Sold-out ‘Stars’ event wows Cherry Hill

For the second year in a row, on Sunday, April 19 in Cherry Hill West’s new auditorium, “Dancing with the Cherry Hill Stars” was a hit success.  The competition consisted of sixteen couples, each couple comprised of a community member paired with a local professional dancer. 

Guest performers and performance groups from Cherry Hill East, West and Bret Harte Elementary also took the stage.  Greg Gagliardi, English and Journalism teacher at Cherry Hill East and a previous “Dancing with the Stars” performer, emceed the event.

The night began with a performance by the Cherry Hill East Jazz Band and Jazz Standards Group, directed by Mr. Timothy Keleher.  The dances in the first half of the competition ranged from hip hop, to tap, and even salsa, all with elaborate and flashy costumes.  During a ten-minute intermission, as audience members enjoyed pretzels, popcorn or M & M’s from the concession stand, they had the chance to “vote” for their favorite couple in the first half by dropping any amount of money into the respective couple’s bag, marked with the couple’s name and number. 

West’s award-winning school dance team, directed by Ms. Shelby Smith, started off the second act with a modern performance to Led Zepplin’s “Stairway to Heaven.”  The audience was then entertained by the next half of the dances.  From a baseball-themed dance, to an offbeat performance to Rihanna’s “Disturbia,”  the dancers had the audience going wild with applause and cheers.  After all 16 couples showed off their talents, audience members entered the lobby once again  to make their final votes. 

While the winner was being calculated, East’s Jazz Band and Standards Group entertained the crowd, alongside of Gabrielle Zimmerman, a talented Bret Harte fifth grader recently back from an off-broadway tour of “Joseph and the Technicolor Dream Coat.”  West’s singing groups also performed. Men of Note, directed by Ms. Christine Bass, performed a medley of commercial jingles in addition to their other songs.  Fermanada, directed by Mr. Jim Boeckle, sang a few songs, including “Respect” by Aretha Franklin. 

Last year’s “Dancing with the Cherry Hill Stars” winners, Marjie Major and Brad Molotsky, ascended the stage to announce the couple who brought in the most money, Dr. Larry Cohen and Diane Alcavage.

Tickets to this year’s event were sold for 15 dollars, compared to last year’s price of only ten dollars.  According to “Dancing with the Cherry Hill Stars” Producer and Cherry Hill Education Foundation President, Eleanor Stofman, last year’s show was a huge success, making this year’s show an even larger success. 

“What made it much better was the representation of all levels of school, from elementary, to middle, to high school administrators,” said Stofman.  

Stoffman noticed the definite increase in spirit and enthusiasm from the audience and participants.  She considers Gagliardi’s emceeing as one of the biggest distinctions from this year’s show compared to last year’s show. 

Stofman said, “His humor and talent really kept the show moving and really made the difference.” 

Mr. Dennis Davidow, administrative assistant of the production,  said that it was the sell-out of the audience and the animation of the dancers that contributed to the whole spirit of wanting to help raise money for the Cherry Hill Schools.  

“I really enjoyed being able to do what I love and raise money to help children in the community grow and do what they love to do,” said Caitlin Catanella, West alumnus and professional dancer. 

Catanella spent months rehearsing after school at Beck with her dance partner, Beck Assistant Principal, Mr. Jeff Heller.  “[We] always made our practices fun.  Mr. Heller was a hard worker and so much fun,” she said.

As for next year, Stofman said that “Dancing with the Cherry Hill Stars” event will most likely return, with a creative twist to “keep it fresh.”  Several audience members approached Stofman prior to the performances, showing interest in participating in the 2010 competition. 

Davidow said that the “Dancing with the Cherry Hill Stars” organizers learned a lot from the first annual show, and will talk more over the next month about plans for next year.  

Stoffman said, “Our mission [is to] continue to raise money for the schools.”