By Laura Latzko, June 2016 Issue.
For the past eight summers, SWAY Events paired colorful costumes and spicy dance routines with local businesses and dedicated volunteers to produce Dancing With The Bars (DWTB) – one of the most popular fundraising events in Phoenix.
The ninth season, however, marks the first year the competition will be produced by – and benefit – one n ten, a support organization that’s been serving LGBTQ youth, ages 14 to 24, since 1993.
According to Nate Rhoton, one n ten’s development director, the organization’s goal is to gain a new platform for fundraising, education and awareness by taking the reins of one of the community’s favorite traditions.
“This event is about spreading the mission of the organization to the community so people know what we are about,” Rhoton said, adding that the fundraiser has become one of the most-anticipated events of the year within the local LGBTQ community.
The competition will have a similar format as previous years, with each contestant representing a local bar, fundraising through such events as “Tappy Hours” and working with a dance professional on a ballroom dance routine, which will be performed for the audience and a panel of judges at the competition – both of whom help decide the winner.
“You really have to bring it on all three levels,” Rhoton said. “You have to fundraise, you have to really be ready to practice – put the blood, sweat and tears into it – and then make sure you have your fans there supporting you.”
The 2016 Dancing With The Bars contestants include:
Anthony Alfaro – Los Diablos
Brandie Reiner – Harley’s Italian Bistro
Chris Tong – ION Arizona
Corey Weiss – Stacy’s @ Melrose
Daniel Cordova – Charlie’s
Eddie Broadway – The Rock
Gabe Shanahan – Bunkhouse
Jodie Goguen – Cash Inn Country
Karime Lizaldi – Karamba Nightclub
Katie Hobbs – Lustre Bar @ Hotel Palomar
Mark Howard – Fez & Bliss ReBar
Naomi St. James – BS West
Rich Serrano – Kobalt
Trixxie Deluxxe – Cruisin’ 7th
Competitors are required to raise a minimum of $1,000 and the top fundraiser will also receive a special prize.
According to Rhoton, the 2012 DWTB winner, the competition is both a challenging and rewarding experience for contestants.
“It was a great experience for me, just to put all of that effort and energy into something,” Rhoton said. “Planning these fundraisers while rehearsing is just a test of your character.”
Because no dance experience is required to compete, each participant will have access to past contestants for mentorship and be paired with a professional ballroom dancer. For the third year, Arizona Ballroom Champions will serve as the exclusive dance partner.
The competition, according to Arizona Ballroom Champions co-owner Shawn Nerdahl, is one way the dance instructors are able to give back to the LGBTQ community.
“It’s a charity that’s done within the community that we belong to,” Nerdahl said. “It’s a talent I have that I can lend to such a great cause.”
According to Nerdahl, the professional dancers create routines geared toward their contestant’s ability levels, style and flavor – while also pushing them to develop as performers.
“[We] help them become the dancer that they want to be,” Nerdahl said. “[We’re] able to tailor their routine to their skill levels so that they will look good and feel good, and [perform] something they can be proud of.”
According to Rhoton, proceeds from DWTB will benefit programs such as Promise of a New Day, which provides 40 housing units to homeless LGBTQ youth. Through the program, youth also receive healthcare, a place to live, transportation, behavioral health counseling and job training.
“It’s really, I think, one of our most critical programs because it allows us to intercept at a point in these youths’ lives when it can be truly life-changing for them, in terms of getting the tools they need to succeed and end that cycle of poverty,” Rhoton said.
For more information on DWTB, including ticket information and other ways to donate, visit onenten.org/dancing-with-the-bars-2016.
DWTB 2016 Competition
Tempe Center for the Arts
700 W. Rio Salado Pkwy, Tempe