GONZALES — Clothing was shed to thumping music Saturday night.
The setting wasn’t a seedy dance hall, however, but Dancing for a Cause at the Lamar-Dixon Expo Center.
The annual fundraiser for Community Opportunities — The Arc of East Ascension is based on the popular TV show “Dancing with the Stars.” The stars are local residents and the dance instructors are professionals from around the area.
In the end, lawyer and Cosmopolitan magazine’s 2012 Bachelor of the Year for Louisiana Ryan Chenevert went home with the coveted Bobby and Sue Giles Judges Award.
Other winners included Mark Dearman who received the Shining Star Award for collecting the most sponsorships, Ami Clouatre who captured the All Star Alumni Award and Charlotte Guedry, winner of the Fan’s Choice Award.
Chenevert danced the salsa with professional Claire Broyles. The spirited performance ended with Chenevert removing his lavender shirt and tossing it into the crowd.
“Claire was great, but Ryan needs to spend more time in the law library. He’s spending too much time in the gym,” said contest judge Guy Holdridge.
By day, Holdridge is a judge in the 23rd Judicial District Court.
A panel of six local dance experts and celebrities rated the competitors.
Technical judge Jodey Bruno directs the St. Amant Middle School Dance Team and teaches eighth-grade.
She described the competition as mix of talent and whimsy, with some of the dancers allowing their inner comedian to come out.
“Some people take it seriously and some stop the show,” she said.
Chenevert credited Broyles and the other dance instructors for his winning performance.
“You should have seen me at the beginning. I was so bad. I really have two left feet,” he said.
He added that his performance with Broyles at the competition was better than any of the rehearsals.
“I’m always up for doing something unexpected and dancing was really outside my comfort zone,” he said.
Having a family member with a disability helps him understand the importance of the cause, Chenevert said.
COEA helps individuals with disabilities and their families, providing services ranging from job support to long term care services.
Audience member Sharon Ducote said that her 34-year old daughter was on the waiting list for a while before receiving services.
“She’s been at the center for eight or nine years. If not for the center, there would be no place for Robin to go,” Ducote said. Her daughter works on a janitorial crew that cleans libraries and churches in the area. She also participates in social events put on by COEA.
“She feels comfortable there with others in her peer group. Its a wonderful place. We’ve never had a bad experience with (COEA),” Ducote said.
Dancing for a Cause is about raising money for COEA, but also increasing awareness in the community.
“It’s something you don’t know about unless you know someone who needs their services,” Ducote said.
A performance by the Arc of East Ascension Dancers allowed some of the service recipients to participate directly in the event. Wearing sports jerseys, the dancers performed to a medley of popular songs.
The theme of the event was “Gangnam Style,” a reference to the hit Korean dance song by Psy.
Fittingly, the competition began with detective Kyle Hanna and professional dancer Kris Cangelosi performing a version of the cha cha to the song.
At the end of the evening, all of the dancers gathered on stage for another performance of “Gangnam Style,” led by professional dance instructor Van Vo. Audience members were given their own sunglasses to complete the look.
Event organizer Anita Cann said that the goal of the fundraiser was to raise $80,000 for roof repairs and a new passenger van. On Sunday afternoon, she said that she thought the goal had been reached.
This year for the first time, the event sold out. “We were selling tickets at the door, but we had to stop selling. Dancing for a Cause has caught on with the community. We want to thank everyone for the outpouring of support,” Cann said.
She advised those wishing to attend the event next year to buy their tickets early. Dancing for a Cause 2014 will be held the second Saturday in July.
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