The mirror ball spun swirling lights as the dancers took the floor to show off their moves at the first annual Dancing with the MU Stars contest on April 28.
The Marymount contestants, paired with professional dancers from the Fred Astaire Dance Studio of Washington, DC, tackled everything from the waltz and tango to the jive and hustle. And it was all for a good cause. The competition raised more than $700 for the MU Presidential Assistance Fund, which helps students who encounter unexpected financial hardship.
Jeffery Wilkins ’12, a Communication major, and Julie Wilson, a 2001 MU graduate and co-owner of Encore Ballroom Couture (which provided the contestants’ costumes), were amazing co-hosts. Julie modeled several gorgeous gowns throughout the evening, and Jeffery transformed from student-casual to formal tux.
At the end of the night, the mirror-ball trophy went home with Jordana Taylor ’10, associate director of operations in Undergraduate Admissions. Jordana, who is also a candidate in the M.A. in Literature and Language program, danced the Salsa with Dmitri Naiman. Judge Daniel Calloway, a dual fellow of the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing, stated that it was “the most rhythmic performance we’ve seen tonight," while judge Brenda Wilson, co-founder of Encore Ballroom Couture, said, “You rocked that dress!” Judge Corey von Ginkel, a member of the National Dance Council of America and a certified Imperial Society Teachers of Dance competitor, added, “Wonderful personality; great rhythm!” Jordana's scores: 9, 10, 9
All the contestants did a great job, and the audience was with them all the way. The evening began with clips of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers to get everyone in the right frame of mind. Then Julia Nixon sang My Favorite Things, as dance pros Missy Nilson and Robert Eisenbach demonstrated the Viennese Waltz.
Udit Bhatnagar ’13, a Mutidisciplinary Studies major, started the competition with a Rumba, performed with Katya Naiman. Afterwards, Udit said, “This is my first time doing this; it feels amazing!” The judges remarked on the great personality of the performance. Udit had expected T.J. Berry ’14, a Theology major, to be his biggest competitor, but unfortunately T.J. sustained an injury unrelated to the competition and was unable to perform. Udit’s scores: 7, 8, 8
Next, Tina Billingiere, MBA candidate, assistant manager of the Lee Center, and co-coordinator for spirit programs, did the Brazilian Samba with Dmitri Naiman. The judges were again full of praise. Judge Brenda Wilson said, “You can buy that plane ticket to Brazil!” Corey von Ginkel noted Tina's great posture and hip movement. Her scores: 8, 7, 7
Keith Moser, the men’s soccer coach, elegantly danced the Waltz in white tails with Diane Samuelson. Afterwards, he confessed, “I wanted to wear a batman suit!” His scores: 8, 7, 7
Claire Morrison ’14, a Nursing major, wowed everyone with a fantastic ChaCha danced with Robert Eisenbach. Judge Corey von Ginkel remarked, “You were channeling JLo!” Her scores: 8, 9, 8
Father David Sharland, Y.A., director of Campus Ministry, did the Swing dance to “Soul Man” with Missy Nilson. What could be more perfect? Brenda Wilson noted, “We knew you were a man of faith, and now you’re a man of soul!” His scores: 9, 8, 9
Lynne Shank, wife of Marymount University President Matthew D. Shank, took on the challenge of the Tango with Robert Eisenbach. The nature of the dance required not only difficult, precise moves, but also a serious expression – no easy task. But Mrs. Shank was elegantly serious throughout. Judge Dan Calloway remarked, “You had a perfect conversation all the way through.” Her scores: 8, 10, 9
Brandon Jenkins, coordinator for leadership development in the office of Student Development, was the final contestant. He performed the Hustle with Katya Naiman. A big disco fan, he joked afterwards, “I look pretty good in all the sequins!” Judge Brenda Wilson said, “I could almost see John Travolta out there!” His scores: 9, 8, 8
While Jordana Taylor took the mirror-ball trophy home, the night belonged to the entire Marymount community. A new MU tradition has begun!
Photo ID's of MU stars:
1. Claire Morrison
2. Father David Sharland
3. Brandon Jenkins
4. Lynne Shank
5. Jordana Taylor
Dancing with the MU Stars was presented by the Activities Programming Board, the Student Government Association, and the Office of Student Activities. The Fred Astaire Dance Studio of Washington, DC, which provided the amazing professional dancers/instructors, is co-owned by Marymount alumna Maria Coakley David, who is also a member of the University’s Board of Trustees.