Traverse City Record-Eagle

November 15, 2013

SwingShift and the Stars

Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — 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.”

The dance teams are gearing up for their final two events, tonight and Dec. 20 at the City Opera House.

Curiale-West said she and Brady are rehearsing nearly every day at Dance Arts Academy, where she’s an instructor. If they’re lucky, they’ll hold out to the end.

“We struggle with all of our combined injuries,” she said, referring to the wear-and-tear on their bodies as a result of her dance career and his participation in triathlons. “We are both beat up right now. I don’t think anyone is as damaged as we are. We also try really hard tricks, and that’s (partly) why we get injured.”

She said the pair is practicing a West Coast Swing dance to a Carrie Underwood song performed by competition founder Judy Harrison and her band, ReBooted.

“So far our quickstep has been our best dance, but I think this will top it,” she said.

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Charities and their dancers Father Fred Foundation - Rick Summers and Jennifer Howard Great Lakes Children's Museum - Lars Kelto and Lauren Harris GT Dyslexia - Tammy Ensman and Rodney Woodring Habitat for Humanity - Dan Brady and Maria Curiale-West No Unwanted Pets - Jen Klabunde and Danny Brizard Peace Ranch - Juliette Schultz and Cliff Shansoki