TRAVERSE CITY — Dan Brady applies the same strong work ethic to dance that he does to his job.
It’s one of two secret weapons that launched the painter and his professional dance partner to the top of the scoreboard in this year’s SwingShift and the Stars Dance-Off for Charity.
“He’s works harder than most people,” said Maria Curiale-West, Brady’s dance instructor and partner for the event. “And he’s really athletic, so we’re definitely using that to our advantage. The best way to choreograph is to choreograph to a person’s strengths.”
The team is battling it out on the leaderboard in the popular charity dance competition. At the halfway mark they’re tied with veterinarian Jen Klabunde and her instructor-partner Danny Brizard, with a cumulative score of 15.2 each.
The contest began in September and features six teams of local “celebrities” and their dance instructor-partners raising money for six charities. Audiences at each of four monthly dance events get to vote for their favorite dance couple by making a donation to one of the charities.
Already the competition is on track to break last year’s fundraising total of $228,000. With two events to go, it has raised more than $129,400 — more than twice the amount raised by the same time last year.
“In September (alone) we raised almost twice what we raised the whole first year,” said operations director Melissa Coolman.
Leading the fundraising are charities Habitat for Humanity Grand Traverse Region, $44,300; Father Fred Foundation, $32,647; and No Unwanted Pets, $22,628.
Habitat Director Wendy Irvin said she’s grateful but not surprised at the amount of support Brady and Curiale-West have generated for their designated charity, which recently started work on the energy efficient affordable-housing neighborhood known as The Depot.
“We have very generous supporters,” she said, noting that Brady has been a “passionate” board member for six years. “It certainly doesn’t hurt that we have an amazing project we just started. Participating in the competition allowed us to reach out to the community. It’s helped us generate awareness of the project, which in turn raised funds for the project.”