The stars have aligned to bring South Jersey a truly unique community event. Dancing Under the Atlantic City Stars pairs local “stars” with local pros that will salsa, tango, pirouette and sashay to ensure that no one in our area goes hungry..
Together, the Community FoodBank of New Jersey — Southern Branch, The Press of Atlantic City and Atlantic City Weekly present the largest, single-day fundraiser in support of this charity 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 3, at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino.
The event, which is sold out, will host more than 1,000 people and feature a lavish cocktail reception, open bar, great food from the Hard Rock and a night of dancing, entertainment, celebrity judges and — most importantly — fundraising.
Sponsored by the Hard Rock Hotel Casino and Tito’s Handmade Vodka, Dancing Under the Atlantic City Stars will make 24 dancers and countless volunteers Hunger Heroes: In Atlantic County, Cape May County and Cumberland counties, nearly 20 percent of children are food insecure. That translates to one out of every five children in this area who do not get their basic nutritional needs met.
The Community FoodBank of New Jersey — Southern Branch distributed more than 13 million pounds of food last year. This includes providing food to school pantries, summer meals for kids during their school break, senior supplemental food boxes, a mobile food pantry for those who are not able to travel to other sources of food and an on-site food pantry that allows food-insecure families to shop twice per month.
“What’s so amazing about the Community FoodBank of New Jersey is that they are very progressive in their approach. They are completely geared around feeding people well, not just feeding them,” says Cookie Till, co-owner of Steve & Cookies and a participating “star” in the dancing event.
Till, along with Scott Cronick, director of entertainment publications at The Press of Atlantic City and radio talk show host on Newstalk 1400-AM WOND and Mark Blum, publisher of The Press of Atlantic City, have been instrumental in creating this event, explains Renate Taylor, development officer for The Community FoodBank of New Jersey — Southern Branch. “For someone in nonprofit development, an event like this is really a dream come true,” Taylor says.
Producer Allen Valentine, who is currently staging the Motown revue “Motor City Live” at Hard Rock, will produce and direct Dancing Under the Atlantic City Stars.
While trying not to get “too schmaltzy,” Taylor explains that this event is literally putting food in the bellies of hungry children and those who don’t have enough to eat. Dancing Under the Atlantic City Stars also brings much-needed awareness to the Community FoodBank and the fact that there are so many individuals in this area that do not have enough to eat. “I think everyone can acknowledge that Atlantic County has had its challenges, but we also need to acknowledge the members of this community that stand up every day, put everything on the table, and truly make a difference,” Taylor says.
Dancing Under the Atlantic City Stars is comprised of 12 teams that have volunteered months of their time choreographing and rehearsing a full-on, dance production show. Each “hunger hero” dance team is composed of a professional dancer and a “star,” i.e., a prominent community member (one team has two stars that are paired with one pro).
As one of the first “pros” involved, Janet Chapman has worked on this event for the past year.
“It’s such a great cause, I was excited to help with this event,” Chapman says.
A Florida native, Chapman began her professional dance career at Disney while still in her teens. At 19, she landed a job with a production company in Japan. Following that, the same company brought her to Atlantic City, where she performed at Resorts. Chapman then went on to dance in the famed Las Vegas show “Jubilee,” the longest running show on the Vegas strip. Chapman now owns The Fitness Connection, Pilates studio, in Linwood.
Chapman, who is paired with Michael Azeez, a technology and real estate investor, first met many of the Dancing Under the Atlantic City Stars’ pros while performing at Resorts.
“It has really been a lot of fun, it’s like a reunion,” says Chapman, who also opened up her studio to other teams to rehearse. “It’s coming down to the wire and we’ve been rehearsing even more.”
Till, another major factor for the event coming together, particularly in helping recruit dancers, has been focused on not only raising money for the FoodBank but making sure she dazzles on stage.
“I’ve been amazed by how many people have been willing to participate,” says Till, who adds that simply writing a check is much easier, but the awareness that this event brings to the community is invaluable.
Lloyd Levenson, CEO of Cooper Levenson Attorneys at Law, is another celebrity dancer volunteering his time and helping raise money for the cause.
“Experts will tell you that education is the key to improving quality of life, which I agree with. However, if a child does not have enough to eat, they are not going to be able to learn,” he says. “Quality of life can’t be addressed when fundamental needs are not being met.
Levenson explains that he wanted to be a part of this event in order to bring awareness to the importance of proper nutrition.
“Proper nutrition is the basis of everything,” he says. “It’s key to education and the enjoyment of life.”
Voted “Best Dancer” in high school, Levenson — a highly accomplished trial attorney, father of four and grandfather of five — thought he had a good leg up on the competition. But, he admits, rehearsals have been much more intense than he expected.
“This is not just dancing, it’s choreography,” says Levenson, who has friends coming in from all over the world to support him and see him perform. “A client from Malta bought a table and is bringing a whole group of people, so I’ve been practicing — a lot.”
Cronick and agent/promoter Tim Mooney will emcee the night, with Pamela Dollak, editor of At the Shore, Atlantic City Weekly and Flavor, providing backstage commentary and interviews. Producer Allen Valentine, who is currently staging the Motown revue “Motor City Live” at Hard Rock,will produce and direct Dancing Under the Atlantic City Stars, and the room will be lavishly decorated by Katie Robinson from DFW Event Design from Bensalem, Pa.
“The reception to this event has been incredible, the FoodBank is beyond grateful for how it’s been embraced by this community,” Taylor says.
Though the event is sold out, there are still plenty of ways to support The Community FoodBank of New Jersey. Steve & Cookie’s Oyster Bar will live-stream the show, as will other locations.
One of the best ways to support this event is to vote for your favorite team. Each vote is $10, and the public can vote as much as they want.
“Vote now, vote early and vote often,” Taylor says.
Find the link at DancingUnderTheAtlanticCityStars.org to vote through your phone or on your computer or tablet. Voting will remain open through the live show.
Winners of the competition will be divided into three categories: “Top Fundraisers,” the dancers with the most votes and monies raised; “Judges Score,” based on the technical scoring of the panel of judges; and “People’s Choice,” the couple that gets the most votes on the night of the event.
There will be first-, second-and third-place trophies in each category, except People’s Choice, which will be awarded to one team.
Judges for this competition include world-famous Joan Rivers impersonator Gary Dee, actor/model Gordon Winarick, former Miss America Suzette Charles, Philadelphia sports personality and Emmy Award-winner Howard Eskin and former Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver and sports broadcaster Mike Quick.