Tag Archive: fundraiser

Around this time last year, dancers were feeding those in need by taking ballroom, burlesque, Zumba and jazz dance classes. In four hours, nearly 100 dancers donated $1,440, which translates to about 4,000 meals.

Melena Rounis is bringing her high-stepping fundraiser to Las Vegas for the third year running. Step Up and Dance will be at the The Rock Center for Dance from 12:45 p.m. until 4 p.m. on Nov. 19. Six outstanding dancers are donating half-hour master classes (master locker Scoo B Doo of the original Soul Train gang included), and the money raised will be donated to Three Square food bank. A minimum $10 donation buys a pass to take one, all or a combination of the classes. For extra-good Samaritans, $20 nets a T-shirt as well. You don’t need to be a dancer to participate and all ages are welcome.

For more information about the event, check out my blog post from last year. Or, better yet, grab your dancin’ shoes, head over to the Rock on Nov. 19 and step up to help out before the holidays. See you there!

The Senior Adult Dance and Theater programs at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas presented “Variety Show” on Dec. 4 in conjunction with Colleges Against Cancer, a subsidiary of the American Cancer Society. The money raised through performance and raffle tickets was donated to the organization to, according to their website, help individuals suffering from cancer “celebrate more birthdays.”

The show, performed in UNLV’s Student Union theater, was organized and choreographed in part by Richard Havey and Carole Rae and featured members of the group Fine Wine as special guests.

The cast of the show presented pieces choreographed by, for the most part, themselves. Many of the numbers had been part of midterm projects for senior adult dance classes at UNLV and were based around the cultures of different countries.

Gerd Hitchcock represented Sweden in lively blue and yellow, Maura Harrower high-stepped in proper Irish style and Alice Dodd twirled an umbrella in the name of England. Eilah Cheek depicted Italy and Yvonne Du Plain was joined by Cheek, Dodd and Hitchcock to represent Hava Nagila.

Sharron Libby, sashaying in blue and pink, portrayed Antigua, which was contrasted with the percussive nature of Mary Smydo’s African-themed number. Vickie Peiper rounded out the multicultural part of the show with a vocal and dance piece based on the culture of Brazil.

The theater side of things was also well represented. Monologues interspersed the performance and exemplified the vibrant personalities that glittered throughout the show. Harriet Stich, in the spirit of the season, impersonated a yowling store manager in the final days of holiday shopping. Stich  manned a clipboard and warned store associates about the stigma of the “chicken list,” reserved for those that opted out of working during the rush.

Vince Ragazzo performed Jimmy Durante’s “The Day I Read a Book” and the humor was well received by the audience. Sandy Runkle switched the vibe with a dramatic monologue called “The Memoirs of Cleopatra.” Guest group Fine Wine performed a tap number, as did Carol Cravens, Sonja Swenson and Ann Vizziccarro. John Slocum’s booming, baleful voice filled the theater on several occasions.

The group numbers, especially “BollyWood” by Carole Rae and “Tambourines” by Alice Dodd illuminated the lighthearted and playful aspect of the show. Although the attendance left something to be desired, the performers stayed true to the adage of putting on strong show no matter the size of the audience. Another old saying holds true here as well: a photo is worth 1,000 words. Here are a bunch.

Starbucks has its holiday cups. For some dancers, rehearsals for holiday shows have started — tunes about mistletoe and snow (what is that again?) can be heard in studios all over the city.

Another holiday tradition took place on Nov. 27 at the Rock Center for Dance: Melena Rounis, with help from Katy Tate, organized the second Step Up and Dance event, a fundraiser that takes donations for Three Square food bank in Las Vegas. In the space of four hours, 88 dancers signed up and $1,440 was donated, which is the equivalent of more than 4,000 meals. All of the proceeds from the event will be donated to Three Square.

The workshop brought together eight different performers, many with credits from shows on the Strip and elsewhere, to teach a post-Thanksgiving dance-fest that raised money for families in need. The four-hour block of time was divided into eight half-hour-long sessions. Agnes Roux, Katy Tate, Saleemah Knight, Fred Odgaard, Brent Borbon, Leah Moyer, Sheila Joy and Rounis herself each taught a class in styles including zumba, hip hop, jazz, ballroom, burlesque, contemporary, lyrical and jazz funk.

Participants donated $10 at the door and were welcome to take as much or as little class as they wanted and all ages were welcome.

“It’s so much positivity in one day that it’s crazy,” Rounis said.

Rounis commented on the benefits that the workshop has for those who participate. “You’re getting so much back,” she said, “and not just the feel-good aspect but the health aspect, too.”

The workshop also gave students an opportunity to stand alongside accomplished dancers. “[The students are] in class with professional dancers that are in shows on the Strip that they might have seen,” Rounis said. “It’s really inspiring for them.”

Rounis said that the idea sprang from a similar event she held at Drive Dance Centre, a studio she and Geneen Georgiev opened in Vancouver in 2007. “Once the recession happened,” Rounis said, “I thought, ‘What can I do to help those that have really been affected by this?”

This was the second Step Up ad Dance event and Rounis said that the diversity of the faculty has been expanded. Last year’s teachers all hailed from “The Beatles LOVE,” the show in which Rounis is currently cast. “We hoped to attract a more eclectic crowd [this year],” Rounis said, referring both to the faculty and the participants.

Jasmine Villamor, who participated in Step Up and Dance, said the diversity of the faculty was a big draw. “It was a full day of every kind of dance possible and it was perfect timing after Thanksgiving,” she said with a laugh. “It showed what Vegas dance has to offer.” Villamor also commented on what it was like to take class from, and next to, such experienced performers. “It was inspriational,” she said. “It puts you in the mindset that [that level of achievement] is possible.”

For many of the guest teachers, professionalism and training for future careers took center stage.

“You need to be able to pick up choreography and attach an emotion to it right away,” said Saleemah Knight, pictured left, who taught jazz funk and currently dances with Disney’s “The Lion King” at Mandalay Bay. “When you tell the story, it makes sense,” Knight said. “If you’re just doing the steps, you’re going to look stupid.”

Leah Moyer, who taught a contemporary class and is a member of Cirque’s “Viva ELVIS” cast, shared a similar message. “Just be you,” she said, emphasizing that this was the driving force behind her choreography. “Be there, be present,” she said. “Just don’t do steps and don’t fake it.”

Emotional cortexes weren’t the only part of the dancers that received a workout. Fred Odgaard,  powerfully built and energetic, led dancers in a warm-up that he said he and other fellow dancers call “cardio Barbie” (see photo, right). The exercise was a series of jumping jacks and the like designed to elevate the heartrate and get dancers’ blood pumping.

Roux’s spicy zumba kicked off the workshop, providing a Latin-themed warm-up for the rest of the day. Tate’s unique lyrical followed, complete with pleasantly literal choreography and percussive syncopations.

Borbon and Joy held down the high-heeled contingent with ballroom and burlesque, respectively. Borbon’s light-footed and light-hearted banter displayed partnering at its best and Joy dimmed the lights to illustrate a sexier side of Vegas dance.

The day culminated in Rounis’ hip hop/party dance choreography, complete with RoboCop moves and James Brown slides.

The crowd of dancers, many of whom had stayed through the entire workshop, gradually dispersed. Rounis, her small frame eclipsed by an oversized bag stuffed with dance gear, dashed off to The Mirage and the two “LOVE” shows that awaited.

Interested in seeing footage of some of the choreography? Check out my post here for a link.

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Step Up and Dance Video Link

If you can’t possibly wait another second for photos and a post about Melena Rounis’ Step Up and Dance fundraiser on Nov. 27, fear not: footage of the event is available in high-definition glory here.  Remember to keep checking back here for photos and interviews! Hang tight with the video in the meantime.