Mike McCurdy dancing with instructor with Kira Withrow at the 2016 Dancing With the Moab Stars event.

[Photo courtesy of the MVMC]

Eight pairs of dancers will vie for a title in the fifth annual Dancing With the Moab Stars, a fundraising event for the Moab Valley Multicultural Center (MVMC) on Friday, Sept. 21 at 7 p.m.

The dance is being held at the Grand County High School Auditorium at 608 S. 400 East.

As in previous years, the event partners local “stars” with their own dance instructor. Each duo will perform their choreographed moves for the audience and a panel of judges use scorecards to rate the performances. At the event’s conclusion, the judges will confer and name winners.

Rhiana Medina, executive director at MVMC, said the show’s contestants can win first, second or third place. There are also awards for best costume, best production, as well as awards that are determined only after the judges have seen all the dances, “like awards for fanciest footwork or best storytelling,” she said.

Dancing pairs this year are City Market Manager Brendon Cameron and instructor Regan Ballard; Moab Regional Hospital’s Director of Human Resources Katherine Sullivan and instructor Hailey Cox; Moab Folk Festival Director Melissa Schmaedick and instructor Alfonso Toral; World Wide River Expedition co-Owner Nicki Hazlett and instructor M’kenna Sorenson; Moab International Film Festival Managing Director Denise Felaar and instructor Colby Shocknmyer; Moab Area Watershed Partnership Coordinator Arne Hultquist and instructor Shannon Meredith; bike mechanic-turned-welder Paige Stuart and instructor Dhyana Greene; and co-star/co-instructor pair Miso Tunks and Audrey Graham.

Medina said the types of dances they will be performing are “varied, eclectic, awe-inspiring, and definitely Moab-tastic.”

Mike McCue, Caitlin Ballard, Norma Bañuelos and Kik Grant are the judges this year.

Dancing With the Moab Stars began in 2014 and was held at Star Hall. Medina said people were turned away once all of the seats filled, so the event has been held at the Grand County High School Auditorium ever since.

“The idea for the event came about when MVMC was looking to get more new entertainment ideas for its Day of the Dead Festival,” said Medina. “We had no idea it would become a such a successful and enduring stand-alone event that brings 700 people together annually.”

The event will open with a flag processional with roughly 26 Moab residents carrying flags from their country of origin, or an ancestor’s country of origin.

“The purpose is to demonstrate in a really lovely way how multicultural our community really is,” Medina said.

One of this year’s dancers, local videographer Miso Tunks, said he has participated in previous Dancing With the Moab Stars events as “the technical guy” working on the show’s lighting and sound.

Tunks’ dance partner is early intervention specialist and former Grand County Council member Audrey Graham.

At first, Tunks said, he “resisted and ignored everyone’s phone calls” asking him to be a dancer in the show. But then Graham suggested doing a dance as a tribute to a mutual friend.

“She talked me into it,” Tunks said. “We’re doing it in honor of our friend Mike Newman, who passed away from cancer last December. We were all rollerblading buddies, so Audrey and I are on roller blades (in the show).”

While Tunks has plenty of experience working behind the scenes — he owns and operates misoMedia Studios, a lighting design, film production and audiovisual services company — he has less experience with being a performer, though he did some stage performances when he was in college at the University of Utah.

“But I was an actor, not a dancer,” Tunks said. “And yes, I’m nervous of course.”

The proceeds from Dancing With the Moab Stars will fund the MVMC’s programming.

“We provide crisis resource and advocacy services, language interpretation, multicultural youth programs, basic life-skills assistance and other cultural events aimed at celebrating the beautiful diversity of Moab’s residents,” Medina said.

And, Medina added, “MVMC is proud to report that only 10 percent of our spending goes to overhead. That means the rest is spent on direct services, supplies and program participants.”

Medina said that MVMC hopes to raise $10,000 through the Dancing With the Moab Stars event this year.

“It’s what we were able to raise last year and we are hopeful to do it again thanks to our underwriter, Colin Fryer of Red Cliffs Lodge,” she said.

Ken Ballantyne has fond memories of being a Moab Star; he was a Grand County Council member when he performed a foxtrot with instructor Kathy Hazam in 2016.

“I wasn’t a star — Kathy was the star,” Ballantyne said. “Me, I had a blast. I stepped out of my comfort zone, big time. It was a fun and fulfilling experience.”

“It always makes my heart full to see so many volunteers put so much time and effort into making the show a success,” Medina said. “It makes me love my community and inspires me to give my best efforts each day.”

Dancing With the Moab Stars fundraiser returns on Sept. 21

“It always makes my heart full to see so many volunteers put so much time and effort into making the show a success. It makes me love my community and inspires me to give my best efforts each day.”

When: Friday, Sept. 21 at 7 p.m.

Where: GCHS Auditorium, 608 S. 400 East St.

Cost: $13 pre-sale tickets are available at MVMC, 156 N. 100 West, or Back of Beyond Books, 83 N. Main St.; $15 at the door

Information: Call MVMC at 435-259-5444 or email moabmulticultural@gmail.com