On its 10-year anniversary, Dancing with the Stars Fallon galvanized enthusiastic whoops and hollers in the brimming Elmo Derrico Gym at Churchill County High School on Saturday.
The fundraiser pairs dance students with community celebrities, and this year 12 couples competed — interspersed with performances featuring local dance troupe numbers.
Technique judge Debbie Edwards, who founded Fallon Swing Kids and the annual DWTS event, directed the program from 2005-2012 while choreographing and coaching the competition team. She has been working with youth for over 30 years and has been a ballroom dance instructor in Reno. The dance expert also choreographed an Arabian routine for Saturday.
Edwards said dancing is a life skill.
“The community was ready for something like this,” Edwards said of the program’s success. “Otherwise, it never would have been done … the community is the real star.”
The other judges were last year’s celebrity winner Cary Jacques (showmanship judge) as well as 2010 DWTS winner and dance enthusiast Carl Robertson (artistic creativity judge).
“This is my favorite event of the year,” said Robertson, who has been involved with the Fallon swing dance teams almost from the beginning; in college, he made the Brigham Young University ballroom dance team.
Fallon Swing Kids performed including the Pee Weez, Kidz, Juniorz, Starz and Competition dance groups. Plus the CCHS Ballroom Club and Fallon City Ballet from The Studio for the Performing Arts also graced the gym floor stage.
The competition took off with a “Beauty and Beast/Be Our Guest” number in which Bart Hyde and student Jordan Medrano channeled Disney’s magical touch.
Shannon Windriver and student Andrew McArthur paired up next in flapper and yellow zoot suit costumes for a piece with fast, synced-up footwork. Windriver was injured last year during a DWTS practice and was excited to make it through to the judge’s table.
Nathan Dahl and student Jordan Moon impressed the crowd with a routine completely choreographed by Moon including charming park bench stints as well as well-done leaps and lifts said the judges.
“I have a greater appreciation for what these kids do,” Dahl said before the show, emphasizing the students’ hard work and commitment. “I’m so glad I get to see it and be part of it.”
In a guys-fight-over-girl piece, Emmily Butz and student Davis Benecke wowed the audience with CrossFit pro Butz’s ability to lift and carry Benecke around the dance floor in addition to the “Great Gatsby”-themed number’s sliding and flipping.
Sleekly-dressed and fluid-moving Marianne Woller and student Josh Schie executed what Edwards recognized as a brave “death drop.”
Dairy farmer Eric Olsen and his daughter Allysen illustrated a father-daughter relationship when it comes to falling in love with dance — including growing up on a dairy farm. Breathless, Allysen said her dad’s custom shirt and bedazzled shoes took a few hours.
Sean Sweeney, ranked CrossFit’s 30th in the world, and student Iliana Hockeberry-Grimes took on an “Indiana Jones” idea including a whip-crack to kick off the piece, lassoing the DWTS trophy and a lift combined with awe-inspiring multiple lunges.
Darby Rowe and student Tim Shurtliff slipped into Captain America’s World War II time period with Rowe’s hair, makeup and vivid blue dress as well as flowing maneuvers even with Shurtliff’s authentic comic book character boots and shield.
Matt Hyde and Jennifer Marshall let the Greenwave out with an athletic, acrobatic performance featuring impressive lifts and twists; the judges said the duo danced like superstars. Robertson added Hyde had the best facial expressions and Jacques joked: “you look tired.”
Kristina Loesel and student Jason Brown donned elegant attire for a classic presentation during their twirl in front of hundreds, and Jacques said they conveyed “lots of feeling.”
When Riley Horn and student Julia Grimes were done dancing, Edwards said she could tell Horn was a natural dancer given his posture. Grimes, in a red dress with a skirt accentuated during spins, added to the production by doing the splits.
CC Communications representative and a Fallonite for life, Taryn Lenon, and student Jefrey Horne concluded the program and also won the competition, sealing the deal by also winning the texted-in “People’s Choice” award.
The judges praised the pair’s technique and synchronicity during the crowd-pleasing Star Wars theme, specifically The Force Awakens installment as the characters Rey and Kylo Ren. The dancers used glowing blue and red light sabers in a choreographed fight scene and the judges highlighted the precision, coordination and athleticism throughout.
“When they called my name, I was like, what?” Lenon said. “And when they called my name again for the fan favorite, I was again like, what?”
Lenon said she was battling some previous injuries yet in addition to her surprise, she has a feeling Horne may have expected something because of his dance experience.
Horne is a junior at CCHS and has been part of dance his whole life, being born to the The Studio of the Performing Art’s owners/instructors.
Lenon said for example, they were practicing a cha-cha move and she couldn’t believe how well he could move his hips. She added sometimes she would be scared to do a move.
“Are you sure you can handle me?” she had asked before practicing their shoulder-sit. “He was looking at me like, yes. They do it all the time. They dance, they swing people around; it’s second nature to them.”
Lenon, who enjoys staying active but had never danced before, said she worked hard for seven weeks not to embarrass herself — and added a full-hearted mindset is key.
Rousing loud cheers that night as well, Butz and Sweeney with their students clenched second and third, respectively.
“If any of you get approached to dance,” Lenon encouraged, “just do it.”