All the Right Moves
Alzheimer's Association Dance Raises Money and Awareness
Sure, you should dance like nobody’s watching, but who can really pull that off? And for participants in the Alzheimer Association’s Memory Ball, it must feel like everybody is watching.
Forget merely stepping to a sloppy line dance at a wedding reception. When dancers take to the floor of the Memory Ball on April 29 at the Walkersville Social Hall, they will be showing off their moves to an audience of hundreds that include family, friends, supporters and, yes, judges.
You won’t find Charo, Mr. T or Simone Biles there, but you can still catch some impressive moves at what is basically Frederick’s version of ABC’s Dancing with the Stars. The event features a dozen couples raising money to benefit Alzheimer’s research. Fundraising takes place until the night of the competition, when they’ll show off their dancing skills to a quartet of judges. In addition to a prize for the pair raising the most money, there’s an additional judge award for dance skill.
Jean Peterson, who danced in the 2013 event, has a personal connection to the disease—her mother-in-law suffered with it for more than 10 years. Peterson danced the cha-cha with good friend John Connors, and joked about the difficulty in learning the steps, given her relative lack of dance experience.
“We had to get extra lessons; we needed extra help,” she says with a laugh. “It was more difficult than you would imagine. You don’t realize how much goes into it—what professional dancers go through to get the steps right and look smooth.”
For Peterson, the best part of the event was the camaraderie among the dancers, and working together to help the association raise funds. “It was just making new friends,” she says. “We did group lessons, so the folks in our class became pretty tight. … It’s a very good event with people coming together to help with the same cause; we all had a common mission.”
Last year’s event raised more than $100,000; the total for 2017 was just nearly $80,000 in mid-March, with 45 days to go until the event.
Supporters can vote for their favorite pair in advance or on the night of the event by donating to the Alzheimer’s Association—every dollar spent counts as one vote for the couple receiving it. Proceeds from the Memory Ball will fund supportive services of the Alzheimer’s Association and critical research for a cure.
One of the pairs vying for votes this year is Jaimie and Trey Kiska, who are dancing the East Coast swing. She says Trey was excited to take part in the competition after hearing about her experience as a judge last year.
“I was just blown away by the event itself and the dancers just looked like they had so much fun,” Jaimie Kiska says. “When I got home and told my husband about it, he was excited. It was really him that sparked the idea.”
Jaimie says she didn’t have formal ballroom dance training, but had been dancing in various styles since she was a child. Trey similarly has no formal ballroom dance training, but he’s no stranger to performance—his family owns Way Off Broadway Dinner Theatre, and he’s been acting and performing for most of his life.
“This is 100 percent new,” he says. “I can make a fool out of myself on stage—it’s fun. My wife has doubts that I’m going to pull it off, but I’m all serious. I want to compete. I want to win. … We get to compete and raise money for charity. Everyone wins.”
It’s new for Jaimie, too, although she hopes her former dance training will make a difference. “Even though I have dance training, ballroom is something that’s totally new to me,” she says. “But we’ve had two rehearsals and we’ve had a lot of fun with it.”
She also jokes that she was having trouble deferring to her husband on the dance floor. “I’m not someone who likes to be led around,” she says, laughing. “I’m really struggling with letting my husband lead. I also keep dancing on my toes instead of flat-footed. For East Coast swing you’re supposed to dance with a flat foot.”
Despite their lack of experience, Trey says they were hoping for the best—and that Jaimie’s skills can help carry them. “She’s never done swing dancing,” Trey says. “But she knows what to do and the movements, I just need to add the funny and hope the legs go the right way and the arms go the right way. This is going to be fun and if we win or we lose, it’s still fun meeting new people, and it’s nice to help out and raise awareness.”
Another dancer in this year’s competition is Timika Thrasher, who’s dancing the tango with her husband, Greg. The couple owns Thrasher’s Cleaning Service and were inspired to join by their friends Mark and Debra Acerenza, winners in last year’s event. “We thought it would be a great opportunity for my husband and I to support the efforts and be out there amongst other business owners,” she says. “We let them know we support the efforts for our Frederick community where we live, work and play.”
Thrasher studied ballet, jazz and tap dancing as a child, and her daughter dances competitively, but says it has been a while since she has done much dancing.
“I just thought it would be for a good cause and it would be fun,” she says. “The people we’re dancing with are great. My husband is very conservative, very reserved, so asking him has been a great opportunity for him to step out of the box. I thought this would be really great for the both of us together—we’re so excited.”