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Watch new stars lift off Thursday at Dancing with the Stars of Great Falls

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Erin Doran and Pat Tice dance to “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” at a recent rehearsal at Miss Linda’s Studio Centre.

Eleven couples take to the stage at the fifth annual Dancing with the Stars of Great Falls  this week at the Mansfield Center for the Performing Arts Theater.
Looking at the list of performers, a cynical person might say that the term “star” is misplaced, because, after all, only a few of them are recognizable to average people in Great Falls.
Make no mistake, however, because after Thursday, each of the 22 dancers all will shine brightly as giant supernovas taking flight above everyone, if only for that night.
This year’s up-and-coming performers are:

  • Caralina Julian and DaVonte McKenith who are dancing to “Dirty Laundry,”
  • Erin Doran and Pat Tice dancing to “Crazy Little Thing Called Love,”
  • Julie Duffy and Matt Krebs dancing to “Malaguena,”
  • Schelli Bolta and Matt Ehnes dancing to “I’m Sexy and I Know It,”
  • Heather Kunz and Shane Maurer dancing to “Pump It,”
  • Darci and Russel Darlington dancing to “Adrain’s Song,”
  • Heather Palermo and Jen Moore dancing to “The Walker,”
  • Deanna Benton and Dale Jackson dancing to “Perfidia,”
  • Jennifer and Dave Cantley dancing to “Fever,”
  • Amy Musgrave and Troy Mellinger dancing to “Greased Lightning”
  • Cody Proctor and Keern Haslem dancing to “Asi se Baila el Tango.”

Palermo and Moore will make history this year as well as they will be the first same-sex couple ever participating in the event. Brian Logsdon returns to serve as the MC after competing in the dance portion last year.

Linda Fuller, whose company co-produces the event along with the Downtown Great Falls Association, said she’s been particularly surprised at the level of talent all of the dancers have displayed already in preparing for the show, which starts at 7 p.m.

“I think the skill level is really up a lot this year,” Fuller said. “They’re doing lots of lifts, and really exciting things to all different kinds of music. We have eight choreographers and some people choreographed their own numbers and we have some really fun extra acts, too.”
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Those acts include The Special Olympics Stars performing a routine to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” Sara Dassinger and Chris Constantino dancing to the song “The Hit,” the Miss Linda’s Young Dancers Company performing a hip hop routine to the song “Come Get It,” C.M. Russell High School homecoming royalty candidate Austin Haney performing an accordion virtuoso and the comedy duo Dennis and Dennis made up of Dennis Granlie and Dennis Dell.

Fuller said having skilled choreographers help the dancers learn and do things in ways that are easy to understand has given the newbies a leg up and that there isn’t one couple this year that won’t be anything but incredible come Thursday.

Shannon Hudson, Fuller’s daughter and co-producer along with Fuller, said it’s been fun seeing these stars take a risk and try something that’s a bit outside of what they’re accustomed to doing.

“It’s cool to see just the courage these people are displaying stepping outside of their comfort zone and pushing that boat out a little and thinking, ‘What if I could do this?’” she said. “I think people discover things about themselves that they wouldn’t have known which opens up new avenues and parts of the brain and parts of your own creativity you didn’t know was there.”

Hudson said she’s seen people who have danced in the event in past years come back and say that it helped them become a better person in their personal lives whether it was related to dance or not.

“Another thing that happens with that is that I’ve heard people say how it made them a better lawyer, or whatever it is that they have going on, and that art education part is always the coolest because you see these light bulbs suddenly going off in all areas of life.”

Whether you’re performing in the show or just there to watch it to support someone you know who’s doing it, Hudson said if people leave with any kind of lasting impact, she hopes it’s that this shows how anyone with a little training and a passion to try something new can learn to dance.

“I think at the end of the day, what we’re trying to do is letting everyone know that this is for you,” she said. “This type of thing proves anybody can can dance and while some people can jump higher than others and some can turn more times than others, anybody can dance.”

Hudson said the event has sparked at least one lasting relationship, also.

She said one couple last year, Dave Krebs and Elizabeth Story, soon got engaged after dancing together in the Dancing with the Stars event.
Krebs is set to be a judge this year along with Dona Stebbins and Jean Vaske.

Cody Proctor and Keern Haslem practice for their dance routine on Thursday.
Cody Proctor and Keern Haslem practice for their dance routine on Thursday.

Fuller said the judges this year will be in the pit looking at the stage and a screen will be set up so that after the dancers are through, the judges will be shown on screen making comments about the performances.

“They’ll be in front, just like on the TV show,” Fuller said. “James Schreiber and John Gemberling moved it out so we’ll have the judges faces on the screen when they’re giving critiques. John thought that would be a good spin to the thing. So that’s exciting.”

The couples are judged by a variety of categories such as dance moves, look, music selection and costumes.

Fuller said each couple, along with their choreographers, chose their own costumes.

“I have 42 years of stuff in my attic here, so if people need like a hat or some kind of costume thing, they’ve been welcome to look up there,” Fuller said. “And we have people who got some of their costumes online or bought stuff from stores and zinged them together. All of the costumes are fun and energetic this year and some are serious while others are supposed to be funny, but they’re all original.”

Finally, Fuller said she knows that people watching Thursday’s show will be able to see and feel how much fun everyone is having on stage, which in turn will make it easy for them to have fun as well.

“Everyone is really willing to jump in and try something they weren’t sure of at first but they’ve just put their whole heart into it and it’s exciting the level of confidence they’ve got now and the dedication they’ve shown,” she said. “People are sure to see how much fun they’re having, without a doubt.”

Tickets for the event can be purchased online here, at the door or by calling 455-8514.

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