Celebrities set to dance off

Red Deer celebrities are finding just how fun it is to shake it up on the dance floor for a worthy cause.

Red Deer celebrities are finding just how fun it is to shake it up on the dance floor for a worthy cause.

Gil Vallee, general manager of Sheraton Red Deer Hotel, is among eight people preparing for the Red Deer Hospice Gala’s first Celebrity Dance-Off on March 16.

Vallee said he’s having the time of his life preparing for the big night, which will be held at his hotel.

That’s when he’ll perform a special dance with professional dancer Jinelle Marshall in front of an audience and three celebrity judges — just like the popular reality TV show, Dancing with the Stars.

“I think I have two left feet,” said Vallee, chuckling.

“He thinks he does, but he really doesn’t. He has great timing!” quipped Marshall, who has been dancing most of her 23-year-old life. “Considering your experience, you are doing fantastic.”

“Which is zero,” added Vallee. “It’s one of the hardest things I’ve done physically in the last 10 years.”

They were given no set genre of dance to rehearse.

“We counted 11 intricate lifts that we do together so it’s got holds, leg lifts, splits,” said Marshall.

Since early January, they have been practising three nights a week, for at least an hour at a time, at Strive Dance Academy. Vallee said he looks forward to practising in his new dance shoes — especially after a tough day at work.

And the two are well aware that a competition is at hand. They both say confidently they’re in it to win.

They’ll be up against Mayor Morris Flewwelling and dancer Jody Liptak, Red Deer College president Joel Ward and dancer Amanda Fleet, Red Deer Fire Chief Jack MacDonald and dancer Natalie Brooks, Corine Sim of the Red Deer-based Chatters Salon and dancer Brett Speight, Hospice founding member Debra Petty and dancer Bryan Senn, and Red Deer Rotary’s Citizen of the Year Kathy Lacey and Red Deer North MLA Mary Anne Jablonski, who are sharing dance partner Dale Tosczak.

Lacey and Jablonski laughed about their predicament sharing the same man for their dancing debut.

Since October, Jablonski had been practising the merengue dance with partner Keith Oberhammer. He underwent unexpected surgery this week. Not good news — devastating actually, said Jablonski.

“This is a challenge and I’m in very unfamiliar territory,” said Jablonski, smiling.

“Be honest with you, I’d rather run in an election than dance in front of all my friends.

“This is so far out of my comfort zone!” said Lacey, who is learning the rumba.

“I only have to dance for a minute and 37 seconds and I can’t even get that right!” said Lacey, who leads such a busy life that she’s only had seven practices so far.

“The critical thing is to get through it upright.”

The eight celebrities have been asked to raise at least $10,000 — and it sounds like they are well on their way. Pledging continues right up to gala night.

On gala night, the fundraising will continue. The audience will be able to vote by buying $5 silver stars and placing them in their favourite dancer’s ballot box.

Like the TV show, three celebrity judges will hold up a paddle with their score, ranging from 1, the worst, to 10. The audience scores will be combined.

The winning duo will receive a trophy before a big band dance gets underway.

In 2005, the Red Deer Hospice opened with 10 rooms in the residential area of Anders on the Lake. It provides physical, social, emotional and spiritual care in a community-based, home-like setting for individuals who are dying and for their loved ones.

Christine Moore, gala co-chairperson, said the gala is already 90 per cent sold out, which means about 700 seats have been filled.

Moore anticipates the hospice’s biggest annual fundraiser will raise between $100,000 and $130,000.