Shall We Dance?

By staff February 1, 2006

Some parties just seem to have more going for them than others. Take this year's annual CAN Dance, sponsored by the Community AIDS Network. It's in a category all by itself, with an electric atmosphere, professional dance partners, and a grand ballroom competition in which six local celebrities vied for a trophy to the cheers of the crowd. It even had a star: the mysterious "M" (rumored to be local florist Jimmy Neal), who dazzled the crowd with stunning attire and won the competition hands-down with a hilarious version of the Masochism Tango.

But let's not get ahead of ourselves. This is the sixth year for the CAN Dance; each year it gets more exciting but also more labor-intensive-particularly for the contestants, who rehearse for weeks beforehand. If it sounds like Dancing with the Stars, the show that was such a hit on TV last summer, well, it is. But CAN was there first-by five years!

Still, the wild success of the TV show ratcheted up interest in this year's event. "Everybody wanted to come," says chairman Renee Sheade, and by everybody she meant a large and happy mix of society, the gay community, medicine, and the ballroom dancing world, which was suddenly getting the respect it deserves as both entertainment and fundraiser.

Put together by local ballroom legend Stephen Seig and dance entrepreneurs Andrew and Anna Smart and catered by Michael's on East at the Chelsea Center, it was a night unlike any other. People danced up a storm, more than $75,000 was raised to fight AIDS, and most exciting of all, "M" changed gowns three times!

Shall we dance?

Volunteers had been working feverishly all day on the d├ęcor and were still applying the finishing touches as the first guests began to arrive. The theme was "All That Glitters," and great neo-classical backdrops were giving the Chelsea Center a very grand touch, indeed.

After cocktails, Renee and Dr. Michael XXXX led the first dance. The crowd of 250 then enjoyed the taxi dancing portion of the evening, with much lobbying go on at the tables and in the corners for their favorite contestants. The competitors themselves put on confident faces as dinner progressed, although we did detect several crises de nerfs as the contest drew nearer. Only "M" sat magnificently through it all, dining lightly on salmon, in an elegant silver gown with DESCRIBE.

The plates were cleared.

The lighting was dimmed.


Backstage, the dancers prepared. Mary Ann Robinson, the Y's Citizen of the Year and a high-profile philanthropist and party giver who claims to be 77, slipped into an all-in-one in the girl's dressing room; Terry McKee, who's moving his hair salon downtown, where it's garnering raves from not just the ladies who lunch but the design community as well, put on basic black; Peter Selevsky, prominent realtor for XXX and part-time host on Home Shopping Network, worked on getting just the right amount of hairspray; old pro and professional director/choreographer Bob Trisolini was confidence itself; and Nikki Nilon, another member of the social set but equally known for the ministry she and her husband, Jim, conduct for the homeless, was getting zipped into a spangly blue number.

Places were called.

A deep breath.

All the contestants were rewarded with thunderous applause, but the moment "M" appeared on the floor in black velvet and size 12 heels, well, we knew we had a winner. Congratulations to all and onto next year, when contestants will include Michael Klauber and Dick Smothers.

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