What 12 new, local dancers lack in experience, they make up for in heart as they take the stage next week to compete for charity.
Dancing with the Williamsburg Stars has raised more than $800,000 for local charities since its conception in 2010. The event will mark its 10th anniversary March 2.
The event, which donates all proceeds to Big Brothers and Sisters of the Greater Virginia Peninsula and Literacy for Life at the Rita Welsh Adult Learning Center, pairs a dozen locals with pro-dancers to compete in front of a panel of judges.
This year, the sold-out competition at Crosswalk Community Church will feature a commemorative photo presentation and a group number prepared by 11 alumni dancers in celebration of the event’s milestone year.
Williamsburg City Council Member Benny Zhang is among the alumni, and the only male, performing in the commemoration routine.
He first attended DWTWS in 2016, then competed in 2017 and was ultimately inspired to continue practicing salsa and ballroom dancing.
“I am the token guy,” Zhang said. “Everyone is super excited, it’s going to be a really fun number. We’ll be mixing and mashing three popular songs together. It’s just going to be a great way to commemorate the 10th anniversary.”
This year’s local contestants include doctors, educators and coaches, a chef, winemaker and other business leaders dancing to a plethora of tunes including Top 40, dance music, traditional and classical.
Jacquelyn Liebler, Revolution Golf and Grille general manager, is among those competing. She said her restaurant always looks for fun ways to give back to the community, and she may have discovered a new hobby, too.
Like many participants, she started training in November and has raised about $2,500 of the $3,000 each dancer is expected to donate.
“Instead of being so competitive, it seems to bring us all together,” Liebler said. “Right now at the restaurant, I have a couple dresses, asking people which one they like and there’s a tip jar, a dollar a vote.”
Contestant Henry Broaddus, vice president for strategic initiatives and public affairs at the College of William and Mary, admits he initially was reluctant to join, but was persuaded by the good cause.
“You could not have two more complementary organizations working together,” Broaddus said. “In the one instance, you’re placing an adult with at-risk youth, and in the other instance you’re looking at adults who are lacking some of the skills necessary to fulfill their highest potential.”
Previous dancers in the competition have taken the reins to organize it, such as Tiffany Reaves, who has served since she competed in 2012 and loves to see the competition growing.
“You do the show and it’s just this wild, uncomfortable rush of adrenaline and nerves,” Reaves said. “You want to stay involved and keep it growing.”
After this year, the event will have 116 “star” alumni and more than 5,000 total volunteered hours. Reaves hopes to meet milestones and hit the $1 million mark for donations in the next couple of years.
Martin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @SaraRoseMartin.