Wilton resident Phil Bender claims he is no more than a caveman in a pair of dance shoes. “Seriously, I am not a dancer,” he says. “The idea that I’m in the local ‘Dancing with the Stars’ competition is a little outrageous. Before I met my wife, Lisa, I swear my knuckles drug across the ground like a caveman’s.”
Bender, a managing partner for Northwestern Mutual, is performing this Saturday night, May 16, at the Palace Theatre in Stamford, as one of 11 dance teams at a charity “Dancing with the Stars” event patterned after the hit TV show. He and his partner, Karen Casagrande, founder of Hot Shoes Dance, will be dancing in a reincarnation of a dance scene from the 1956 movie The King and I, starring Yul Brynner and Deborah Kerr.
Funds raised will benefit Curtain Call, a nonprofit, professionally-run, community-based theatre company in residence at The Sterling Farms Theatre Complex, 1349 Newfield Ave. in Stamford.
“I joke that I’m not a dancer, but I really am a performer,” said Bender. “I love to sing and speak in front of a group, so I wanted to support Curtain Call’s efforts. I love local theatre.”
”It’s certainly our biggest event, and honestly, the most fun too,” said Curtain Call executive director Lou Ursone. “Watching the volunteer Star Dancers grow in their lessons is always great, but watching the camaraderie that develops among the teams is the best part,” he added.
The event will mimic the popular TV show, in that there will be behind the scenes video footage of the couples in rehearsal in addition to live performances and commentary by a panel of judges that night. Judges for this year’s event are Tony Award-winner, William Berloni; Jimmy Locust, artistic director and owner of Locust Performing Arts Center; and Maureen Pavia, director of Dancing Classrooms.
Tickets and sponsorships for the event start at $125, and voting starts at $10. ”The voting is a great way to get involved in the process,” Ursone noted who says it’s a very important part of the fundraising. Awards presented at the event will be Judges’ Choice (male and female) and Peoples’ Choice, which is based on the number of votes a dancer receives.