Quietly, six distinguished Chattanooga professionals will slip away again this week, like they did last week and the week before, mostly unnoticed by family, friends and co-workers. Their disappearances are for a greater calling—ballroom dance lessons. The six are, in fact, competitors who each want to win Chattanooga’s Dancing with the Stars contest next month, benefitting the Partnership for Families, Children and Adults.
“I’ve never ballroom danced before,” says Alexis Bogo, one of the local celebrity contestants participating in the competition at Tivoli Theatre in downtown Chattanooga. “I’ve never done any formal dancing at all, but the Partnership is such a wonderful organization, I wanted to give it a try.”
Bogo, who heads Hamico Foundation, the charitable arm of Chattem, Inc., will complete 15 hours of ballroom dance lessons before she competes against other well-known Chattanoogans including Dr. Marc Cromie, a popular allergist with practices around the region on June 26. All six novice dancers will be paired with experienced dance instructors during practices, as well as the actual show.
“Performing in front of crowds is not a big deal,” says Cromie, who as a University of Georgia cheerleader performed in front of 80,000 to 100,000 each game day. “My wife is trained in ballet, so she is the dancer in our family. I have never danced, so I could make a real fool of myself.”
In the end, judges and audience members will get a say in who dances best, but residents can vote online and in person for their favorites. One vote costs $1, and participants can vote as often as they’d like.
While the television version of Dancing with the Stars may be full of tabloid-style drama, performance-related injuries and nail -bit-ing vote-off s, contestants are competing simply for bragging rights and a trophy. Th e Chattanooga version, on the other hand, boasts similar style and intensity, with less focus on Hollywood antics and more emphasis on an important cause, the Partnership.
Last year, television host Alison Lebovitz won the popular vote, and publisher Jason Taylor won the dance competition. Lebovitz and Taylor are back this year as co-chairs of the event. They say the concept is outstanding, exhilarating for both participants and attendees.
“The changes we’ve made really take Dancing with the Stars Chattanooga to the next level,” says Taylor, president of Chattanooga Publishing Company which owns Chatter magazine and Chattanooga Times Free Press. “The venue change, the local cast and keeping the interactive voting really allows the contest to be fun for everyone and make a big difference in the lives of thousands of individuals.”
“It’s one thing to say, ‘Sponsor me for a run or jump-rope contest,’” adds Lebovitz, who hosts “The A-List,” a local talk show on WTCI-TV. “But in this contest, every contribution is a vote, and it all goes to an incredibly worthy cause.”
With this in mind, Bogo this year is bringing a new strategy to the competition. It might make her a tough act to follow. “I like to match donations,” explains Bogo. “I will match the first $500 in votes dollar for dollar. And I am sure Chattem will match the next $2,000. That way, every $5 donation actually equals $10, for example.”
Dr. Cromie comes with a huge patient base. Nearly 15,000 patients are seen at his practice each year. He is posting flyers in his offices asking for support. He will also use the Internet to attract supporters.
Voting is easy, Lebovitz says. Donors are allowed to cast their votes online until June 25, or in person the night of the competition. The goal is make the voting as interactive as possible so the public can monitor standings, and see who is in first place up until the actual winner is announced.
This is the third year of the increasingly popular competition, the signature fundraiser for the Partnership. Last year, the event raised more than $35,000, and the goal this year is to raise more than $50,000. The venue last year was too small, notes Lebovitz, so the competition was sold out early. The 2010 version will be held at the larger Tivoli Theatre, and Lebovitz thinks it will be another will sellout.
Article published in Chatter Chattanooga, May 2010
Writer: Adam Crisp Photography: Mark Gilliland
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