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Joyce Endee

Dancing Under the Stars event supports Voices Against Violence

PRHS Band Director Will Gunn and his partner Gaia Posner, a social worker from Plymouth, put on a trophy-winning performance during Voice Against Violence's "Dancing Under the Stars" fundraiser in Bristol last Thursday. (Photo by Donna Rhodes) (click for larger version)
July 22, 2021
BRISTOL – "Dancing Under the Stars," in support of Voices Against Violence, was a four-star event in Bristol's Kelley Park last Thursday evening, featuring five couples who donated their time and energy to help raise funds for the nonprofit agency serving people in 21 local communities who are or have experienced domestic or sexual violence.

"Dancing with the Community Stars" fundraisers have been held over the past several years at the Flying Monkey in Plymouth, but this year the organization decided to spread their mission and bring the fun of their annual dancing event to Bristol.

Chair of the Development Committee, Marcie Gowen-Nobley, said the organization was very excited that the Town of Bristol welcomed them to the community for this year's fundraising event.

"We wanted the Newfound Community to know we are here for them," she said.

Before the dancing got underway, VAV Executive Director Megan Dugan Kennedy also addressed the crowd, thanking everyone for their support.

"Our heart and souls go into [Voices Against Violence]," she said. "We're so grateful that at all these events we see we have so many who support us."

Emcees for the evening were Danee Dalphonse and MaryAnn Barnsley, with Steve Furbish of the Uncle Steve Band, Leslie Dion from Tapply-Thompson Community Center and Jason Rivera of the Bristol Fire Department given the task of judging each performance.

First up on the dance floor was Newfound Regional High School's retired athletic director Pete Cofran. He and his partner Samantha Brode of Synergy Dance made their way to the park pavilion wearing Red Sox clothing and tossing popcorn as the sounds of "Sweet Caroline," the Red Sox theme song, filled the air. Newfound fans cheered them on as they sang along to the popular tune.

Judge Furbish said it was "So good! So good!" while Dion said they "hit it out of the park," and Rivera gave them five "Green Monsters" for a score.

Next up was another familiar face in Bristol- Town Clerk/Tax Collector Raymah Simpson. Simpson was paired with Samantha Brode's husband Jeff who works at Freudenberg NOK in Ashland.

"The competition is getting really hot here tonight between Samantha and Jeff," Dalphonse joked as they took the stage to the sounds of "Old Time Rock and Roll" by Bob Seager.

After their crowd-pleasing performance, Judge Dion joked, "That was our tax dollars at work," as she held up her score and Rivera said their performance was "rip roaring."

Third onstage that night was Matty Leighton and her partner/choreographer Sam Barnsley of Plymouth. Matty is a board member for VAV and recently retired from Plymouth State University. Sam is a sophomore at Plymouth Regional High School and a 13-year veteran of Synergy Dance Studio. The pair, decked out in GI uniforms, performed their energy-filled dance to the classic, "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy."

Judge Furbish gave them a 21-gun salute and Dion said "Hats off to you!" Rivera thought their presentation was awesome and while he gave them five stars, he added that if he had the right marker, they would be gold stars.

Ryanne Haskell of Lake Life Realtors and also a VAV board members joined forces with Tink Coppin of Plymouth Professional Hairstyling as they danced to a dramatically slowed version of Michael Jackson's song, "Beat It."

Furbish, a musician himself, commended the duo for slowing down a Jackson song and gave them "three gloved hands" as his approval.

"Forget the King of Pop. You two are the Queens of Pop," praised Rivera when he cast a "platinum album" as his vote.

The audience then discovered that the last dancers up were truly a couple when the emcees announced that the two not only decided they were great dance partners, but great life partners as well. Amidst their rehearsals last week, Plymouth Regional High School Band Director Will Gunn took the opportunity to propose to his dance partner Gaia Posner, a social worker from Plymouth.

The two took to the stage as Mario and Luigi for a lively dance to "Jooneh Khodet" by the Black Cats, a Persian song that only a true musician might know.

"You are going to be a fun couple," said Furbish as he awarded them a giant Sonic the Hedgehog for his vote. Dion gave them five smiley faces, and in recognition of their Mario Brothers theme, Rivera gave them five mushrooms, which are part of the video game.

Following a fun intermission filled with community dancing, winners for the night were announced. Taking home the trophy for the Judges Award was Will Gunn and Gaia Posner. The People's Award that evening went to Raymah Simpson and Jeff Brode, while the Voices Award for most votes received during the competition was presented to Matty Leighton and Sam Barnsley. In all, the event raised $8,000 to support the many services of Voices Against Violence.

For more information on the nonprofit organization, as well as how to become involved or contribute to their cause, visit www.voicesagainstviolence.net.

Martin Lord & Osman
Salmon Press
Varney Smith
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