I was dancing in my seat. Swaying to a Latin rhythm. Swooning to a graceful waltz.
The experience had me wanting to jump onto the dance floor. We were watching, or rather, helplessly joining the flow and rhythm of “celebrity” dancers. It was the Good News Center’s 11th annual “Dance the Night Away,” held Feb. 11 at Hart’s Hill Inn in Whitesboro.
The event, which also celebrated the organization’s 25th anniversary, raised money for the non-profit’s ministries, which includes, among other things, healing fractured marriages, giving solace to the grieving divorced and widowed, and providing grants to organizations assisting those in need.
Mother Marianne’s West Side Kitchen is a recipient of one of those grants. After the celebrity dancers performed, and while the four judges were conferring, Good News Executive Director Mike Buckley presented a $1,000 check to the soup kitchen, noting its “good work” in feeding the unemployed, struggling families, and the homeless. As West Side Kitchen’s advisory board chair, I accepted the check on behalf of our volunteers and guests.
“Dance the Night Away” put “FUN in fundraiser,” as dance competition co-hosts David Zumpano (Estate Planning Law Center) and Kristen Copeland (WKTV News Channel 2) aptly put it.
The judges – Paul Sacco (Coldwall Banker), Alyssa Dibrango (Dancenter), Fr. Joseph Salerno (Our Lady of Lourdes Parish) and Ray Durso (Genesis Group) – finally announced their decisions.
The Most Original Trophy went to Mount Carmel-Blessed Sacrament’s Fr. James Cesta (wearing Polish folk garb) and Maryann Imundo for their Polka Surprise Fusion.
The Best Crowd Pleaser Trophy went to Ryan Misencik (the evening’s DJ) who danced the Salsa with not just one, but two partners, Kayla Crouch and Cassidy Moore.
Christina D’Amico and Ryan Obernesser (O.B. Training and Sports Performance), a couple on and off the dance floor, garnered the Best Styling Trophy – especially after Ryan leaped and performed a mid-air split.
Dr. Gilbert Lawrence (oncologist) and wife Philomena won the Best Rhythm Trophy for their Waltz/Silver Foxtrot.
The Best Musicality Trophy went to Dr. Martin Morelle (rheumatologist) and wife Zaida for their performance of the Merengue.
Another married couple, Mahadevi Ramakrishnan (Colgate University professor) and R. Scott Smith (Utica College professor) won the Most Inspirational Trophy for the “elegant grace” of their waltz.
The remaining three celebrity dancers, who performed with experienced or professional dance partners, also won acclamation.
Deborah Cabral (DC Efficiency Consulting), partnered with Raphael Ortiz, won the Most Dynamic Interpretation Trophy for their performance of the Bacchatta.
Joanne Donaruma-Wade (recently retired from ARC Oneida-Lewis), dancing the Foxtrot with Ralph Imundo, received the Classical Interpretation Trophy.
Dan Lichorowic (Hart’s Hill Inn), dancing the Rhumba to Ballimos with Robyn Gaffney, took the Most Creative Trophy.
The evening also was a tribute to dance instructors Gina and Luca Esposito for their role in bringing the annual celebrity dance contest to life.