Not Fast Just Furious: Dancers Eric Perry and Terra Avilla reigned supreme as People’s Choice and won over the panel of judges for a memorable win during Dancing for a Brand New Me 2019. Photo by Jessica Meanor

Dancing for a Brand New Me raises domestic violence awareness

Lassen Family Services is aptly named, having provided our county with an extensive array of programs to enhance the lives of many families since its grassroots inception in 1979. These services include a 24-hour crisis line, emergency transportation, emergency food and clothing, legal assistance and court advocacy, emergency shelter and housing, and sexual assault and rape crisis services and intervention.

One of the ways Lassen Family Services reaches out with a message of hope for change and betterment is with an event currently in its sixth season; Dancing for a Brand New Me. Last week, this special event brought together members of our community of all ages and from different walks of life to educate, celebrate and inspire — all in the span of a few hours.

So much more than a dance competition, a very sobering message about the destructive force of domestic violence is effectively conveyed throughout the production while simultaneously creating a fresh vision for hope and joy.

This year’s event was the culmination of hundreds of hours of work by LFS employees and volunteers who worked lighting and sound, provided stage props, designed programs, organized the raffle and more. The dancers also invested months in preparation.

Emcee Jeremy Couso energetically introduced the competing teams, inciting boisterous support from the crowd.

Team I’ve Been Framed consisted of dancers Brandon Pratt and Doria Dalu. Dalu managed to impart movement with every edge of her many ruffled costume and Pratt’s previous life as a logger and iron worker surely contributed to the multiple smooth and seemingly effortless lifts executed throughout their performances.

The involvement of Pratt’s two darling daughters, 10-year-old Peyton and 7-year-old Avarie surely gave Team I’ve Been Framed an unfair advantage. Really, how could anyone compete with so much cuteness?

Team, Dancing with Fire featured Brad Medvin and Amanda Tannous. Tannous teaches modern dance with House of Dance, and her expertise was undeniable.

Admiration must also be expressed for Medvin’s prowess on the dance floor, especially taking into consideration the challenge of performing with one arm in a sling from shoulder to wrist. Still, Medvin moved so naturally that this restriction was only obvious during his time before the judges’ panel when each would comment on the accomplishment of compensating for the challenge.

2019 marks the first time Dancing For a Brand New Me has featured an all female team. Enter the indomitable duo known as Team Sweet and Sassy. Mondy Rigling and Nycki Lofton were an absolute delight to watch.

The level of choreography was surely influenced by Nycki’s experience as dance instructor for the strut class at J&J’s Performing Arts. Rigling was both animated and graceful. Their styles complemented one another and also highlighted each woman’s athletic ability. It bears repeating; these two

were so much fun to watch.

Theresa Phillips and Seanne McElrath were dubbed Team Electric Funk. Their performance put the fun in funk, and the two even incorporated the funky chicken into an introduction for one of their numbers. The dancing partners worked the stage in tandem and even incorporated the stairs to showcase their agile moves. The judges dished out several compliments for that brave feat.

When the curtain opened on a scene perfectly set to showcase Lady Gaga’s song “Poker Face,” Team McShellrath brought their A-game. Shelly Bennett’s experience as drill team coach played in her favor. As always Alex McElrath just owned the stage. “Gliding” was a comment frequently heard in regards to Alex’s footwork. Team McShellrath were fierce competitors, turning up the volume with each round.

Still, it wasn’t quite enough to shoot down the buzz Team Not Fast Just Furious created beginning with a People’s Choice Award. Eric Perry and Terra Avilla stomped out the competition time and again. Perry’s ability to complement Avilla as a dance partner in spite of their height discrepancy was impressive. Plus, Perry managed many memorable moves rendering disco forever altered by his performance during, “I Believe in Miracles.”

Avilla’s stage presence was huge. This marks her sixth year of participation in Dancing for a Brand New Me. Avilla’s effusive joy and enthusiasm reached to the farthest corners of Veteran’s Memorial Hall, and besides all of that, the girl has moves.

Team Not Fast Just Furious also choreographed a moving portrayal of the impact domestic violence has generationally.

The piece was heart-piercing, successfully painting a portrait of the manipulations employed by an abuser to woo their victim time and again.

As in real-life the insidious intent of the bully in the relationship was clearly evident to onlookers, while the character embodied by Avilla seemed caught in a trap that played out like a loop.

This piece and other moving numbers performed by House of Dance, J&J, and Joan’s Dance studio brought home the message of the event: Help us end domestic abuse and violence with enlightenment and illuminating hope for a Brand New Me.