| Definitely one of Madison's most exciting events of the year was the 2nd Annual Madison's Celebrity Night on April 23, held at the Concourse Hotel's Grand Ballroom. That was how Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk described the occasion in her warm welcome. Aptly themed "Dancing with Celebrities," well-known personalities from various fields were present to dance through the night with professional dancers and to honor those who put dance on top of the world of art. It proved to be an energetic mix of world dance forms that drew participants from various dance communities as well as attendees to honor Madison's 150th birthday celebration.
Dawn Shegonee, director of Call For Peace Drum and Dance Company and coordinator for Madison's Celebrity Night said, "Never before in dance history have two worlds of dance come together in a broad spectrum -- from ballroom to tango, to world cultures, each discovering the amount of discipline and dedication it takes to create such beauty, through the art of the dance."
The event was an evening showcasing some of Madison's most talented and accomplished dancers, such as Becci Eilders, who was featured on Oprah in 1978 and studied with Pierre Dulaine, whose work was featured in the films "Mad Hot Ballroom" and "Take the Lead." Dakota Windancer holds national titles and leads the U.W. DanceSport Team, which performed a beautiful waltz -- the young men in tuxes, and the young ladies in elegant pastel colored gowns. Karen McShane-Hellenbrand from the U.W. Dance Program and Edi Gbordzi from the Royal Dance Company of Ghana, opened with a spectacular reenactment from the film "The King and I" in a very lively polka, Shall We Dance. (Polka is Wisconsin's State Dance.)
The outstanding creative performer of the evening was Rene Avila who transcended himself through dance forms of tap, break, and Aztec. Avila performs throughout the country and is the son of Jesus and Maria Avila of the well-known Ballet Folklorico Mexico de los Hermanos Avila. Some of the celebrities included Patty Loew, former mayor Joe Sensenbrenner, Art Shegonee, Juli Hinds, Jon Gramling, Mary Brennan, Heidi Pascual, Diane Everson, and Debra Illingworth-Greene.
Gerri Gurman, dance educator and alumni of the University of Wisconsin Dance Department, felt that this event surpassed her expectations many times over. To her, it was truly a celebration of the beauty of ballroom dancing and world dance. "All of the dancers seemed to appreciate the abundance of such varied dance styles and were actually in awe of each other," Gurman said. "It is virtually unheard of to present such a diverse dance performance." She was elated to see the enthusiastic performers and attendees who looked elegant in their evening attire, and to hear the loud cheers of the crowd for the ballroom couples from the University of Wisconsin DanceSport Team to the Tango dancers, the competing couples, the world dancers representing Spanish Flamenco, Miriam's Dance, Middle Eastern Dance, the Mexican Dance and its modern day Hip Hop and Break Dance incarnation and all the other dancers literally floating on the grand ballroom dance floor. "My breath was taken away by seeing such beauty and commitment to the craft of each style and piece," Gurman continued. "I loved the King and I number with Karen McShane-Hellenbrand and Eddie Gbordzi and I enjoyed watching the audience of dance aficianados take to the floor and share their gifts with all of us. The Madison Celebrities were given a generous applause and were welcomed with warmth and good cheer. It was an evening that I will never forget. As a performer, educator, and someone who truly enjoys the power and beauty of authentically aesthetic experiences, this was something not to be missed. I look forward to another Dancing With Celebrities next year!!"
"Dance and music were perfect vehicles for a grand party, and it really was a grand party," Mary Brennan, former chair of UW Dance Program, said. "There was ballroom, break dance, Native American dance, Middle Eastern dance and so much more to engage the audience who came to be entertained and to give to a cause that will benefit youth and adults in special dance and peace education programs."
As one of the judges of the Las Vegas Dance Contest, Brennan was so impressed by the skill, commitment and enthusiasm of the couples who performed. "Dawn Lindloff -Shegonee, her volunteers, and sponsors are to be congratulated for providing a showcase for the different dance forms and again showing the power of dance and music to bring people together. Dawn has being doing this for a long time and she does it so well," she said of Shegonee's commitment to promote the art of dance.
Next year's annual event in early spring, will be held at the Marriot Hotel with a surprise celebrity guest! This event will promote and support "Cities of Hope," a global project of Call For Peace artists, teachers, and world citizens who are working together to benefit children and families in health, fitness, dance, peace, environment, international education, and global relief programs.
|Dancing with Celebrities
by Heidi M. Pascual
|(Above) Dawn and Murel Shegonee; (below( Beccie Eilders and Michael Glowacki|
|(Above) Aztec dance by Rene Avila; (below) the winning form of Nent Sanguanpiyapan and Andrey Gordon.|
|(Above) Nan Gilbert and Art Shegonee; (below) Patty Loew and Dawn Shegonee|
|(Above) Karen McShane-Hellenbrand and Edi Gbordzi (The King & I); (below) romancing the Tango!|