Popular pairs fill Snow Ball dance card

Penticton’s business and community leaders preparing ballroom dancing routines for a new competition, and the stakes are high.

Paramedic Catherine McLean and firefighter Wes Swaren are practicing their dancing skills for the Snow Ball

Paramedic Catherine McLean and firefighter Wes Swaren are practicing their dancing skills for the Snow Ball

The stage is set for the inaugural OK Tire Snow Ball, with some of Penticton’s business and community leaders preparing ballroom dancing routines for a new competition, and the stakes are high.

“I’ve always thought of dancing as a fun, wonderful expression of life,” said contestant Catherine McLean, who works as a paramedic in Penticton. “I don’t know why men stopped teaching each other how to dance because there was a time in the 1940s and 1950s when everybody knew how to dance, men and women. What changed, I’ll never know, but it’s a shame. It’s a lost art, dancing.”

McLean is among seven pairs of dancers competing, all of which have had seven weeks to spend practicing with their assigned choreographer. Each team is representing a local charity. All participants will see their charity win money, though the amount of each prize is based on the position each team finished.

Along with her partner Wes Swaren, who’s a firefighter in Penticton, they’re competing on behalf of the OSNS Child and Youth Development Centre.

With little experience dancing like professionals, they both felt rusty in the beginning, but with help from choreographer Louise Quandt, they’re finding their groove.

“Louise is a remarkable choreographer. If you’ve ever danced, ‘left-right, left-right’ sounds easy, but it isn’t when you’re moving your hands and your feet at the same time” McLean said. “Mid instruction, Louise can switch from the male’s position into the female’s, which is using reverse foot movement. I find it amazing how she can do that so quickly and know what both of us are supposed to be doing, I can’t imagine how a dance instructors’ brain functions.”

Quandt said McLean and Swaren are making strong progress, but their biggest challenge seems to be scheduling conflicts.

“Our times together have not been lengthy,” Quandt said.

Both perform shift work as emergency responders, both are parents and Swaren lives in Westbank.

“We’ve been dancing wherever we get a chance, whether it’s my house or his or the firehall – anywhere to practice some of these steps,” McLean said.

McLean feels slightly nervous. She said she will practice enough to feel confident, but is unsure if it will be enough to impress the audience.

“I am going to be in complete denial and say ‘Oh my god we are going to be so perfect and stun everybody and this will be the most amazing performance of a frantically nervous woman you’ll ever see.’”

“This is not something I’m used to, so it’s definitely outside of the comfort zone which is going to be neat,” Swaren said. “Between Louise, Catherine and myself we figured out a dance we wanted to do and everybody had a part to play in it.”

Swaren has past experience performing in musical theatre to draw from, but he’s expecting harsher critics under the scrutiny of the OK Tire Snow Ball.

“It’s an uncomfortable situation when you’re the centre of attention for sure, and everybody’s picking apart your dancing, so we’re going to have to make sure we’re spot on,” he said.

Though it’s a step outside of his comfort zone, Swaren’s chief purpose for participating is to benefit the community.

“Our charitable society isn’t the only one that’s going to benefit from this so the more people to come out, the more support there’ll be for the charities in our city.”

“Everyone involved has little to no dance experience,” said Wendy Goudie, who’s a co-organizer and one of the choreographers. “They all have seven weeks to learn how to dance, learn their dance, costume it and then perform it.”

The event is a formal, black-tie affair with a three-course meal, a “really elegant, fancy dinner,” Goudie said. “To have people fairly prominent that are willing to get up and do this, it’s going to be an exceptional show.”

The winning couple will be decided by members of the audience who will be casting ballots. There’s $10,000 that will be split between the non-profits that the teams are dancing for. Get Bent, will benefit from donations made at the coat check.

The OK Tire Snow Ball takes place at the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre on Nov. 21. Doors open at 6 p.m. Tickets cost $95 each and are available through www.valleyfirsttix.com and the SOEC box office.

Those in need of formalwear for the occasion can take their tickets to CoCo’s Collections for 30 per cent off the purchase of gowns.