music and Dance in downtown Gainesville to allow the couples to rehearse for the show.

The dance styles choreographed for the show range from jazz and ballroom to the waltz and jitterbug. Higginbotham, rector at Grace Episcopal Church in Gainesville, is looking forward to showing off his silly side.

“This is going to be so much fun,” Higginbotham said.

The priest elected to compete in the fundraiser as a way to get involved in the community. He said he feels like the new kid to town since he has lived here for only two years.

His dance partner, Paige Fralix, jumped at the chance to participate.

“I said, ‘Let’s do it, why not?’” Fralix said.

After seeing the show in person last year, Gainesville veterinarian Enrique Montiel was pleased to compete and support the four charities.

“They are equally important,” Montiel said. “You can’t choose one.”

The four area human service organizations benefitting from the fundraiser will be Alliance for Literacy, Center Point, Rape Response and Teen Pregnancy Prevention. And the North Georgia Community Foundation has partnered with Dancing for a Cause to facilitate tax-deductible donations.

At 55 years old, Montiel has a long history of dancing for entertainment, but he had never tried ballroom style or dancing with strict choreography. However, his dancing instructor, Nettie Hatchett, choreographed the Latin-influenced cha-cha style dance with Montiel’s dancing experience in mind.

“I’m fortunate enough to have someone who has this natural rhythm,” Hatchett said.

The only regret Montiel has is he wasn’t in town very much to fundraise. According to the Dancing for a Cause website, Montiel has netted more than $1,700.

Leading the fundraising pack is Tench with nearly $18,500. Other competitors’ fundraising amounts range between $1,100 and $14,000. Donations are still being accepted online.

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