by Michele Vowell
New Era staff writer
After a two-year hiatus, Dancing With Our Stars returns to the newly renovated Alhambra Theatre Sept. 7 -- but with a twist in the formatting of the show.
This year's competition will feature 16 local celebrities paired together, with dance experts from Brooke Bailey Dance Addiction + Gymnastics and Bluegrass Dancecats serving as mentors and coaches.
"One of the challenges in the format we had before was finding enough male professional dancers in this area. We were trying to pair a celebrity with a partner. It was really challenging and really taxing on our partners -- who are our dance studios," said Margaret Prim, Pennyroyal Arts Council director. "(This) is really a win-win. It helps our dance studio partners be more involved in coaching and it allows more people in our community to be involved."
Prim said the dance studio partners will help the community celebrities with the choreography, their costumes and music.
"It's a little bit different twist with more people involved," Prim said.
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Dancing With Our Stars debuted in 2016. The second show was in September 2017.
After the 2017 show, organizers decided to schedule the competition every other year, Prim said. During 2018, the Alhambra underwent extensive renovations.
Sponsored by Hughart, Beard and Giles Funeral Homes, the Sept. 7 event will kick off the 2019-2020 Live at the Alhambra Season.
"It's going to be exciting having it in the new theater," Prim said. "We think it's going to be set up better to handle the sold-out crowds we expect."
Sponsorships are available for the Dancing With Our Stars event. One special opportunity available is watching the show from the Alhambra's second floor, a new space called The Hall, which holds 80 people.
"We didn't have anywhere to grow but up," Prim said about the renovations. "(The Hall) is at the top of the balcony, so we've got a viewing room that looks into the balcony. We also have monitors in here so you can see the show."
Patrons may email firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about sponsorship opportunities.
Dance competition tickets are $40 each and will go on sale July 16 via online ticketing at pennyroyalarts.org.
Prim said organizers are close to securing all the celebrity couples for this year's show. The local celebrity participants will be revealed starting June 17 on the Dancing With Our Stars Facebook page.
"It is a chance for the people in our community to put themselves out there," Prim said. "All the folks who have participated in the past two years have made lasting friendships. It's fun. It's our local community raising funds for our local community. I think everybody enjoys seeing that."
Prim thanked the local celebrity dancers for taking time to help a worthy cause.
"It's a lot of work, a lot of practice, not to mention a lot of nerves about getting on stage," Prim said. "It takes a lot of courage."
Proceeds from the event and the funds raised during the dancing festivities support the missions of both the Pennyroyal Arts Council and Sanctuary, Inc, a nonprofit agency committed to the provision of preventative and restorative services to victims of sexual assault and domestic violence.
Dancing With Our Stars raised more than $65,000 in 2016 and $57,000 in 2017.
Prim said the funds helped with the Alhambra renovation and arts council educational programming.
"We've used a lot of the money to refurbish the Alhambra Theater," Prim said. "I think that everybody that's been in has been very impressed. It seems like a new jewel in downtown Hopkinsville."
Heather Lancaster, executive director of Sanctuary, said the facility depends on grant monies to keep it operational. She said proceeds from this year's Dancing With Our Stars will fill in any funding gaps for basic necessities like toiletries and bedding for clients, as well as utilities for the facility.
"We have a full-service kitchen where our clients to enjoy three meals a day -- breakfast, lunch and dinner. We don't have grants right now to cover the full cost of the food purchases. Some of those monies will be used to pay for the basic necessities for our clients such as food," she said. "We work with what we have, but the additional funds help us to serve even more."
Money is raised as community members cast their "vote" for their favorite Dancing With Our Stars team leading up to the event. Each dollar donated counts as a vote. The overall competition winners are named from a combination of dance score and dollars raised. Online donations will be available once again with one team named a winner before the dancing begins. The "Online Fan Favorite" is awarded at the end of the night.
Prim said there may be a surprise judge this year, but confirmed the previous judges are returning, as well as the emcee, Russ Guffey.
"We've got some surprises this year and we're really looking forward to the event," Prim said.
The 2019 show will be a first for Lancaster, who said she's excited about the opportunity.
"I'm looking forward to putting the show together and working with the dancers," she said.
For more information about the event and to learn about the teams competing this year, visit Dancing With Our Stars on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/DancingWithOurStarsHopkinsville/.
"How blessed we are that we have a community who packed the show the past two years. We've sold out tickets. That says a lot about the community," Lancaster said. "I know they're not just coming for the dance or the hype, but because they have big hearts and they want to help these two amazing organizations."