LAURINBURG — Saturday’s Dancing With the Scotland Stars fundraiser went off as a night of swinging, salsa, and sequinned dresses that had a crowd of 250 electrified long before Teddy and Tiffany Warner shook it out to “You’re the One that I Want” in the competition’s second set.
Saturday’s feature event at the Highlands picked up where a Friday preview for a Scotia Village crowd of 80 left off — though not without a few residual nerves among the contestants.
“Last night I was less nervous because there’s less people, but the whole thing is low-stress because everybody’s so nice,” said UNC-Pembroke theater professor Jonathan Drahos, dancing with his wife Carolanne Marano. “It’s just a night of fun.”
Drahos need not have worried. He and Marano were first on stage, and their routine to “Irresistible You” proved equally irresistible to judges Ida McGill and 2015 People’s Choice winners Justin and Amanda McNickle, who make the pair their top pick of the evening.
Marano, a professional choreographer, left no holds barred for Saturday’s friendly contest. The two spent several nights practicing their routine and honed the finer points in a set of ballroom dancing lessons.
“We’re doing more of a musical theater: we have the foxtrot, the Lindy, and kind of like a swing, and a twist,” she said. “We kind of throw a bunch in there within a story.”
Proceeds from the event benefit the Scotland County Arts Council and Storytelling and Arts Center of the Southeast. The evening’s live auction raised more than $6,000, but organizers are still working to tally the evening’s net haul.
“Overall we were thrilled with the turnout, we were thrilled with the crowd and people’s generosity that night,” said SACS Director Erin Rembert.
Winning the crowd’s vote was father-daughter duo Ken Ritch, a Laurinburg accountant, and Meghan Ritch O’Brien, whose sedate waltz to “Eidelweiss” from “The Sound of Music” livened up quickly.
“When you started out I thought it was so sweet, I almost wanted to cry,” said Amanda McNickle. “And then ya’ll broke out.”
Raymond and Brenda Esteves, Scotia Village’s associate director and event planner respectively, were recognized as the “Hot Tamales” of the night with a spicy salsa that had Justin McNickle peeling off his sweater.
“I told ya’ll if it got any hotter I was going to have to come out of some clothes … and I’ve only got a few layers left.”
Funds were also raised through a silent auction and the opportunity for donations to count toward each dancing pair’s qualification as “Community Champions,” a title claimed by Patrick and Courtney Phillips with $298 donated in their name.
“We have some donation tubes in the back with the dancers’ names on there,” master of ceremonies William Bullard encouraged. “You can drop some dollars in there, and whoever gets the most money will be the community champion, so support your dancer. If you have more than one dancer, support those dancers.”
A few of the competing couples used the evening as an opportunity to relive their happiest moments. Jay and Mackenzie Toland earned the judges’ musicality award for embracing the beat and timing of their selection in a salsa adapted from the father-daughter dance at their wedding.
“My dad and I did the salsa at our wedding: it was just kind of a fun dance and doable,” Mackenzie said. “There’s not a lot of pressure to be perfect: everybody’s here for a good cause and it’s good fun.”
Mary Katherine Murphy can be reached at 910-506-3169.
Mary Katherine Murphy can be reached