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IMG_3425I must tell you, I was really impressed with the volunteer dancers who had the courage to say they would dance at the Assistance League of Newport Mesa’s Sixth Annual “Dancing with Tomorrow’s Stars” charity fundraiser last Saturday night. Because the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation’s gala was the same night, I traveled to The Grove of Anaheim Saturday afternoon in black-tie attire to see the dancers perform at the dress rehearsal. I was blown away!

First out was Riviera magazine’s handsome Publisher Chris Gialanella dancing a fox trot with dance pro Natalie Shulz to the legendary “Singin’ in the Rain,” dressed in bright yellow raincoats, of course! Their snappy jive number was no less impressive. When I asked Chris how he felt about the experience, he said, “I never thought I’d be 24 again!” Next up was gorgeous Shawn Harris, a former Miss USA and Miss Universe Pageant winner and Emmy-nominated actress, who dazzled with her foot work in both her salsa and tango routines with pro Danas Jaksevicius. Harris confessed to taking jazz and tap lessons as a kid, but had no ballroom experience. “I couldn’t say no,” she said. “It has been so much fun!” Gordon Orsborn, partner with PSG Advisors Co. Ltd. and sales director for the online real estate auction marketplace FRE.com, confessed he took former Angels pitching star Chuck Finley’s place with a little push from one of the other dancers, Stephanie Argyros. Admitting he only knew how to surf before the experience (he had a great tan!), the tall, lithesome contestant danced a very credible Argentine tango and a freestyle Texas two-step with Nicole Eden (I loved the lead-in theme from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly for their Texas two-step!).

The above mentioned Stephanie Argyros, whose mother Julia Argyros was named Best Female Dancer at the first ALNM dance evening, told me, “My mother has wanted me to do this for a long time. It’s completely out of my comfort level, but I’ve learned a lot.” Stephanie danced a great fox trot with Auris Petrulevcius in a stunning red, backless gown and wore a white Cher-like costume for her Disco number, the Bee Gees’ “You Should Be Dancing.” Ray Eldridge, a commercial real estate professional with Fortune 500 company CBRE, had a lot of courage to dance a freestyle cha cha showing the famous Ganghum Style moves. “It is a lot harder than it looks,” he said. He and his partner Alessia Minaeva also danced an Argentine tango. Kudos for both efforts! And, lastly, Elizabeth An, famous in these parts as COO of AnQi By Crustacean at South Coast Plaza, only decided to dance two weeks ago after feeling well enough after an extended bout of bronchitis. “My doctor gave me the ok, so I flipped a coin and got two cortisone shots,” she said. “I just couldn’t let the charity down.” I can only tell you that she was amazing! Her fox trot and rumba with Eddie Alba were both elegant, seductive and fiery.

Also at the rehearsal was event chair Laura Schubert, who joked, “Just don’t ask me to dance,” and the evening’s honorary chair Sara Guggenheim Jarrett was backstage cheering everyone on. She danced at last year’s competition and won the Fan Favorite award with the most votes. I also greeted Register columnist Barbara Venezia, who looked fabulous in a stunning ruffled bodice gown! She was later joined by business man Bob Miller as the show’s emcees.

I later found that the sold-out fundraiser drew 430 guests and netted $270,000 for the Assistance League’s programs helping underprivileged children in the community. The results? The judges awarded Best Female Dancer to Elizabeth An and Best Male Dancer to Chris Gialanella, while Stephanie Argyros won Fan Favorite. I must tell you, I thought they were all winners. There was a lot of guts and dedication on that stage!

Photos by Sandy Zimmer and Justin Berkobien