The first Dancing Stars of Central Georgia was a huge success for the DLDancers team! We didn’t bring home all the trophies but Team Dashley crushed their fundraising goal and thereby won the People’s Choice award–Ashley raised over $100,000 all by herself, making a huge contribution to the overall total of $205,962! Everybody was amazed when that final number came up on the screens last night. The total is incredible in itself, but even more so considering that this is the first time Alzheimer’s Association of Georgia has done a Dancing Stars event in this region. We are the first in the state to sell out the inaugural event and to exceed our fundraising goal the first year. Now my only thought is “How are we going to top it next year?”
Daniel and I got to the City Auditorium at 4:00 to meet up with our partners, do a little practicing, and get dressed and made up (not necessarily in that order) before cocktail hour at 6:00. The organizers did a beautiful job setting up the dressing room with flowers and balloons, tables and mirrors, chairs, snacks, drinks, and decorations. Plus we had a closed-circuit video feed so we could watch the show, at least while we weren’t busy being in the show!
I can’t speak for the guys’ side of the dressing room but all the ladies hauled in a crazy amount of stuff: at least 2 dresses and 2 pairs of shoes each, plus makeup, jewelry, hair stuff, cell phones, and the kitchen sink. Then the hair and makeup people showed up with about 4 more huge cases. It was like Macon’s most glamorous slumber party. Jack was running behind–working hard on last-minute fundraising–so I did my makeup while Daniel and Ashley were practicing. On a run to the restroom I helped Ashley with her bow; she was pretty nervous but they were making it work. When Jack arrived he was already dressed for the cocktail hour (Me: “Your hair is doing something weird.” Him: “Yeah, I was fundraising till 3:45, took a shower and came straight here.”) so we still had time to mark through the routine and go over some final corrections before I had to get dressed. We had made 2 changes to the routine on Thursday so we practiced those a few times, then marked the routine for Daniel and got his feedback. He gave Jack one small correction; we did that part of the routine once more; and Daniel gave it his seal of approval.
Then it was time to go out to the patio for the cocktail hour. The City Auditorium has a great patio on 2 sides and the weather last night was perfect: a little overcast, breezy, not too hot but not raining. Everybody in Macon (seemingly) packed onto the patio, drinks in hand, hugging and shaking hands and taking pictures. My cheering section from Macon State and Madison Studio were all on hand and I got to meet Jack’s parents, sister, and friends as well as seeing his wife and 2 of their kids again. Ashley had vast numbers of supporters there to see her too. It was a slightly rowdier, dressed-down version of the Oscars red carpet. I was glad I at least got to say hello to most of “our” people, because once everyone went in to dinner we became THE PERFORMERS and had to be sequestered accordingly. Back downstairs to the dressing room, out of our cocktail attire, into our costumes and on standby.
The show started about 20 minutes late because the dinner service ran behind, but once it got under way, it seemed to go by in a flash. From the basement dressing room our volunteer liaisons (students from Stratford Academy, incredibly sweet and hard-working kids) took us up in the slightly terrifying elevator to the green room to await our turn. Jack and I were couple number 5 out of 10 and Daniel and Ashley were number 6. The nerves kind of hit Jack in the elevator so once we got upstairs I started talking him through the stuff I’d promised to remind him of right before show time: count the slows and quicks, talk yourself through it, listen to the music, stay down in your knees. Then we were on deck watching the first few seconds of Jack’s promotional video, Sylvia told us to take our positions, the video ended, and I heard her say “Go lights. . . go music.”
Neither of us remember much about the routine (going back down in elevator afterward, me: “I don’t know what happened up there . . . ” Him: “Me either . . . ” Me: “But I think it was pretty good”). We did it about as well as we ever have; there was one tiny stumble that I’m pretty sure wasn’t visible. The lift got a huge cheer and afterwards everyone, including the judges, talked about how sexy and intense the whole routine was. We were the first couple to get three perfect 10s from the judges, plus the “Mystery Paddle” (which had a question mark on it) from the 4th judge–they did this to keep people from figuring out in advance who the winner would be. Daniel and Ashley were yelling their heads off from the wings. It was their turn next so we dashed to the elevator and back downstairs in time to catch most of their routine on the video feed. At the last minute Daniel had found out he couldn’t wear his hilarious disco wig but the entertainment value of the dance was undamaged. It was a total disco inferno and, as one judge put it, Ashley “did great things for fringe!” The best part was seeing her smile and really get into it after having been so nervous in the afternoon. We all cheered hugely when they came back downstairs.
Things got pretty crazy after Daniel and Ashley’s performance because they sent all the couples back up to the green room at once to await a final bow. Here’s a tip: if you want to keep a room quiet, do NOT fill it with dancers. We couldn’t stop talking, congratulating each other, and comparing notes. Downstairs, we’d all fallen prey to a brief adrenaline crash post-performance but everyone got a second wind in the runup to learning the results. We took our final bow on the dance floor in front of the stage, hitting our marks TV-style and waving to everyone like pageant contestants. Then we dispersed through the crowd to work the room for a few minutes before reconvening backstage one more time. It was a bit of a crush but very gratifying; I can’t speak for anyone else but I’ve been utterly spoiled by these interludes of celebrity!
Finally the moment of truth was before us. Who had won People’s Choice (top fundraiser) and Judges’ Choice (best dance routine)? All of us already knew that Ashley was a lock for People’s Choice but we didn’t know till we were up on the stage that her total was over 6 figures. Amazing! Courtney Swift and Richard Frazier’s tap routine must have been amazing as well–they were last, so we didn’t see it–because they took home the Judges’ Choice award. Must confess I was a little sad not to have won but mostly just delighted at how well everything went and how successful the event was. Also, as I told Daniel, I might have burst into tears if we’d won Judges’ Choice (I am sappy), and that would have been embarrassing, not to mention cosmetically catastrophic.
After the awards, the hard work was over and we were free to celebrate. Jack and family had to leave early, so we collected hugs and congratulations from them and sent them on their way, then hogged the dance floor with Ashley, her kids, and their friends until they kicked us out close to midnight. We packed up our 2,000 pounds of stuff, with the addition of three trophies (we each got a small mirror ball as a thank-you in addition to Daniel’s big trophy for People’s Choice), and headed home in triumph with visions of next year already dancing in our heads (haha, see what I did there?).
My friends who had free hands and free time to take pictures have already posted some great ones to Facebook. I tried to tag myself, Jack, Daniel, and Ashley in as many as I could find, so if you are FB friends with any of us, you can see ’em. I’ve already gotten a thrill from seeing the final pose of our routine for the very first time–never saw it before because I was always busy doing it! We have been promised DVDs, so I hope to be able to upload videos in a week or two. Should have some good “official” photos to post also: Walter Mallard’s camera loves us! So . . . stay tuned for more Dancing Stars media blitz to come!