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Dancing with the Tacoma Stars 2013

Local celebrities, politicians vie for title of best dancer in Tacoma

DANCING WITH THE TACOMA STARS: Nancy Keider and Rick Gossard are ready for Saturday's competition.

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Dancing with the Stars is a TV show that pairs professional dancers with famous people - stars who often wouldn't know the bunny hop if it bit them in the ass. Each show, an unlucky couple gets voted off. By the end of the season, the only couples left on stage are ballroom rock stars.

"Dancing with the Tacoma Stars" offers a similar experience, but with a very Tacoma twist. All dancers are rock stars within the community. There are six stars: Tacoma City Councilman Ryan Mello, Metro Parks Commissioner Erik Hanberg, Dr. George McClure of Multicare; local investment manager and vocal teacher Jo Goodman, Pierce College Chancellor Dr. Michele Johnson and yoga teacher Nancy Keiter. The dance professionals that they're paired with are based in Western Washington.

The stars have been practicing with their coaches since late 2012 and will hit the Temple Theater stage Saturday, Feb. 16 for a fundraiser and dance competition like no other. Not only will six pro-newcomer pairs face off, but the night also includes performances by six bronze-level amateur dance pairs. Attendees are encouraged to wear their ballroom best and shake their groove things, too.

Anyone can vote for his or her favorite couple in advance or at the event for $1 per vote. Unlike most elections, buy as many votes as you want without shame.  All funds raised go to Tacoma Musical Playhouse's Youth Scholarship and Young at Heart programs.

The "Tacoma stars" come from a range of backgrounds. Some have danced before, but not ballroom dancing. Nancy Keiter, a long-time friend of Tacoma Musical Playhouse, was asked by TMP to take to the stage for this event, but faced a unique challenge along the way - she was born with spinal stenosis.

"I have an extensive background in dance," she says, "but I also had a massive surgery 8 years ago on my lumbar, in which they took out about 40 percent of the bone to relieve the stenosis I had in there. Most people have stenosis from something they did, but I was born with it in my lumbar and cervical spine. I had a very radical surgery and the doctor told me I'd never dance again."

But she has worked hard to show that doctor up.  

Still, despite her background in dance and theater, Keiter was never a ballroom dancer so she came to this competition ready to learn. She was paired with Rick Gossard, a dance teacher at Pacific Ballroom in Auburn.

"I walked in and I didn't say a word about the fact that I had ever danced before," she says. "I didn't want to put in Rick's head that I'm a dancer, because I am a dancer, but I'm an injured dancer. I don't have the equilibrium I used to. I don't have the stability I used to have. I walked up to him and said - ‘just teach me.'"

Gossard choreographed their dance number and has worked about eight hours with Keiter, as she cannot practice long hours due to her back injury. Instead, she relies heavily on her ability to watch and learn.

"We are working on the American Smooth Waltz," she says of their set. "It's a standard dance rather than a Latin. It's slow moving, very methodical, lots of turns, set to a 1-2-3 beat. I'm not going to tell you what song it's set to."

But after some minor begging on this point, she concedes. They will be dancing to Josh Grobin's "So She Dances."

"I chose that because he's one of my favorite artists of all time, as well as that particular song holds so very true to me dancing again," says Keiter. "I kind of want to send a tape of me dancing and send it to my old doctor and say - never say never!"

The evening starts with a dinner at 5:30 p.m. at the Temple Theatre Ballroom. Dinner tickets are $80 each and are fast running out. For $35, you can attend the competition and show with dessert afterward.

You can vote/donate to the fundraiser at the event, or pre-vote for your favorite dancer by calling the Tacoma Musical Playhouse box office at 253-565-6867.


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