By CAROL SOUTH
Special to the Record-Eagle
---- — Transforming profound grief into action helping others, Joedy Annis is throwing a Dance Battle 4 the Cure.
This Saturday's event, scheduled for 6 p.m. at Traverse City St. Francis High School, will raise money for the American Cancer Society in honor of Karen Annis. A hip-hop teacher at Northwestern Michigan College, Joedy Annis was inspired to use her dance training to both promote healing and fight the disease that took her beloved mother-in-law.
"She was so special to our family," said Annis. "It's a hurt."
The high-octane event will feature freestyle dance battles that "will blow your mind," said Annis.
Dance crews from northern Michigan are also pitching in to help, including performers from The Dance Center's Fresh Fusion Extreme and Fresh Fusion ensembles as well as the college hip-hop crew MOJO STOMP, Crystal Bindi Studio's Jewel Jigglers and more.
"Hip-hop is high energy, lots of attitude, lots of 'swagger' they call it," Annis said. "So just everybody bring out their energy. It's a great way to express yourself and your feelings."
The freestyle battles will feature ad-libbing, where a dancer just goes out into the circle of watchers and creates moves to the music. The back-and-forth between individual dancers that ensues draws in the audience, who help pick favorites in the crazy improv.
"It's supposed to be a really good time, and hopefully that will just draw the talent out of these people," said Annis. "There is so much good talent in northern Michigan, and the more that they improve, the more that the other person will just come back and do better."
Organizing the event and gathering sponsors — including radio station Z93, Traverse City Wolves, Trophy Trolley and Signs Now — allowed Annis to channel her grief into something positive.
She has also invited Mollie Osborn, the local representative of the American Cancer Society's Great Lakes Division, to attend and share information about upcoming Relay for Life events in the region.
"I would love to do this again," said Annis of Dance Battle 4 the Cure. "If this kicks off and does really well for the American Cancer Society, I would love to continue having an annual thing."
All proceeds from the Dance Battle 4 the Cure will be given to the American Cancer Society, which is dependent on grassroots support to further its mission, said Evie Barella, media relations specialist for the American Cancer Society's Great Lakes Division.
"We really rely on our volunteers, people who handle a lot of our grassroots efforts as far as fundraising or advocacy," she said. "We can't do it alone."
Barella said that 3.5 million people annually participate in Relay for Life Events, or one in every 100 people in the country.
Michigan alone offers more than 200 Relay for Life events each year.
"It's all ages," Barella said. "Because everyone has been touched by cancer, most people have."