Fancy footwork displayed at A Glimpse of Dance

VERO BEACH — Last year’s innovative Dancing With Vero’s Stars to benefit the Healthy Start Coalition was such a smash hit, organizers wanted to come up with a way to let even more people get in on the fun.  A Glimpse of Dance, held Thursday, February 4 at Holy Cross Parish Hall, did just that.

Dancing With Vero’s Stars, scheduled for Saturday, March 13 at the Waxlax Center at Saint Edward’s School, is not your typical dance contest.  In fact, many contestant votes are accumulated before anyone has even seen the dancers compete. Dancers train with their instructors in the months leading up to the main event, all the while gathering support and votes.  Each dollar raised by a competitor, equals one vote and winners are determined based 50% by the money they raise and 50% on their dancing skills the evening of the competition.

During the cocktail hour of A Glimpse of Dance, guests nibbled on the hors d’oeuvres buffet, got to know the latest crop of local celebrity dancers and instructors, and contributed votes for their favorite competitors.Frequently the votes have nothing to do with dancing.  Joan Oestereich told me that she had voted for David Busch of Southern Eagle Distributing because she’s from St. Louis and had held stock in Anheuser-Busch for years.  Suzy Bromwell said she voted for  Kerry Bartlett because they’re both Gators.  “I’ve never seen her dance, but she’s a Gator so that ought to count for something,” she said with a laugh.

“We added Glimpse as a kind of kick-off party, to help the dancers with their fundraising efforts and to raise awareness of the big event.  Not everyone can make it to Waxlax so this is a nice way for dancers to get together and also meet some of last year’s dancers,” said Georgia Irish.  She and Joe Coakley have co-chaired Dancing With Vero’s Stars both years; Alice Gaskill chaired A Glimpse of Dance.

Making the change from a venue that held 350 seats to one with a capacity of 800 is daunting, but Irish and Coakley remain optimistic.  “I think it’s going to be excellent,” said Irish.

Knowing how much she loves to dance the obvious question was when she would become a contestant.  “She’s dancing next year,” laughed Coakley.  A non-committal maybe was her reply.

I caught up with several past and present dancers, including Patti Rooney, by day Chief Financial Officer for By the River. Rooney performed beautifully as a contestant last year and is partnering as an instructor this time, dancing with Tony Della Porta, President of Della Porta Construction.  Gracious as well as graceful, she jumped in as a last minute substitution due to a scheduling conflict with the previous instructor.  The slight disadvantage hasn’t deterred them though, as they actively work on perfecting their waltz.

New contestant Brenda Lloyd, a paralegal with Robin Lloyd and Associates, PA said she also got off to a slow start due to a shoulder injury.  “My instructor, Harry Sark [from Royal Ballroom] has been very patient. I’m dancing the cha-cha and have never done any kind of ballroom dancing before.  It’s been a lot of fun, but I think I need an infusion of some Latin blood.”

Another new contestant is Kerry Bartlett, Executive Director of the Indian River Community Foundation who is partnered with Oleg Dimitrov from Royal Ballroom and will be performing the Paso Doble.  When asked if she had any prior dance experience, Bartlett chuckled, “I’ve watched Dancing With the Stars.  That’s my claim to fame.  It’s really quite different when you’re doing it yourself.”

Alice Gaskill gave a brief welcome and introduced, Joe and Shari Tessier, owners of the 14th Avenue Dance Studio and the event’s production coordinators.  The two led a group of brave souls up to the dance floor for a lesson in swing dancing.  Looking at the lovely ladies on the dance floor Joe remarked, “Let this be a lesson.  If you want to meet some beautiful, talented women, take up dancing.  That’s how I met my wife.”

A whole group of Cheryl Gerstner supporters were on hand, most of them students of her aerobics class at Jungle Club.  Gerstner is also the Broker/Owner of Palm Pointe Realty and serves on the board of the Humane Society of Vero Beach and Indian River County.

Sheila Marshall told me that Gerstner’s class is a really tight-knit group.  “We just love her as a teacher.  She incorporates dance into the classes and makes it fun.”

Although she ended up teaching history, Gerstner told me she once had plans to be a serious ballet dancer and has always loved dancing.  “I think it gets into your soul.”

When asked about his experience as a competitor last year, Tom Lowe, another one of Gerstner’s students, quipped, “I enjoyed it, but Hollywood didn’t come around, so I’m glad to be watching this year.”

Guests were treated to a sneak peek at what to expect at the main event, as several of last year’s contestants and instructors showed off some fancy footwork.

Pam Director, who won the dance portion of the 2009 competition, and Joe Tessier took to the floor first, dancing a sassy Lindy Hop, lifts and all.  They were followed by Emma Carpenter and Dhana Lawson, members of the Troupe Sahar of the 14th Avenue Dance Studio, with a beguiling belly dance; decidedly not part of the regular competition.

Patti Rooney and Bob Kane, Director of Dance-on Space Coast, and her 2009 instructor, gave a demonstration of the smooth, passionate Nightclub 2 style dance and a muscular Steve Pfiester showed he still has the moves, dancing a slow sensual Rumba with partner Shari Tessier.

The Tessiers took to the floor one last time for a fast-paced Pink Panther Swing/Salsa medley; which even included a leap over Shari’s head.

Pam Director later told me that being a contestant last year had changed her life.  “It gave me more self-esteem and brought me out of myself.  It really had a dramatic effect.”

Go to for the full roster of dancers and to vote. {igallery 142}

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