TERRE HAUTE —
Many years ago — too many to ponder at the moment — I joined a community theater troupe in Sullivan and had the opportunity to perform in several Broadway musicals. In one instance, I was fortunate to have the lead role portraying George M. Cohan in the musical “George M!”
Performing on stage was always fun for me, so I truly enjoyed the “George M!” experience. The Cohan music (”Yankee Doodle Dandy,” “Give My Regards to Broadway,” “You’re a Grand Old Flag”) was a delight to learn and sing, and my cast mates were great to work with. We had a blast and were proud of the show we produced.
My biggest challenge in playing the lead in “George M!” was the required dancing. I was asked to learn a series of tap-dance routines and spent a couple months prior to the show doing so. In retrospect, the steps were simple, although they didn’t seem that way at the time. I managed to pull it off without drawing too much attention to the fact that I was NOT a dancer.
Armed with those pleasant memories, I happily accepted the recent invitation from CHANCES for Indiana Youth to be a participant in this year’s “Dancing With The Terre Haute Stars” fundraiser presented by CHANCES and First Financial Bank. I figured if I could learn all that was required for a lead role in a two-hour stage musical, including some elementary tap steps, I could surely handle a two-minute dance routine with instruction from a professional.
It’s early in the learning process, and it seems to be going well so far, although I can report that the dancing is MUCH tougher than I thought it would be. Tackling such a physical challenge certainly was easier when I was 24 years old. And it’s much more difficult to learn a dance with a partner than it was going solo.
Lucky for me, I have a fantastic teacher and partner. Kate Zimmer, an instructor for The Dance Studio in Terre Haute, is a talented dancer herself, and she’s proving to be a patient teacher. My periodic lack of coordination and inability to keep my steps straight have not resulted in any serious injury to Kate — yet — and so far she’s not showing up for our lessons wearing shin guards or steel-toe boots. I do take comfort knowing more people will be watching Kate than me when we take the stage in Hulman Center on the big night — Friday, Sept. 28.
While dancing will be the fun part of the event, there is a serious side as well. My fellow dancers and I are doing this to help CHANCES for Indiana Youth raise a bunch of money for its important social programs.
I’ve been a fan and supporter of CHANCES’ cause since its early days in the late 1980s and ’90s. I am a longtime admirer of Kathy Hoffman, one of the pioneers of the local organization who still serves on its board. As a nonprofit agency on the front lines battling social problems encountered by young people, its resources are spent in a number of ways that address various youth issues. CHANCES is a United Way agency, which means its programs are highly thought of and deemed worthy of that umbrella organization’s annual support.
As part of my fundraising efforts leading up to the event, I have reserved space at the upcoming Downtown Block Party this Saturday, where I’ll be raffling a 40-inch HD TV, as well as selling tickets for a separate 50-50 drawing. Proceeds, of course, go to CHANCES for Indiana Youth via Dancing with the Terre Haute Stars.
If you’re downtown on Saturday, please stop by and say hello, razz me about my upcoming foray into Mambo dancing, and help support CHANCES by buying some raffle tickets.
You can also donate and support my efforts, as well as any of this year’s dancers, by visiting the CHANCES website at www.cfiy.org.
At last report, there are still tables and seats available for the Sept. 28 dinner/dancing gala. If you’d like to attend, let me know and I’ll help you make arrangements.
I’m not planning to show off my dance moves Saturday, but if I do, please stand back. Kate is a pro and accustomed to avoiding the adverse results of my clumsiness. You might not be so lucky.
Max Jones can be reached at (812) 231-4336, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @TribStarMax