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Monday, August 2, 2021

Moves and grooves: Dance coaches helping to prepare invigorating Dancing with the Pagosa Stars

By Toni Sherwood
Seeds of Learning

When you’re trying to pull off a professional show like Dancing with the Pagosa Stars (DWTPS), you’ve got to have talent who can deliver — choreographers to create the dance moves and coaches who can perform and lead a newbie on their dance journey.

Fortunately, here in the Four Corners area, we have several dance instructors and aficionados to draw from. This year’s crucial fundraiser for Seeds of Learning Early Care and Education Center is destined to be an invigorating evening. Please plan to attend the event Aug. 21 and help us in our mission to ensure our youngest scholars succeed. Ticket sales open to the public via our website July 15.

The uber-talented Leslie Carlson returns for her fourth year. As showrunner, the pressure is on for Carlson to wrangle coaches and stars, create exciting dance performances, and juggle lighting design, music selection and sound cues. 

With 30 years of experience, Carlson has been a fundamental part of both Dancing with the Durango Stars and DWTPS. 

“As a mother of six, I feel an obligation to help when it’s for needy kids,” Carlson said, “And there aren’t a lot of ballroom dance teachers in the area.”

Over the years, Carlson has built up the local dance community by encouraging those who have danced to step up and coach, or those who have coached to learn to choreograph. 

“Kylie Ross danced the first year, then she choreographed the next two years,” Carlson said.

Besides juggling two kids under 2, Ross is excited to return to the stage after COVID excluded the possibility of a live event in 2020. 

“Dancers need an audience,” Ross explained. “A live crowd gives a performance energy.”

This year’s DWTPS is sure to be brimming with energy. Ross will be choreographing two dances as well as performing. 

Coach Ashley Butcher grew up two-stepping at the county fair, so she’s excited to perform a medley of country and western dancing, the first medley for DWTPS.

“I love to dance and perform,” Butcher said. “It’s also very personally fulfilling for me to coach a star and help someone else succeed.”

Coach Nolan King has been a performer since the very first DWTPS. He credits dancing for changing his life: helping him come out of his shell, face fears and engage more fully.

“I was super shy and introverted,” King admitted. “I’d watch people dancing and think it looks like fun, but it took two friends dragging me onto the dance floor and teaching me some basics.”

King got hooked, joined a dance studio and devoted himself to learning. 

“The energy and excitement made me feel good and break out of my shell,” he said.

Although Dr. Doug Miller both danced and hosted Durango’s event, he is new to DWTPS. 

“I’m not a dancer and it’s not easy for me,” Miller said. “But, as a psychologist, I encourage others to get out of their comfort zone to grow, so I’m taking my own advice.” 

As a father of four, including one adopted and one special needs child, Miller has a soft spot for Seeds of Learning. 

“I have the desire to do something that serves the kids in our community,” he said.

This year will be Nash McNichol’s debut coaching DWTPS. McNichol considers himself more of a student teacher, although he runs the West Coast swing group in Durango, where he resides. Both Carlson and King are friends who approached him about coaching.

“They’re like, you need to do this, and I’m, like, OK, fine,” he laughed. “I like new experiences and I’m super-excited to do Dancing with the Pagosa Stars.” 

Esteemed local Coach Hayley Hudson of the Pagosa Springs Dance Academy will return this year. Nikolle Embree from the Mancos area is jumping in to help with choreography for Coach Nash McNichol. 

For more information, please visit our website at: https://growingseeds.org/events/.

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