The community shines at Dancing with the Cherry Hill Stars

Max Cohen ('12)/ Eastside Sports Editor

The biggest and brightest Cherry Hill stars came out to support the Cherry Hill Education Foundation’s “Dancing with the Cherry Hill Stars” fundraiser at Cherry Hill High School West last night.  The night ended up being extremely successful for the Foundation, as over $31,000 was raised, well over the initial goal for the night.

The third-ever “Dancing with the Cherry Hill Stars” fundraiser was considered the most entertaining and successful by many, as it not only raised more money than the prior fundraisers, but it also maintained the consistent unifying theme of Broadway shows,  which led to a variety of entertaining performances.

The entertainment began even before the dancing as emcee Mr. Greg Gagliardi, English and Journalism teacher at Cherry Hill East, employed various jokes to urge the audience to donate everything they had to the cause.  He explained that this would be the first year in which the judges would help determine three awards: one for best overall dancer pair, another for best technical dance and a third for most creative dance in addition to the traditional overall winner for most money raised.  The judges, Arnie Silver, Charles Gill, Marjie Major and Michael Boyd, have each worked in either the dancing or acting industry as a career.

A group of West alumni soon interrupted Gagliardi to perform a comical rendition of “Officer Krupke” from West Side Story.

The first half of the competitors provided loads of entertainment for the audience.  Couple Two featured Cantor Jen Cohen of Temple Beth Sholom and partner Marty Feltz.  In their post-dance interview, Gagliardi joked with the couple about Cohen’s work as a cantor, as he inquired as to whether Feltz had danced with many other cantors in the past.  Feltz assured the audience that Cohen was indeed the best dancing cantor.

After the first four couples, the judges said they were astounded by the performances, featuring glittering costumes and spectacular dancing.

“I admire how much effort they put into this,” said Major, a former winner of the competition.

Couple Nine also dazzled before the intermission as Alexis Halpern danced with Rick Folbaum, a broadcaster for Fox News, in a dance choreographed by Katie Nanni, a dancer in “Mary Poppins.”  They received loud applause, with many audience members giving them a standing ovation.

At the intermission, Gagliardi announced the Education Foundation’s new initiative to start looking for sponsors for buildings in the district.

The second half began with a bang as an enormous can of hairspray was wheeled onto the stage for the performance of Jeffrey Nash, a Camden County Freeholder, and Caitlin Catanella, a dancer and choreographer.  They danced to “You Can’t Stop the Beat” from Hairspray.  The performance was supplemented by the opening of the hairspray can to reveal a male West student, dressed as a woman, who starred in West’s version of Hairspray.

The student was not embarrassed by his feminine appearance, although Gagliardi joked that he could have “just made up a name” when asked to reveal his identity to the 1,000 people in attendance.

Couple 13 — Dave Fleisher, president of the Cherry Hill Town Council, and Jodi Raditz, dancer and Carusi Middle School teacher — danced to a number from The Wiz which yielded a great deal of applause.

“She had the biggest job in the world, teaching me how to dance,” quipped Fleisher.

The competition ended with a bang as Couple 16, West teacher Shelby Smith and actor Rod Harrelson performed an elaborate dance from Jersey Boys.  It seemed to be straight out of the movie as the couple had an entire arsenal of breakdance moves.

Vocal groups from both high schools performed in the break between the final opportunity for the audience to deposit money in the boxes for each couple and the final announcement of the winners.  Mr. Tim Kelleher and his Cherry Hill East symphony orchestra played music at the beginning and end of the night, as well as interludes between dances.

Cohen reflected on her dancing experience while waiting to hear the announcement of the winners.  “It’s pure adrenaline.  Two minutes off pure adrenaline,” said Cohen.

Finally, Eleanor Stofman, the creative mind behind the event and the president of the Cherry Hill Education itself, arrived on stage to deliver the names of the winners with much happiness.

“We exceeded all of our expectations,” Stofman told the audience.

Couple 10 of Nash and Catanella won the award for bringing in the most money for the fundraiser, combined from both the night of the competition and online voting beforehand.

“I had a great dance partner and I just followed what she did and it was all for a great cause,” said Nash.

The overall award, selected by the four judges, for the best dancing couple was awarded to Couple Nine of Halpern and Folbaum.  Folbaum was exuberant in victory.

“It was a thrill to even be a part of this competition, let alone to finish first overall.  Winning was the icing on the cake,” said Folbaum.

The best technical dance award went to Couple 16 of Smith and Harrelson for their flawless technique.

The final award announced was the award for the most creative dance, awarded to Fleisher and Raditz.

“Jodi is the creative one and I followed her lead.  We just tried hard and wanted to raise money for a great cause,” said Fleisher.

The only thing more evident than the efforts of the participants in the competition was the desire of every audience member to help the Cherry Hill Education Foundation in its attempt to work for every student in the Cherry Hill School District.

DVDs of the event will be available soon.  Check out the foundation’s website for more details.