The men seek the spotlight |

The men seek the spotlight

Compiled by Steve Ranson

Fallon’s own Dancing with the Stars takes the lead with its male dancers for the 2016 event which will be held Saturday at 7 p.m. at the Churchill County High School gym.

As with previous competitions, 10 local celebrity dancers will be matched with 10 high-school students who bring a wealth of toe-tapping experience to the floor. The LVN featured the women on Friday, and now it’s the men’s turn to tell or brag about their dancing dreams.

Eric Clifford

Say San Francisco Giants or Green Bay Packers, and Eric Clifford will engage anyone who wants to listen about statistics and players.

If the discussion centers on dancing, that in itself is a different topic for the Fallon native as to the reason he’s in this year’s show.

“Well, I can’t quite say I was forced, but how about strongly persuaded,” Clifford said when explaining his venture onto the dance floor. “Those supportive people would be my family and a close friend, Angela de Braga. Angela summed it up best by telling me that I needed to do something that I wasn’t comfortable with and that getting out of my comfort zone would be beneficial. So yeah, here I am, ready to show everyone what a talented dancer I am.”

Needless to say, Clifford, who says he’s a pretty down-to-earth man, loves to relax, but he looks at this year’s DWTS as a fun event despite the number of hours dedicated to practicing.

“Of course I’ll be practicing long hours,” he said. “I mean, if I’m going to do this, I’m going to give it everything I’ve got. I am excited to work with my partner and coach to refine my diamond-in-the-rough talent! I don’t want to go too in depth for fear of giving away any secrets to the other competitors.”

In many ways Clifford has been in front of audiences. A graduate of Churchill County High School, he has a B.S. in Health Science from Corban University in Salem, Ore., and a teaching certificate from Sierra Nevada College. He taught high-school science for three years before instructing fifth graders this year. As a sports nut, he also serves as an assistant coach for the Greenwave baseball team.

Over the years, Clifford had many role models, but one person stands out more than the others:

“My dad, mom and sister for sure, but also my younger brother, Brian. While he passed away when I was 13, the lessons I have learned from him before and after his death have helped shaped who I am today I’ve learned that we don’t always get to choose our circumstances, but we can choose how we handle them with our attitude and actions. I’ll always be thankful for the impact he has had on my life.”

Denis Isbister

Denis Isbister is a very busy man. Born and raised in Fallon, Isbister has branched out with his talents, ranging from being the host of the television show Wild Fish Wild Places to being a partner at Adamsbuilt Fishing and Tolas Place Storage.

Isbister has also written a column in the LVN telling of his outdoor adventures. The love of the outdoors has led Isbister’s call to stardom.

“The crazy passion for fishing and travel,” Isbister said of the two main things that have been making him well known.

While he is not hiking in the rugged outdoors or paddling down a stream with a fishing pole leaning inside his boat, Isbister thinks of his dancing hero, Fred Astaire and what brought him to dancing this year.

“Ever since I was young, people have been blown away by how graceful my dancing is,” he said. “The funky chicken, robot and air guitar have been the go-to crowd pleasers and I expect they will bring down the house on Saturday. “I remember the first time I danced with a partner really well because it was about a week ago when we started practicing.”

Isbister said he must bring his “A game” to stand a chance to win.

Cary Jaques

As a dentist, Cary Jaques hopes to drill the competition at this year’s DWTS.

Jaques, pronounced “Jakes” but not to be confused with the famous Jake Johnston, grew up in Morgan, Utah, where people were out-numbered by mink, sheep and cattle.

“I began my education working on a dairy,” he recalled. “After a year I concluded that the only dairy in my life would be refrigerated. I graduated from Utah State University before whisking my wife and two small girls off to Virginia for dental school.”

The Jaques family packed up their car after he finished his schooling, headed west and have been in Fallon for seven years.

Jaques, though, remembers the first time he danced. He was 9 years old when his family visited Disneyland, and he was able to dance with Goofy.

That early confidence has prepared him for DWTS and with his partner.

“Sharah Moulton has me on a grueling dance schedule and strict diet of Kale and pomegranate,” Jaques joked. “Not really. I’m very excited to have her as a dance trainer and partner. She is an amazing dancer and is personally choreographing our dance. It is already stretching my limits of coordination and rhythm.”

Jaques said his wife Christy is his biggest influence in his life because of her support and encouragement. Perhaps her own dancing pushed her husband to the floor.

“My wife enjoys dancing and thinks it’s funny to drag me out on the floor where I feel more awkward and self-conscious than anywhere else,” he pointed out. “So no, I can’t say it has been a dream of mine. I have, however, had many nightmares about it since agreeing to join the DWTS cast.”

Jake Johnston

Most of the male dancers feel their main competition is with Jake “The Jalapeño” Johnston, home grown in Fallon.

He participated in football, basketball and track at Churchill County High School. Following graduation, he served a two-year mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in southern Mexico and then attended Utah State University where he met his wife Jenessa.

“Although many people think I dance professionally, I actually work at the local State Farm Insurance office where I am awaiting to receive an office of my own,” Johnston quickly pointed out.

Johnston brings some secrets to DWTS especially his road to stardom.

“I believe my “inner dancer” had to emerge and that is what really has cast me into stardom,” he said. “I have continued to progress and graduate from dancing in my room, to dancing with the wolves, to finally the big stage on DWTS.”

For Johnston, though, his dancing has been nurtured by his idols, Michael Jackson and Shaquille O’Neill, whose moves are very detailed.

Johnston, though, has had a desire to be in the DWTS program.

“Yes, my biggest regret was turning down Juliann Hough on the real Dancing with the Stars,” he lamented. “I realize now that I must start locally, then move on to state, then regional dancing with the stars and then finally be invited back to the TV version.”

For Johnston, he carries the torch for those who seem to stub their toe before reaching the dance floor.

“I represent all those “dancer hopefuls” who never get the chance,” Johnston said. “ The ones who dance in the shower or those dancers who just have to bust out a move at Wal-Mart in the vegetable section while picking out locally grown produce.”

Johnston knew he was born for dancing when, on a hot summer’s day in 1998, he dropped a heavy post on his foot. He bounced up and down because of the pain, but his dog thought he was dancing the mambo.

“I knew then I was born for dancing,” he quipped.

Johnston is courageous to dance Saturday,

“The people of Fallon have to imagine the Johnston family is like an episode of survivor,” he said. “My very competitive family took a vote, and I was cast off the island … I have always said the only way to knock the socks off of the judges is to dance until your own socks fall off, and that has really been our focus in our practices. We have put blood sweat and tears into this dance and I think the crowd will really enjoy what we have come up with.”

Abraham Schank

Abraham Schank grew up in Fallon and graduated from Churchill County High School before heading out of state to earn a Bachelor of Science in Business Management at BYU-Idaho.

For Schank, though, the draw of the land beckoned him back to the Lahontan Valley to where he wanted to farm.

His farming experience makes him stand out in his field, thus giving him confidence when on the dance floor.

“Well, everyone has been so great and encouraging,” he said. “They say things like ‘you’ll be great’ and ‘it will be so much fun.’ But everyone needs a good laugh once and a while.”

Schank said he has been preparing for Fallon’s DWTS with the help of technology by watching 21 seasons of DWTS in slow motion.

Once his performance ends on Saturday, Schank has solid advice for the audience.

“You will want to forget everything you know about me after DWTS,” he said, adding, “I represent the deprived dancer in all of us. Oh, I mean I represent agriculture in Churchill County.”

As for a dream of competing in DWTS, Schank quickly dismisses the notion.

“Dream? … nightmare? … same difference,” he pointed out.

Responses were based on a questionnaire each contestant provided.