TRAVERSE CITY — Mike Baker often appears in front of crowds. But his experience speaking on the health care seminar and trade show circuit won’t help him much on the dance floor.
“I’m used to being in front of people, but there’s a difference between getting in front of 600 people to give a presentation and getting in front of 600 people to dance,” said Baker, one of the local “stars” in this year’s SwingShift and the Stars Dance-Off for Charity. “My biggest fear is getting out on the dance floor and forgetting everything.”
The eighth annual event kicked off in Traverse City Thursday with the introduction of six new dancers, their instructor-choreographer partners and the six area nonprofits the couples will be dancing for.
Competitive events take place Sept. 18, Oct. 16, Nov. 20 and Dec. 18 at the City Opera House. Fans can both vote for their favorite couples and donate to their favorite charities online or at one of the events featuring vocalist Judy Harrison and her SwingShift band. Harrison owns High Impact Productions, which produces the event.
The dance competition has raised over $1.2 million since it was launched, benefiting dozens of local nonprofits, said Sherry Galbraith, events coordinator.
Baker, a CPA and office managing partner of Plante Moran in Traverse City, will dance with instructor-choreographer Sharon Pascoe for the Leelanau Children’s Center. Child development is a cause near to his heart and is the theme of this year’s “Plante Moran Cares” community initiative.
“Of all the investing there is, the investing in kids is probably one of the most important things to do,” said Baker, who began gearing up for the dance competition about eight weeks ago by “eating healthier” and hitting the gym more.
Other contestants and their charities are: TV 7&4 News Anchor Kristen Lowe and Tim Nixon, dancing for The Music House Museum; Fifth Third Private Bank Vice President and Trust Officer Becky Osborne and Terry Sadler, dancing for Bethany Christian Services; Peninsula Township Supervisor Pete Correia and Tamara DePonio, dancing for the Peter Dougherty Society; Priority Health Case Manager Evelyn Richardson and Richard Dodge, dancing for Grand Traverse Pavilions; and Federal Screw Works Plant Manager Paul Groesbeck and Tiffany Rice, dancing for Speak Up ‘Zine.
The Music House Museum hopes to use the money it raises to offset the cost of putting a new roof on its big barn last spring.
“It’s a $130,000 project, and it couldn’t wait,” said Kelly Roberts-Curtis, director of marketing and development for the nonprofit museum, which features a unique collection of automated instruments. “We’re so grateful we did because the old roof would have never survived the (Aug. 2) storm and it would have damaged the collection, which includes the Mortier dance hall organ.”
Roberts-Curtis said the dance competition already brought in a $10,000 donation, making its earning potential higher than the most of the museum’s smaller events, including barn sales, silent movie screenings and concerts.
“We have events all year but they do more for raising awareness than actually bringing funds in,” she said. “It’s a win-win situation.”
The competition is a win-win for Baker, too.
He’ll perform in part to honor his late wife, Amy, and to help him recover from her death in the spring of 2014.
“My dancing in years past has always been limited to dancing with my wife,” he said. “And when I say dancing, I’m not (talking about) dancing where I have to do the right moves.”
Tickets are $35 for table seats, $30 for VIP seats and $25 for general admission seats. Visit www.SwingShiftandtheStars.com or call the City Opera House at 231-941-8082 to reserve.
See the SwingShift
Judy Harrison and SwingShift will perform before and after the Traverse City Beach Bums’ home game Saturday at Wuerfel Park.
Harrison, who frequently sings the national anthem at the games, will lead the band from 6-6:30 p.m. and again in a full set following the 7:05 p.m. game.
Admission is free with the purchase of a game ticket. Visit tcbeachbums.com for tickets or more information.