Amidst noise-makes, placards and banners akin to the state-wide Democratic nominating convention held the same day, a crowd of more than 900 jumped to its feet in appreciation of 11 community leaders stepping out of their comfort zones at Curtain Call's Dancing With The Stars on Saturday, May 19. And the dancing was not the only thing that garnered cheers!
Melisa Viggiano, a kindergarten teacher from KT Murphy School, along with her professional dance partner, James Calixte, from Arthur Murray Grande Ballroom of Greenwich, danced with a child-like exuberance and received the JUDGES' CHOICE AWARD (female division) at Curtain Call's 11th annual fundraiser held at the Palace Theatre, Stamford.
Erik Zeiss, the bow-tied bartender from Sign of the Whale restaurant, tended to the crowd's needs as he and his professional dance partner, Lauren Nicole Sherwood from Diva Star Productions, received the JUDGES' CHOICE AWARD (male division).
Zeiss also stunned the crowd – and his girlfriend, Stacey DiMattio - by proposing marriage from stage at the end of his routine. She said yes!
Tracey Sposi Downey, from U.S. Home Solutions, styled her own win by taking home the PEOPLES' CHOICE AWARD with her professional dance partner, Cuong Nguyen, an Arthur Murray instructor.
Thomas Carlucci, Senior Director, International Television, WWE, and his professional partner, Linda Cicero from Dance on the DL, received the FRIENDRAISER AWARD for having the greatest number of supporters involved with Curtain Call's annual event. Carlucci's performance put a strangle hold on the loudly cheering, ecstatic crowds.
"Each year I am totally overwhelmed by the community's support for this event," said Lou Ursone, Curtain Call's executive director. "With so many arts organizations locally and nationally struggling financially, we know how very fortunate we are to keep our lights burning," he said. Ursone acknowledged the incredible community support that keeps the organization growing throughout the year, but singled out all of the dance professionals (and their studio owners) who contribute hundreds of hours of free lessons to prepare for this event.
"Many of our professional partners have been with us for several years, but no studio has provided as much support as Arthur Murray Grande Ballroom of Greenwich," Ursone said. This year studio owners Christine Georgopulo and Iraida Volodina provided six instructors for the event - more than half of all the professionals involved. "Arthur Murray Grande Ballroom of Greenwich has been an incredible partner with us for many, many years and we are very grateful for their dedicated and creative support," Ursone said.
With arts funding at the State level having been greatly reduced over the past several years, leaving funding gaps for many local arts organizations, Curtain Call needs special events like this to keep budgets in the black. Funds raised help Curtain Call maintain its year round programming which include many youth-related educational programs in addition to full-scale theatrical productions.
For this year's event, in addition to Carlucci, Downey, Viggiano and Zeiss, other participants included Nadia Fiorita, Licensed Clinical Psychotherapist, The Riverwalk Group, and her professional partner, Ricardo Sopin, Arthur Murray Grande Ballroom of Greenwich; Chris Fry, Chief Distribution Mechanic, Eversource and his professional partner, Kimberly Charles, Latin Moves Dance Studio; Josephine Furlin, Manager of The Vault at The Saks Shops Greenwich and her professional partner, Billy Blanks, Jr., Arthur Murray Grande Ballroom of Greenwich; Stephen Maggiola, Counsel, CT Attorneys Title Insurance Co. and his professional partner, his daughter, Julia Maggiola, a Curtain Call Choreographer; Willard Miley, SVP, Director of Retail Banking, First County Bank, and his professional partner, Katie Arbulu, Arthur Murray Grande Ballroom of Greenwich; Lisa Saba-Price, Principal, Newfield Elementary School, and her professional partner, Justin Allen, Arthur Murray Grande Ballroom of Greenwich; Meredith Scheine, Owner, Chocolate Works of Darien, and her professional partner, Bob Blank, Latin Moves Dance Studio.
Patterned after the hit television show, this was the 10th year Curtain Call's Dancing with the Stars fundraiser was held at The Palace Theatre. The event featured behind the scenes video footage of the couples in rehearsal in addition to their live performances and commentaries by a panel of judges.
This fun-filled fundraiser began at UConn Stamford with a cocktail party feting all of the dancers. A wide array of food and beverage were provided by Chocolate Works, Columbus Park Trattoria, David's Soundview Catering, DiMare Pastry Shop, Flinders Lane, Granola Bar, Judy's Bar and Kitchen, Marcia Selden Catering, Myrna's Kitchen, Nikki Glekas Events, Parkway Diner, Riko's Pizza, Sign of the Whale, Some Things Fishy Catering, Sushi Village, Sweet Lisa's Exquisite Cakes, The Water's Edge at Giovanni's Westfair Productions, CDI, Crystal Rock, Deutsch Family Wine & Spirits and Heineken USA.
Other sponsors for the event include fotosbyfailla.com, Zemo’s Men’s Store, Lord & Taylor, Stamford | Noble Salon, Simply Signs and Moffly Media. The master of ceremonies for the night was long-time Curtain Call performer - local comic - Michael "Motts" Pelazza.
Co-chairs for the event were Nikki Glekas and JoAnn Latorraca. Each was a volunteer Star Dancer at a prior dancing stars event. Chair emeritus, Jami Sherwood said "Dancing in 2008 was such an incredible experience...I never thought I would have so much fun doing this. It has made getting each year's line-up of volunteer Star Dancers psyched, very easy," she added. Latorraca said "Each of our volunteer dancers, amateur and professional alike, were completely committed to this event and that made our jobs so much easier." Glekas was responsible for corralling her colleagues in the hospitality industry to provide the incredible array of food and drink offered each year at the pre-show cocktail party.
We hope to make each year's event even bigger and better." Ursone said, noting that many new civic leaders have already come forth volunteering to participate next year. "I can't wait to see next year's line-up of Star Dancers, but one won't be me" he added with a smile. "And, they've got some pretty big dancing shoes to fill, too," he said.
"A major part of this event is the video component" Ursone said. Volunteers, David Klein and William Squier masterminded the production of the videos that showed the dancers laughing at themselves through the rehearsal process. Judges for the event included Jimmy Locust, owner, Locust Performing Arts Center, Maureen Pavia, director, Dancing Classrooms, and Broadway veteran actor and a long-time Curtain Call director, performer and theatre educator, Amiee Turner.
"Planning for this year's event started the day after we held our last event," said Sherwood. Other committee members included Diane Arditti, Jeff Brandi, Bob Callahan, Lynne Colatrella, Sonia Sotire Malloy, Lori Mercede, Tom Ormond, Bill Squier, Jan Ursone, Lou Ursone and Gail Yudain. "Our board, staff and a large group of amazing volunteers continue to make this event the premier special event in the area each year," Ursone said. More than 50 volunteers were on hand to make this event flow smoothly.
"As a life-long Stamford resident and member of the arts community here, I can't tell you how exciting it is to see this outpouring of support from our community to help keep our community theatre strong," Ursone said. Beginning in September 2018, Curtain Call will kick off its 28th season with the Broadway smash, MAMMA MIA! Since 1972, live theatrical productions have been presented at Sterling Farms, the home of Curtain Call since 1992.
Curtain Call is the nonprofit community-based theatre company in residence at the Sterling Farms complex, 1349 Newfield Avenue in Stamford. Year-round productions and workshops are presented by and for area residents in The Kweskin Theatre and The Dressing Room Theatre as well as outdoors on the great lawn for its annual Shakespeare on the Green presentations. Curtain Call was voted Fairfield County's BEST LOCAL THEATRE GROUP 10 years in a row in the Annual Readers' Poll of The Fairfield County Weekly as well as BEST LOCAL THEATRE and BEST PERFORMING ARTS GROUP by Stamford Plus magazine and Stamford Magazine, respectively, for the past several years. Curtain Call also received The Governor's Award for Excellence in Culture and Tourism - 2011. And, in 2016, won the ACE Award for excellence from the Cultural Alliance of Fairfield County. In a statewide Facebook poll in August 2012, Curtain Call was the state's favorite theatre site.
For more information on upcoming shows, workshops and daytime summer youth programs, call 203-329-8207x11 or go online to www.curtaincallinc.com.
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