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Dancing with the Gorge Stars

Tom and Alssa

Photo by RaeLynn Ricarte
Tom and Alssa


Dean and Bailley


Mary and Anthony


Grace and Sam


Kim and Chris


Marty and David

How do you train people without dancing experience to perform for a large audience in five days? No problem, says Jesse Maher, production manager for the Utah Ballroom Company.

“We have teachers who are very good at what they do,” he said. “We have to move fairly quickly so we basically figure out how they learn best —whether it’s visual or they have to be talked through the moves.”

Maher said each of the six local contestants who are working with professionals have also been given a video to study between daily practices.

Kim Koch, principal of St. Mary’s Academy, is one of the local participants in the third annual “Dancing with the Gorge Stars” competition.

“We’re in blissful ignorance, we have total faith in our dance partners,” she said of working with pro Chris Rogowski.

The duo will be vying for the mirror ball trophy with a mambo to the music “Dirty Dancing” at 7 p.m. Friday, Jan. 8, in the auditorium of The Dalles High School, 3601 West 10th Street.

Tickets are $20 prepaid or $25 at the door. They may be purchased in advance at: Klindt’s Booksellers-Stationers, 315 E. Second St.; Lines of Design, 110 E. Second St.; or The Dalles Area Chamber of Commerce Office, 404 W. Second St.

Proceeds will be used by the Mid-Columbia Community Concert Association to put on five performances this year in the region. The nonprofit organization also provides musical educational outreach to Wasco, Hood River and Sherman counties in Oregon, as well as Skamania and Klickitat counties in Washington.

Another contestant in the Jan. 8 show is Dean Dollarhide, agent for State Farm Insurance, who is paired with Bailley Steffan for swing dancing to the Elvis Presley hit “Jailhouse Rock.”

On Monday, Dollarhide arrived at practice carrying the trophy earned by Wasco County Sheriff Rick Eiesland, who became known as “Twinkle Toes” after his win two years ago.

“If you have to borrow it, it doesn’t count,” said Koch.

“I thought it might give a subliminal message,” Dollarhide said to a reporter.

He expressed confidence about his chances of winning after being known for his “smooth moves” in high school.

“I was called ‘Mean Dean the Dancing Machine,’” he said.

The Chronicle was unable to verify that claim.

Also on the dance floor Friday will be Marty Hiser, owner of Westwind Frame and Gallery, with her partner David Buckmaster. They will be doing the quick step to the Marilyn Monroe classic “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend.”

Sam Woolsey, owner of Woolsey residential rentals, takes to the stage with his partner Grace Johnson to fox trot to the stealthy “Pink Panther” movie theme.

Mary Gailley, district manager of Helping Hands Home Care, is paired with Anthony Whipple for a waltz to the immortal “Moon River.”

Dr. Tom Nichol, a

hospitalist for Mid-Columbia Medical Center, joins with Alssa Baccus for a lively Paso Doble to “Pirates of the Caribbean.”

Audience members will vote on their favorite team and each act will be judged by: Gene Parker, city attorney; Addie Case, general manager of Cousin’s Country Inn; and Michael Clark, chief executive officer of PortaBrands North America.

Patti Blagg, president of the concert association, said a new element has been added to this year’s entertainment. A dance troupe of 20 young people, ages 10 to 17, has been recruited to open the festivities with a routine to the song “Disco Inferno.”

Maher said the troupe from the ballroom company will also perform during the second half of the program to give the audience an opportunity to see professionals in action.

Blagg said the association, which has been completely run by volunteers since 1937, seeks to bring audiences and artists together at affordable prices.

“We decided to have the show this year in the dead of winter because it would give people something fun to do and they are helping a good cause,” she said.

Friday’s show is co-sponsored by NW Natural, Cousins Country Inn, Gene Parker, Crestline Construction, Valerie Hiveley-Blatz, Avalon Biossage, Dr. David S. Perry, Four C’s Catering, C.H. Urness Motor Company, Hire Electric, Timmons Law PC, Rivermark Community Credit Union and Casa El Mirador.

For more information on the Mid-Columbia Community Concert Association or Friday’s show call Patti Blagg at 541-298-4352 or visit


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