Local celebs try luck at dance competition

Published 10:19 pm Saturday, October 24, 2009

Picture this: Fred Astaire decked out in white tie and tails, foxtrotting across a ballroom with Ginger Rogers in satin and boa feathers. No, that’s not quite right. Let’s try this one. Gene Kelly tap-dancing down the Champs Elysees in “American in Paris.”

No, still not what we’re looking for. How about this? It’s the fifth game of the 1920 World Series. Cleveland and Brooklyn have two a piece. Elmer Smith, 28 and an Indian outfielder, comes up to bat. Charlie Jamieson, Bill Wambsganss and Tris Speaker are all on base. With a single crack Smith sends them home and himself into the record books with the first World Series grand slam.

And that’s what two of Lawrence County’s less intrepid hoofers hope will happen as they take on the Tri-State’s version of “Dancing with the Stars.”

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On Saturday, Nov. 7., Ironton Mayor Rich Blankenship and radio personality J.B. Miller will join other area celebrities at the Big Sandy Superstore Arena to dance their hearts out to raise money for the Ebenezer Medical Center in Huntington, W.Va.

Among those also dancing at the event will be former Marshall football coach Bobby Pruett, WOWK-13 reporter Dee Delancy, Huntington businessman Marshall Reynolds and WSAZ-3 reporter Randy Yohe.

It was charity that got both Miller and Blankenship to sign on because neither claims to be a dancer. In fact, Miller made the confession recently that he never went to his Ironton High School prom because of his conviction that his baritone voice ends in two left feet.

“In radio I can crack a mike and talk to anyone. I can stand up in front of a crowd and emcee and not have a problem,” Miller said. “But I was petrified and in fear of being told ‘no,’ and what if I have to dance. I thought if I had to, I’d wait until the dance floor was full so no one could see that my basic dance would be rocking back and forth.”

Those days came to end recently when Miller teamed up with Noelle Kelley, a junior at Dawson-Bryant High School and student at the American Dance Conservatory in Russell, Ky., to do the salsa, a dance Miller discovered takes in more than the basic six steps he picked up at his first practice.

“I find I have to spin and twist and turn and flip,” he said. “I am trying to keep from becoming a buffoon. The thing that is intriguing is there are some names who aren’t dancers either. I spent several hours watching our own Ironton mayor.”

That mayor has a slight leg up on the competition he’ll get from Miller. He did go to his prom, but nowhere in that evening was he asked to do a tango, the dance selected for him and his partner, Ramya Velury, to perform.

“I am not much of a dancer,” the mayor said. “But I am going to give it my best shot and hope for the best. When I was asked to do it, I thought it was a good idea to promote Ironton and Lawrence County. It is a good cause, the outreach ministry, and the networking between the Tri-State.”

At a recent rehearsal, Velury, a Blazer senior and also student at the ADC, played both partner and dance coach as the pair went through their paces.

“Now walk around tall and just glide,” she told the mayor as the two did the quasi box step that makes up part of the fame Latin American dance.

And to help her coaching cause, Velury turned to a discipline she thought might appeal to the mayor.

“This is just simple physics,” she said. “Every action has an opposite reaction. Think Newton.”

And as the practice session came to the end Velury had just one piece of advice for her partner as he gets ready for the big night.

“Now remember to breath.”