Over 600 people filled the lower level of The Dalles High School auditorium for a dance contest with a familiar format on Friday, Jan. 10.
After dance performances by local contestants, the youth of The Dalles Dazzling Dancers and a touring ballroom dance company, Mary Davis lifted the mirrored ball trophy as the winner of “Dancing with the Gorge Stars” season 7.
Each attendee’s ticket doubled as a ballot for an audience vote to decide the winner. Davis ultimately won by a single-digit margin over runner-up Mimi McDonnell.
Organizer and Mid-Columbia Community Concert Association President Patti Blagg said she was happy with the end product of the association’s only yearly fundraiser.
“Who wants to sell cookies or do a garage sale? Nobody really gets to enjoy it,” Blagg said of the fundraiser. “This brings in a lot of money. It’s an expensive show to put on but it’s a lot of money coming for revenue and 650 people get to have a really nice evening out.”
The show opened with 14 dancers, ages 11 to 16, from The Dalles Dazzling Dancers after Blagg addressed the audience and introduced Utah Ballroom Dance Company Executive Director Mark Baker as the event’s MC.
Baker, who has been with Utah Ballroom Dance since it was created in 2010, got a roar from the crowd when he asked “How many of you know one of tonight’s contestants?” ahead of the first performance.
Davis, the eventual winner, was the first of six local contestants to perform, each paired with a professional dancer from Utah Ballroom Dance Company. After her performance, she bribed the judging panel of County Commissioner Scott Hege, Cousins’ General Manager Addie Case and State Farm agent Dean Dollarhide with comically large $20 bills to laughs from the audience.
Davis was followed by The Dalles Art Center Executive Director Scott Stephenson’s country routine to Steve Holy’s “Brand New Girlfriend.” Laura Johnson, who works at Great ‘N Small Childcare and her family’s Renken Farms, was next with a Cha Cha performance to “Welcome to the Jungle” by Guns N’ Roses.
Next, Dr. Mimi McDonnell nearly received a perfect-30 from the judges for her mambo performance to Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance with Somebody.” Dollarhide called McDonnell, North Central Public Health District’s health officer, “the doctor of dance” as he awarded her the first 10 of the evening.
Zion Lutheran Church Pastor Tyler Beane Kelly performed the single-time swing to “Johnny B. Goode” by Chuck Berry. His performance included cheerleading background dancers, a TDHS letterman jacket and a nearly-fumbled handoff to Hege at the judges’ table.
Brian Lauterbach’s salsa to Pitbull’s remix of “Shake Señora” was the final contestant performance, and received a 29.5 from the judges after the routine incorporated an act-out with Lauterbach shuffling behind a walker before pushing it aside and busting into a vigorous shimmy.
Lauterbach said he was glad to be done with his performance. “My mind is numb and my legs are numb, but I’m doing fine,” he said in the video introduction to the performance.
After an intermission, the professional dancers performed a medley for the audience, and a group of “Dancing With the Gorge Stars” alumni made an appearance before Davis was presented her trophy by 2019 champion George Mickens.
Blagg said copies of the commemorative video produced by Civic Auditorium Executive Director Skot Barker will be available in the future. Contact Blagg at firstname.lastname@example.org.