Moab Mayor Dave Sakrison and dancing partner Aurita Maldonado practice the bachata tango ahead of this week's Dancing with the Moab Stars event. [Photo courtesy of Katlyn Keane]

Unless you’re new to Moab, you’ve probably seen Mayor Dave Sakrison or Grand County Council Administrator Ruth Dillon at one event or another around town. But you’ll have a chance to see them in a whole new light this Friday, Oct. 17, when they will be dancing the night away at a Moab Valley Multicultural Center fundraiser.

The first-ever Dancing with the MOAB Stars event at Star Hall will feature the likes of Dillon and Sakrison performing three-minute routines like the cha-cha and the bachata tango with experienced dancing partners. Other “stars” competing in the 7 p.m. event include Grand County Sheriff Steve White, Red Cliffs Lodge owner Colin Fryer and KZMU Program Director Christy Williams.

Event organizers didn’t choose Sakrison because of his skills on the dance floor: Before he met up with dance partner Aurita Maldonado this summer, he hadn’t practiced since he was a seventh-grade student in Bellevue, Washington.

But Sakrison is honored that they invited him to join the event, which will benefit the multicultural center’s educational and outreach programs.

“I’m a big supporter of the multicultural center,” Sakrison said. “I think that anything we can do to help their mission along is a good thing. They provide a needed and valuable service to the community.”

While he was on the subject of needed and valuable services, Sakrison singled out the “amazing” Maldonado for teaching him how to do the bachata — a Dominican spin on the traditional tango.

“This has been a lot of fun, and my dance partner is fabulous,” he said. “I’m learning stuff that, heck, I never knew.”

After an intensive month of two-hour practice sessions each day, the duo finished their choreography work late last week, just one day before Maldonado celebrated her first full year in Moab.

Dillon, meanwhile, has been practicing the cha-cha for the last three or four months — to the point that she now has blisters on her feet.

Her nerves are in much better shape: She and dance partner Rob Kerchen will be the first ones on the dance floor, so she’s looking forward to watching the other teams perform.

“I’m starting to get the butterflies, but mostly, I’m focusing on the fun and the fundraising,” she said.

Event organizers told Dillon that they hope the event will become an annual tradition. But even if she doesn’t get another chance to participate in future dances, Dillon is hoping that her experience on Friday night will turn out to be valuable in other settings.

“If I can put myself out there beyond my comfort zone and look bad there and survive it, then I can do that anywhere, including county council meetings,” she said.

Dillon credits Kerchen and his wife Lisa Albert for helping her and others grow as dancers.

“He’s the one who has been keeping salsa alive for a decade — he and his wife, Lisa,” she said.

According to Albert, she and her husband have been avid salsa dancers for at least 12 years — or, as she puts it, since the days of Ruby and John Eichenour.

“They started it for us, and we’ve kept it going through one teacher or another, which connected us with the multicultural center,” Albert said.

Dance teacher Kathy Hazam has also inspired the couple, teaching them ballroom dancing over the last two years.

While Albert and Kerchen won’t be dancing together on Friday night, they have been working side by side in the weeks and months leading up to the event.

Before Albert paired up with Fryer, she realized that she had no experience teaching a man; likewise, Kerchen had no experience teaching a woman. It made sense, then, for the couple to jointly teach their dancing partners.

“We said, ‘why don’t we teach together? It will feel more comfortable, anyway,’” Albert said.

The months of practice that followed have been a great experience for everyone involved, and they’ve all built friendships along the way, according to Dillon.

“Even though we’re competing, we are supporting each other,” she said.

In addition to the main teams, another five acts that are not participating in the competition will be performing expositions at the event. The talent includes Salsa Picante, SitaRam, Dr. Sanders & Family, Sandi Snead & Gretchen Wise and a surprise guest.

Tickets for Dancing with the MOAB Stars are $10 in advance or $12 at the door; tickets for people 18 and under are $5. Drop-in babysitters for children 5 and under will be available for $2 per child at the Moab City Teen Center next to Star Hall. For more information, call 435-259-5444, or visit

Performance will benefit Moab Valley Multicultural Center

What: Dancing with the MOAB Stars

Where: Star Hall, 125 E. Center St.

When: Friday, Oct. 17 at 7 p.m.

Cost: Tickets for adults are $10 in advance or $12 at the door; $5 each for people 18 and under.