Amateur Hour: Dancing with the local stars for a cause

By on October 18, 2017

Bernadette Gwilliam is not a dancer.

“I have three left feet,” she joked. “I’ve never taken a dance class, aside from clogging, which is like river dancing.”

But with local dancer Luke Zender’s instruction and choreography, Gwilliam and Dane Corey will dance in front of an audience and a panel of judges Friday and Saturday night to raise money for the Children’s Learning Center.

The event is aptly titled the sixth annual “Dancing with the Jackson Hole Stars” and kicks off Friday night.

Gwilliam and Corey started practicing in July. Since then, both the frequency and the intensity of their rehearsals have steadily increased.

“I didn’t think it would be this hard on my body,” Gwilliam said.

But she’s pleasantly surprised with the workout she’s gotten along the way.

“It’s been a great physical extra-curricular activity.”

While most of the other Dancing with the Jackson Hole Stars couples paired themselves together—many of them are romantic couples in real life—Gwilliam said she had never met Corey before their first rehearsal. Corey brings some ballroom dancing experience to the floor, but otherwise, they’re both total amateurs. But that’s the fun part, Gwilliam said.

“Truly, neither of us were dancers,” she said. “I don’t know if I would have known him necessarily without doing this. It’s been a great journey.”

And because they’re all working toward the same goal—raising money for CLC—the feeling among the other competitors is one of camaraderie, not competition.

“We’re not here to be competitive. We’re all doing it for CLC,” Gwilliam said. That’s the bigger picture.”

Still, it is a competition. There are four awards at stake: Most Money Raised (teams fundraise by collecting “votes” and real money prior to the show), Best Performance, Audience Favorite, and Best Choreography.

Gwilliam and Corey are dancing hip-hop. Gwilliam is letting the song be a surprise, but she promises it will be fun. It’ll be up to the audience to decide how well two white dancers and a white choreographer pull off a hip-hop routine, but Zender knows what he’s doing. You’ve seen his choreography if you saw Andrew Munz’s musical edition of “I Can Ski Forever” last spring, which was intentionally “white as the snow.”

And Zender’s got a gift for choreography and teaching, Gwilliam said.

“If he can make me feel comfortable as a dancer, I think he can with anybody.” Which is not to say the audience will always feel comfortable with the choreography, but that’s not the point.

Other couples include Ann Fish and Rod Everett, Daniela Peterson and Jorge Olivares, Nida Zdjani and Ben Roth, and Courtney and Chip Marvin (though they won’t all dance hip hop, so fear not).

The final pair isn’t actually a pair at all, but a quintet. Children’s Learning Center Executive Director Patti Boyd will dance with four members of the Jackson Moose Hockey Team: Tom Harnett, Sean Hannapin, Kyle Krauss and Chase Warton. All of the competitors are amateur dancers, but that’s never stopped previous competitors from giving it their all.

Gwilliam is fully prepared to break it down for a full house. Audiences don’t scare her. “I’m nervous because I’m not that nervous yet,” she said. “I’m wondering if that’s a problem.”

Unlikely. Gwilliam isn’t one to shy away from the spotlight. She and Corey have even coordinated costumes to add to the theatrics: “think purple, and big hair,” Gwilliam said. She hopes her fan club will wear purple to the performance, too. She’ll be handing out purple feather boas at the show. PJH

The two-day dance off begins Friday night at 7 p.m. Tickets are available at For on-stage table seating, call Gigi at the Children’s Learning Center, 733-1616.

About Shannon Sollitt

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