Locals put skills to test for symphony

April 24, 2019 Cranberry Living

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Amanda Gold, a second-grade teacher at McQuistion Elementary School, practices with partner and competitive dancer Michael Gherling in preparation for the Dance with Butler County Celebrities event set May 11 at the Crystal Room at the Days Inn.

Mike Manipole did not dance at his wedding.

“I have no dance experience whatsoever,” Manipole said. “I played sports in school, but it's very different — nothing carried over.”

However, the vice chairman of the Cranberry Township supervisors hopes to find the right step in an upcoming dance competition.

Manipole, also a seventh-grade health teacher in the Seneca Valley School District, is one of eight participants in the upcoming Dance with Butler County Celebrities event. Organized by the Butler County Symphony, the inaugural event will benefit the symphony's Education Outreach Program.

Local celebrities are paired with professional ballroom dancers, who will each choreograph a two-minute routine. Dance teams will compete for the judges' award and a people's choice award.

The dance competition is the first fundraiser of its kind hosted by the symphony. It is being coordinated by Dance With Pittsburgh Celebrities and the symphony's fundraising committee.

Manipole laughed about how he occasionally shows his students moves he learned in dance practice, adding that they laugh hysterically.

One of his students even devised a scheme during which they would rush the dance floor and bullfight with Manipole if he has a mishap during the competition, he said.

“My instructor says it's like dancing with Sasquatch,” he said through laughter.

Manipole and his dance partner, professional dance instructor Luanne O'Brien, will dance the foxtrot. A smooth, progressive dance characterized by long, continuous flowing movements across the floor, the dance has multiple turns and twirls. Manipole said he will even flip his partner.

Most people participating in this type of event have prior experience, according to Manipole, adding that he is a rare case. He said the chance to raise money for a charitable cause drew him to the competition.

The symphony offers six regular season concerts, free summer lunchtime concerts and free educational outreach programs to local school districts. It also sponsors “Young Artist” competitions at college and high school levels and a recognition program for local students nominated by a teacher.

Dance with Butler County Celebrities is being held in honor of the late Ida Findley, a longtime supporter of the community and the symphony. One of her dreams was to have a “Dancing with the Stars” type of event.

Although it is still too early to feel nervous, Manipole said by the end of the month he knows the feeling will creep up. He points out that audience members can expect an evening of surprises.

“It's all geared to make it less about dancing and more about audience participation,” he said. “It's a live performance where anything can happen next.”

Another Butler County celebrity in the contest is Amanda Gold, a McQuistion Elementary School second-grade teacher and Butler Education Association vice president.

Gold, who has been teaching for 14 years, said she is excited to represent Butler's teachers and show their involvement and support for the community.

She danced ballet, tap, jazz and lyrical from the ages of 2 to 22 at the SheLor School of Dance.

She considers the dance style she will perform — West Coast swing — unique.

“Expect a fast-paced, exciting routine,” she said, adding that she is saving the details of the performance for the competition.

Gold credits her dance experience with allowing her and her partner to try higher-level moves in their routine.

The most difficult part has been learning choreography, she said, noting that 30 seconds of a song could include intricate movements that become intense.

However, Gold said she embraced the challenge for music education.

“My students love music class, and I play music in class,” she said. “It's an outlet for them to express themselves.”

If You're Going

WHAT: Dance with Butler County Celebrities hosted by the Butler County Symphony

WHEN: Doors open 5 p.m. May 11; 6 p.m. dinner followed by entertainment

WHERE: Crystal Room in the Days Inn by Wyndham Butler Conference Center, 139 Pittsburgh Road

COST: $75 for adults and $28 for children younger than 10.

PROCEEDS: Benefit the symphony and its educational outreach program

RESERVATIONS: Deadline is April 25. Call 724-504-6161 or email dancecelebrities@zoominternet.net with inquiries

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