Can two left feet make a right?

Find out when I put my
(questionable) dance skills to the test to raise money for Special Olympics

By Kerry Speckman

I have to admit: When I was asked to participate in Jacksonville’s Dancing With the Stars, hosted by A Social Affair Dance Studio, back in March, I was more than a little confused. For starters, I’m not a star. Not even in my own mind. Then, there’s the fact that the closest I’ve ever come to ballroom dancing is watching it on TV (my childhood best friend, Shelly Brownhill, and I did log countless hours practicing the hustle and alley cat in our family basement about 35 years ago, however).
Despite my lack of experience, not to mention absence of grace and coordination, I decided to risk life, limb and public humiliation to perform on stage to raise money and awareness for Special Olympics of Duval County, the beneficiary of the event. Plus, anyone who knows me, knows I’ll try just about anything once.
Even before I set foot on the dance floor for the first time back in May, I was a nervous wreck. The mere fact that I, the queen of flip-flops and sneakers, would have to walk in two and one-half inch heels, was frightening enough, never mind spin, slide, turn and kick, while standing uncomfortably close to a complete stranger.
Fortunately, my partner, Zeljko “Jake” Lukic, an award-winning professional ballroom dancer and owner of Z Ballroom Dance Studio, couldn’t have been more gracious and encouraging. After chatting on the phone, he already knew I had no professional dance experience and was slightly left of center (case in point: I chose “WOP,” a hip-hop song by local singer/rapper J. Dash, for us to dance to), so he knew what he was getting into.
Our first lesson, he gave me a rundown of the routine he choreographed: a combo of cha-cha, smooth fox trot and WOP (yes, I will be performing hip-hop in a long, flowy gown as part of a ballroom dance competition). Let’s just say A Social Affair could not have picked a more perfect partner for me.
Over the next four months, Jake and I practiced nearly every week, squeezing in an hour here and there between his classes at UNF and childcare duties, and my jobs and laziness. I could lie and say it’s been the most fun I’ve ever had and I’m going to continue dancing long after the event, but truth be told, it hasn’t been easy—for either of us. I don’t pick up dance steps quickly, plus I’m a perfectionist. My posture stinks. I look at the ground instead of the audience. And apparently, I make “ugly faces (um, it’s called “concentration,” Jake). The good news is both of us appreciate a good challenge. Jake is extremely patient and an excellent teacher (he does need to work on his jokes, though), and I am obsessed with winning the mirror ball trophy, so there his hope for us.
But not without your help! You can support me, Jake and most important, Special Olympics, by voting online or by attending the event, September 8, 7 PM, at the Times-Union Center. General admission tickets are $40, VIP are $100. Visitjaxdwts.com for more information.
Oh, and if you see me before the event, please don’t tell me to “break a leg,” I just might.

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