Sequins and ruffles and… drag. Oh, my? Not necessarily. From the distinguished crowd's rip-roaring reaction, it was more like: bring it on!
Thanks to schmoozing over crudites and chardonnay, dining and dancing to old standards courtesy of Ridgefield Symphony Orchestra members and a successful auction with its own memorable moments, Saturday night's "Dancing with the RSO" spring gala fundraiser was flourishing by mid-evening.
But ask the patrons of the arts in attendance at the tucked-away Silver Spring Country Club when the event really got started, and they are bound to recall the moment that James Robey and Peggy Marconi waltzed onto the dance floor—he as a wigged-out blonde with painted lips, sporting a mid-calf A-line skirt, and she in a pixie and petite tux doing her best to work the routine's occasional lifts. I'd swear I saw her partner's feet hovering a foot (12 inches) or so off the floor, bless her heart and his silliness.
Following their performance, I think it was Emcee Ira Joe Fisher who said, "I think it was (Robey) who said 'Dancing was a real drag.'"
Judge Carole Schwartz followed with an appeal to Robey's fashion sense.
"I would suggest contacts and maybe a trip to Adam Broderick." Hoots and hollers all around.
I might have added, "I know you just danced to 'The Blue Danube,' but I suspect that by Monday you'll be fondly known as 'Waltzing Matilda.'"
Continuing the contest were Nancy Baldwin Andrews and Mike Principi, who had ditched his hot dog stand long enough to compete with a Tango. Andrews, adorned in an appropriately serious, red-on-black flowered flamenco number, blossomed nicely against Mssr. Chez Lenard's crisp, white shirt belted by an alluringly red sash (and black pants). Judges' comments spoke to both partners: "He dances with relish," and something about "Cougartown."
Tiring of rows of shoulders obscuring my sight from the sidelines, it was time to upgrade my positioning for the sake of accurate reporting. I moved to a new perch, cross-legged on the floor in front of standing (paying) guests, quite satisfied with my foot's-eye view that now ran clear up.
A verbal intro sounded Uno, dos, tres, quatro—presumably by RSO Maestro Jerry Steichen—and suddenly the caliber of dance was heating up (if I may say so), as was the temperature in the room. Amy Coyle and Marty Fiedler mamboed their way into audience favor, she in tasteful bubblegum pink sequins, he in a light pink shirt that, well, paled in comparison, serving to offset any thoughts of blowing bubbles.
Judge Denise Pence Boockvor critically observed, "When you did the split, I hurt." A fellow judge added, "The band was movin' pretty well," which met with notable applause.
With my nose in my notes, I remember hearing "… Rudy just came from prom night at the Vinnie Barbarino High School." And then I saw it. The first selectman didn't quite engage "Tony Manero's" famous strut, but his suit sure was Bee Gees-white.
Partner Jessica Mancini was radiant in her royal blue sequins, what little there was of them affixed to her derriere-high costume that left the dancer's legs on their own, especially for that lift and toe touch that garnered solid cheers for the couple.
Ms. Schwartz commented, "Rudy, I think you should pack that away before you go to Hartford."
Ms. Boockvor also made the political connection.
"There's a lot of trust that goes in to that last lift. I'm not sure you can trust a politician."
I haven't touched on all the dancers in the competition, because I wanted to save a little space here to honor my favorite couple of evening. They took to the dance floor early on and had it almost to themselves during the dinner hour. After catching them with a camera, I caught up with the couple to learn their names and see if they'd like to have a copy of the photo.
When I asked Loire and Bob Leavitt what brought them out for such an occasion, Bob smiled endearingly toward the lady on his arm. "As I told my wife when we met [in college], I have two speeds of dancing—slow, and slower."
Following the announcement of the contest winners—Amy Coyle and Marty Fiedler—and the presentation of awards to all contestants, RSO Executive Director Gina Wilson expressed her heartfelt thanks to the dancers for their generously donated talents and efforts.
"I will never be able to thank you. Ever," she said. "I'm going into the Witness Protection program."
As the evening was winding down, committee co-chair Sarah Cummings told me, "It couldn't have been any better. It was a real example of how Ridgefield comes together for the arts and community."
Can it be repeated? I think organizers should definitely give it a whirl.