published Sunday, June 24th, 2012

Dancers tap toes and wallets in Chattanooga to support Partnership

Stratton Tingle holds up his partner, Irene Barels, for their finale after a quickstep routine Saturday night. Local "celebrities" competed in "Dancing with the Stars Chattanooga" at the Tivoli Theatre on Saturday night.
Stratton Tingle holds up his partner, Irene Barels, for their finale after a quickstep routine Saturday night. Local "celebrities" competed in "Dancing with the Stars Chattanooga" at the Tivoli Theatre on Saturday night.
Photo by Jake Daniels.
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Real estate broker Jay Robinson danced by himself in the dark.

It was the Chattanooga Realtor's final chance to practice the last few moves of his Viennese waltz backstage before facing a crowd of 700 at the Tivoli Theatre for this year's "Dancing with the Stars Chattanooga."

A few steps away, under the lights, winners from past competitions warmed up the audience, and judges cracked jokes.

"I've never danced in my life and never been on a stage in my life," Robinson said. "I've been constantly practicing the dance in my mind. That's all I can see now."

Robinson's practice paid off.

Nervous though he may have been, Robinson opened the show and performed well enough to score two nines before falling down from mock exhaustion to whoops and cheers from the crowd.

J.R. Martinez, 2011 winner of ABC's "Dancing with the Stars" and a native of Dalton, Ga., understands the butterflies in Robinson's stomach. He's been there.

But the nervousness is worth it, Martinez said, if it's for a good cause.

"Dancing makes an enormous impact -- it touches people, it moves people, and it inspires people," said the Iraq war veteran who has suffered burns to more than 40 percent of his body. "This competition is all about pulling people from where they're comfortable and getting them to do something exciting."

Celebrity speaker Martinez was joined in Chattanooga by Melanie Moore, winner of the eighth season of "So You Think You Can Dance," who also hails from Georgia.

But the television dance star had more on her mind than boogies and bunny hops.

"It's all about getting the word out about the cause," she said.

That cause is the Partnership for Families, Children and Adults, which runs 20 programs that benefited more than 74,000 people in 2011, according to a news release.

The show raises money for deaf services, victims of rape, elder services, victims of domestic violence, at-risk youth and various types of counseling for families, said John DeMoss, who performed the rumba.

Strutting out the lyrics "I'm too sexy for my shirt," a well-tanned DeMoss charmed the ladies by ripping off his shirt at the end of the song. That earned a raucous cheer.

"For every woman in the audience, I'll give you a 10," quipped judge Rhonda Catanzaro.

But there's a serious side as well to DeMoss, a portfolio manager who raised money for the Partnership's Rape Crisis Center.

"It's the only place that's safe for rape victims to go," DeMoss said of the program that helped almost 300 rape victims in 2011.

Former Merrill Lynch executive Paula Henderson, who raised money for family financial counseling, was a "hot tamale" during her salsa number, said master of ceremonies Robin Derryberry.

The crowd favorite was Stratton Tingle, an account executive at the Chattanooga area Chamber of Commerce who danced the quickstep.

Tingle's trademark dreadlocks flew around the stage as he wowed the judges with his technical moves.

Dancers raised more than $120,000 for the Partnership but final figures weren't available by press time Saturday.

Joy Lukachick contributed to this story.

about Ellis Smith...

Ellis Smith joined the Chattanooga Times Free Press in January 2010 as a business reporter. His beat includes the flooring industry, Chattem, Unum, Krystal, the automobile market, real estate and technology. Ellis is from Marietta, Ga., and has a bachelor’s degree in mass communication at the University of West Georgia. He previously worked at UTV-13 News, Carrollton, Ga., as a producer; at the The West Georgian, Carrollton, Ga., as editor; and at the Times-Georgian, Carrollton, ...

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