DANCING WITH THE DOCS
A few years ago, I was offered the opportunity to help with an amazing fundraising event in its inaugural year. Dancing with the Docs Cape Cod promised to be the first of it’s kind in our area, and we really didn’t know what to expect. We HOPED it would raise a good amount of money for the Cape Wellness Collaborative (CWC), who helps people on the Cape and Islands facing cancer by providing free-of-charge integrative therapies both during and after they battle this terrible disease.
I came into this event alongside Adam Spencer, the, (and MY) uber-talented ballroom instructor. My friend Sarah Swain is the Founder and CEO of CWC, and with the help of the board, the committee, the countless volunteers and some other ballroom instructors and their trusted protégées, we all embarked on this year one experiment full of wide eyed hope and excitement. We gathered doctors to volunteer their time and learn to dance. I cannot even begin to go into the many moving parts and what it takes to pull this event together. Let’s suffice it to say, it is a monumental effort and in the end, "Season 1" had an audience of 250 and we raised over $100,000. Wow.
So I’d like to unpack the part I know the most about – the dancing. It all starts with a doctor volunteering his or her time – which is no small task! This can feel like a huge undertaking and usually, dancing (on stage, no less) is completely outside of their comfort zone. We begin rehearsals 4 to 5 months before the event, with most couples committing to rehearsals once a week, since consistency is as (if not more!) important than frequency.
It all starts with a doctor volunteering his or her time – which is no small task!
So far, we have had more female doctors than male volunteer, which has created some same-sex pairings (not uncommon in the ballroom world). Our first year we actually had three female-female dance couples. The dance pro (my role) is to help choose the song, (the first year, our dance styles were chosen out of a hat!), decide on music cuts to keep the dance under 2 minutes, choreograph (the first year Adam did most of the choreography, but subsequent years the pros have taken on more responsibility), “hold” or remember choreography as well as be able to teach it and help the dancing doctor understand and perfect it.
The first year I danced with a wonderful man, Dr. Jeff Martin – or as he will be forever known to the DWTD world, “Dr. Disco”. Yes, we danced a disco. No, I had NEVER danced a disco, or a hustle before, and neither had Jeff, so I needed tons of extra help from our coach and choreographer, Adam. Dr. Jeff and I rehearsed religiously once a week, and then twice a week nearing the performance. We met with Adam maybe 2 or 3 more times after our initial choreography session and he helped tremendously with tweaking things and cleaning up our performance. Our performance went GREAT and we had a blast.
The second year I had the opportunity to work a little closer to my wheelhouse and danced a tango with Dr. Kevin Vilsaint. Kevin was very shy and we worked a lot on bringing him out of his shell. One thing that I bring to the table, along with ballroom dance experience, is that I do some stage acting and dancing, so I can offer real coaching on performance quality.
I always make it a point to talk early and often about what it will feel like to be in front of a large audience, something these doctors usually have little, if any, experience with. We work on the technique of the dance style first and foremost, and then we start choreography. By December I have the dance choreographed and we begin running it over and over; adding full performance energy by January.
I was incredibly proud of how far Kevin came with his technique in tango, and our performance had some wow moments. I was also proud that I created the majority of the choreography as well as the concept for our dance. We didn’t win, but that was not the most important part for either of us. Once again the event was hugely successful and the audience of about 250 helped us raise another $100K+.
This year is offering a few twists. A new location makes room for our largest audience to date – almost 500 people! There are THREE awards up for grabs. In addition to the "Medicine Ball Trophy" we also have the "CWC Community Hero" award which will go to the doc who garners the most donations to CWC both leading up to and including night of the event. Finally, there's a "People’s Choice" award which is decided by text votes from the audience the night of the show.
I am dancing with a brave female surgeon this year, Dr. Kathy Hughes, and we are the only same sex couple. We have a couple surprises up our sleeves; so I’m saving those. But I can talk about how hard Dr. Kathy is working, and how the process has differed for me dancing with a female vs. a male partner. First, I needed to learn how to lead in a swing dance – how to lead AT ALL, in fact! Teaching the steps isn’t as hard as it is when teaching men since I already know them. Kathy is very rhythmical so teaching the basic steps was a very easy and fast process. I’m not falling back on any lifts or tricks so I’m using some other fun surprises to up the ante on our concept, and I think the audience and judges will love it.
I am super proud of both of us. Not only because I have embraced this entire dance, from choosing the song and concept all the way through to completing the final choreographed piece, but also because I’ve learned how to lead quite well. I’ve helped Kathy learn how to follow and execute the steps with technical ability. These two tasks are monumental and not everyone who dances ever truly understands that. For the first time I did all of the choreography and I feel incredibly proud to say - I LOVE the final piece! I think it’s fun, catchy and it shows off Kathy and her joy of dancing in the performance, not to mention, she is TOTALLY rocking it!
We are less than a week away from show night, and now the nerves start. We are focusing on final adjustments to the dance as well as making decisions about makeup and hair. We will have our first audience at our dress rehearsal and then we are off to the races with the performance.
I LOVE the final piece! I think it’s fun, catchy and it shows off Kathy and her joy of dancing in the performance, not to mention, she is TOTALLY rocking it!
While on one hand I am super excited and full of nerves, on the other there is some trepidation. This year will be an especially emotional one as it is dedicated to a good friend of mine, Pam, who passed away over the summer after losing her battle to cancer. She was a fellow DWTD pro the first year, right alongside me. Her amazing daughter will be a featured speaker at the end of the night and I know it will tug the heartstrings and give me all the feels. I also know it is more important than ever to help raise awareness and funds for this charity that does so much good and meant so much to Pam. It will be bittersweet, for sure.
We have so much fun! The event is a black tie affair featuring delicious food and cocktails, tons of entertainment in addition to our dance performances, a live auction and a silent auction, and there's even a dance party for all at the end of the evening. It truly is THE event to be at (sold out, again!). Close to 500 people will attend, and who knows how many more will LIVE stream it! I have immense gratitude that I get to help in some small way by serving on the committee as well as being a dance pro. I get to focus my passion and hope it helps someone. At the end of the day, the most important thing we do at this event is raise money for people facing cancer in our community. I hope this helped you understand a bit more of what and why we do what we do, and I hope it inspires you to help in any way you can.