The Dance For Life Ball – Another Dance Adventure!

This weekend included another dance adventure for Roomie and me! We volunteered at the Dance for Life Ball, put on by the CBZ Foundation.  The CBZ Foundation is “a not-for-profit organization formed with the vision of helping youth dancers and those with disabilities pursue their education and competitive Dancesport goals.” It was formed in honor of Connor Bishop Zion, who was a latin and ballroom competitive dancer until he passed away at the young age of 21.

The Dance for Life Ball was a charity event for the Foundation, and I believe it was the first they had hosted. For 150 tax-deductible dollars, you got dinner, dancing, performances, and special appearances by ballroom celebrities. AND you got to be greeted by myself and Roomie since we were the ones checking people in and handing out programs. Pretty awesome, right? I’ll let the poster do the name dropping for me.

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We arrived at 5pm, as instructed, ready to work. But they weren’t quite ready for us. So we sat in the bar area outside the ballroom and watched the hotel staff set up the bar and hors d’oeuvres. Then one of the women running the event, who we had met with a couple weeks before, saw us and gave us our first task. Alphabetize a stack of name cards by first names! This I could do, and I probably had too much fun doing it. Meanwhile, this woman was running home to get dressed up (this was a black tie/cocktail dress kind of event) and to pick up some things for the silent auction. Which was different from the raffle! More on that shortly.

We quickly finished our alphabetizing task. Now what? Well, our woman wasn’t back yet. Another woman with the Foundation asked if we were volunteers and we sat up and said “yes!” hoping for something to do. She told us to just sit and relax until the other woman came back. *sigh* It was feeling a little unorganized and the time was getting closer and closer to when they were supposed to start receiving guests. Roomie and I were getting antsy.  A few early guests were already showing up. We had been told we would be helping receive and check in the guests. But we didn’t know how we were supposed to do that!

Finally, the first woman came back and had all sorts of stuff with her: programs, will-call tickets, written instructions, and a guest list with table assignments! Yes, let’s get this party started! This is where my geeky organized side really has fun. Check off the name, one program each, next in line! Love it.

It wasn’t exactly a well-oiled machine though. The instructions weren’t very detailed, and there was another pair of girls there to help.  We split the guest list; they had A through J, we had K through Z. But if a Michael came with a Barbara….which of our tables were they supposed to go to? Both? Plus it wasn’t entirely clear how we were supposed to tell if people had paid for their tickets yet or not.  And those name cards we alphabetized? Turned out they didn’t really have much use. Roomie would look up their name on the guest list to find their table number and I would write the number on their name card and hand it to them with the program.  At least we made them look like they had a purpose! It was possible people would forget their table number during the initial reception before the ballroom was opened. That sounds like a good reason, right?  Roomie started to stress a little at not knowing what we were really doing (do we take people’s tickets? what if they had a ticket but weren’t assigned a table?). Me, I stay calm when there is that kind of chaos around me. I think it’s my instinctive attempt to restore balance. So while I had no real idea what to tell people about their tickets or their name cards, I smiled warmly and wished everyone to “have fun!”  Oh, and don’t forget to stop by the bar.

Then there were the raffle tickets.  Which, like I said, were different from the silent auction. A fact we didn’t realize when we first started selling tickets. We thought it was one of those things where you get a pair of same-numbered tickets and drop one in a bowl next to the item you want to win and keep the other one. We were wrong!  We were supposed to keep one of the tickets and give the other to the guest, because all of the tickets were going in the same bowl.  Everyone who bought raffle tickets would have the chance to win any of the raffle prizes.  The silent auction was separate.  You wrote down actual money amounts that you would pay in order to win items that were donated for the event. I had to go find some guests to retrieve the duplicate half of their tickets to put them in the raffle bowl. Awkward. At least now we know for next time!

Once the mad rush had passed and we still had a lot of name cards and will-call tickets (a lot of people just walked in without stopping at our table), we started to wonder what to do next and if there were any hors d’oeuvres available.  But the food was already gone and, as the welcome speech started in the ballroom, the doors were closed. Leaving us at our greeting table outside in the hall.  Hmmm.  It was at least 5 or 10 minutes of uncertainty (do we go in and find a random table?  are we expected to just leave?), our woman showed up again and told us which tables were open for the volunteers. Phew!

The rest of the night was quite lovely!  We were served dinner while people with the Foundation spoke about their purpose and some of the accomplishments already achieved.  They had the “good” rolls, according to Roomie, and she would know because she used to work catered events. Dinner was a simple chicken, potatoes, and vegetables, but all very yummy. And cheesecake for dessert! Light and fluffy cheesecake too. So good!

Both professionals and students performed show dances. Everyone looked great and it made me yearn to get out on the dancefloor. I hadn’t danced since my lesson last Wednesday!  There was one couple, Yegor Novikov and Alexandra Smirnova, that danced to this awesome instrumental piece with a rock-out cello.  I kid you not, the cello was rocking out.  I bet the cello player wore ripped jeans and something made of leather when the piece was recorded.  An awesome 19-year old named Jeremy also performed.  Jeremy has autism and has experienced great breakthroughs in socialization through ballroom dancing.  I loved watching his energy and enthusiasm!  Two professional couples that I know from local studios also danced, which is always a treat.

There were times when the DJ would play music for anyone to go out and dance.  And people actually did!  It helped that all or most of them knew how. Any other event at a hotel with a dancefloor that I’ve been to, besides a ballroom competition, has been a wedding or a work function. If there is dancing, it is usually awkward or alcohol-infused. But here, people were dancing rumba, tango, foxtrot, cha cha…I loved it.

I didn’t do any dancing myself. I was way in the back of the ballroom (volunteer table, remember) and so pretty much out of sight to anyone browsing for a dance partner, and I didn’t know that many people. There were instructors that I knew, so yes, I could have sought one out for a dance. But I really love the tradition of being asked to dance. I admit it, it makes me feel special and I like to feel special every once in awhile!  So I just sat and watched with Roomie.  But it was still enjoyable. There’s nothing like seeing the smiles on people’s faces as they move across the floor, with or without skill. I just love seeing that unadulterated joy, that childlike happiness.  It’s the magic of dance.

Despite the confusion at the beginning (hopefully the majority of the guests were blissfully unaware!), I think the event was a great success. I hope the CBZ Foundation was able to meet their fundraising goal.  The event was also a fun reminder of how lucky I am. I get to meet and even work with incredibly talented dancers and genuinely awesome people.  Yes, the ballroom world has its drama and some people get a little too into the prestige and status and the idea that if you’re not “somebody” then you’re nobody.  But if you ignore that and focus on the dancing, you find people that have a passion and want to share it with the world.  That’s the part I love. That’s the part I’m grateful to be a part of.

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