Apr 10, 2008 Walt Shepperd Uncategorized
The phone message was long and impassioned, but not very optimistic.
“He was too big a fish in the sea for a first time out event,” Arleen Stewart reflected recently of making the call to Sean McLeod.
Stewart was organizing “Dancing with Our Stars,” an evening for the benefit of the George & Rebecca Barnes Foundation, a group with the sole purpose of saving the house at 930 James Street, which figured prominently in the Jerry Rescue.
“My buy-in was the saving of one of the most important structures of the Underground Railroad,” said McLeod, president of the New York Institute for Dance and Education, artistic director for Kaleidoscope Dance Theater and, after returning the call, executive producer of Stewart’s event. The event which will pair 15 local celebrities with dance instructors from six local studios, Friday, April 18, from 6 to 10:30 p.m. in the Grand Ballroom at the Hotel Syracuse.
“The building is one of the 12 stops along the Freedom Trail,” Stewart observed. “George Barnes put up $2,000 in bail money for William Henry in the Jerry Rescue. The building will need a million dollars in repairs over the next few years. I was brainstorming with a friend over a glass of wine about how to come up with it. At first we thought to do an “American Idol,” but I mean, where would we get that much talent. Then we hit on ‘Dancing with the Stars.'”
[Recruiting was easy]
Stewart thought it would be hard to recruit the local stars, but had a full roster after sending out only 30 invitations.
“They’ve been practicing for months,” McLeod noted of the enlistees. “The first day the trepidation in the room was palpable.
The challenge for them was to walk past their fear. Public personalities spend a lifetime creating a persona. Dance has the potential to obliterate that, with weakness and inability exposed.”
McLeod was anxious to push the volunteers to the point of failure, to get past it.
“We had to get them to where showing failure is acceptable, in fact the only imperative element in education. Now they’ve become invigorated, addicted to the good feeling from being able to move their bodies. While the stars will compete, McLeod will entertain with a comedic soft shoe routine with Bob Barker and a nostalgically Sammy Davis solo.
For Stewart, clearing $24,000 from the event would make a successful first outing, which she plans to make an annual tradition. Time Warner and Noreen and Mickey Falcone have already provided support. Tickets are $125 per person, of which $90 is tax deductible. For tickets, or more information, call 422-9917.
Mary Pat Northrup
MC: Dan Logan
The Celebration Band will perform
More information and pictures can be viewed at grbarnes.org.