Luther College Chips

Dancing with stars for charitable causes

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Natalie Wade (‘18) and Catering Director Justin Scardina (‘04).

Natalie Wade (‘18) and Catering Director Justin Scardina (‘04).

Natalie Nelson (‘19) | Chips

Natalie Nelson (‘19) | Chips

Natalie Wade (‘18) and Catering Director Justin Scardina (‘04).

Natalie Nelson, Staff Writer

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With rhythm and smooth style, the third annual Dancing with the Luther Stars took place in the Center for Faith and Life on Saturday, April 28 at 7:30 p.m. The event premiered two years ago as a way to fundraise for the Luther College Ballroom and Swing Club, but this year it changed into a charity event with each of the three competing couples dancing for a charity of their choice. Campus Programming Assistant and Box Office Manager Bradley Phillips and Kjerstin Nelson (‘18) won the competition.

Janet Irankunda (‘19) and Instructor in Music Mark Potvin (‘01) were the Masters of Ceremonies for the event and the judging panel included last year’s winner Director of Bands and Associate Professor of Music Joan de Albuquerque, Bach Fosaaen, and alum of Ballroom and Swing Ehren Kluge (‘16).

The event, modeled after the TV show “Dancing with the Stars,” featured three competing couples with two dances each, group dances featuring the entire Ballroom and Swing Club, and a hustle by members Brenna Sherman (‘19) and Anna Streeper (‘18).

Natalie Nelson (‘19) | Chips
Ticket Office Manager and Box Office
Assistant Bradley Phillips and Kjerstin
Nelson (‘18).

Catering Director Justin Scardina (‘04) and Natalie Wade (‘18) won the award for Most Impressive Choreography for their rumba and foxtrot performance. Wade said the foxtrot was her favorite of the two because it was light-hearted, cheesy, and fun.

“I have been surprised by how quickly Justin has picked things up after learning the basic steps,” Wade said. “Ballroom is really fun in that way because even if you don’t know the exact steps, you at least have an idea of what the next step might be. It was really awesome to see Justin naturally fill in some of those gaps.”

Wade said the event was a reminder that anyone can dance and that her partnership with Scardina was positive.

“Justin is a very laid back individual that really just enjoys dance and it has made the preparations for this event really enjoyable,” Wade said. “Justin shows up to practice excited to learn and work hard and it’s really great to see his excitement and joy when things ‘click.’”

The duo danced for the Sodexo Stop Hunger Foundation, which donates tens of thousands of dollars to a variety of hunger programs.

Natalie Nelson (‘19) | Chips
Help Desk Lead Erin Zidlicky and Jason Sczypiorski (‘18).

Help Desk Lead Erin Zidlicky and Jason Sczypiorski (‘18) won the award for Most Captivating Performance.  They performed the waltz and the hustle and both agreed that the hustle was their favorite dance. Sczypiorski said the biggest challenges were coordinating schedules and creating choreography that both showed off their technique and was eye-catching.

“I would say [to future competitors] that you should get an early start and lay down your foundational bricks before you start doing the really flashy moves and all that,” Sczypiorski said.

Zidlicky said she decided to compete in Dancing with the Luther Stars because it seemed like a fun adventure.

“I wanted to show people that, no matter their body image or the limitations they think they may have, that if I can do it then they can do it no matter what they think of themselves, and they can have fun doing it,” Zidlicky said.

The pair danced for Decorah Kids Lunch Club, a program that provides free lunches during the summer for kids in the Decorah area. Zidlicky said it was important to her because over 150 kids do not otherwise have lunches during the summer.

As well as winning the competition, Phillips and Nelson won the Best Stage Presence award the end of the show. They danced the cha cha and the ballero. Both said their favorite dance was the ballero, which was brand new to the whole team. Nelson recognizes that Phillips’ personality added to the quality of their performance.

“Brad is so great,” Nelson said. “He’s so funny and he has a personality that he just lets shine everywhere. Every single performance is going to have that little spark of personality. I always feel that he is really wanting to do his best for the performance and he puts so much hard work into it.”

For future competitors, Nelson said she recommends focusing on featuring the star.

“The best you can do is to highlight the person you’re dancing with and let their personality shine through: being flexible but also understanding that main role of the dance is to engage the community with what you’re doing,” Nelson said. “It isn’t really about the dance. It’s about something much bigger.”

Phillips said he agreed to compete only if he could dance with Nelson.

“I’ve known her for a couple years and she’s just a sweetheart, so it’s the only reason I’m doing this,” Phillips said. “She’s so passionate about it and it’s pretty contagious. What motivated me is her drive and her compassion and her joy of being able to dance. This is her last dance at Luther because she’s a senior, so I tried to make it special for her.”

Phillips said that after getting the choreography down, he really started to enjoy the dancing and he would recommend anyone that gets asked to compete to say “yes.”

“I’m a pretty behind-the-scenes person in general, but sometimes putting yourself out there is a pretty good thing,” Phillips said. “I’ve been here for over 20 years and this has been my best year ever. Kjerstin and this process have made it very special to me. It’s challenging and it’s just a growing experience no matter how old you are.”

The pair danced for the First Lutheran Free Clinic where Nelson volunteers, which offers free medical assistance for people in the area every Thursday. Phillips went to volunteer at the clinic the week of the competition.

The Ballroom and Swing Club plans to continue hosting Dancing with the Luther Stars.

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