GLENS FALLS — What might seem a monumental feat to some has become an adventurous transformation for Mark Donahue, president and CEO of Community, Work & Independence. And after eight weeks of rigorous daily rehearsals with his dance partner Lisa Camp, Donahue has learned to dance.
As the first to admit he’s never danced before, Donahue said he’s now perfecting his moves all day long, even showing off a few steps at the office.
“The other day he said, ‘watch this,’ ” said public relations specialist Krista Klock, who spearheaded CWI's upcoming “Dancing with the Adirondack Stars” as part of its annual fundraiser slated for Saturday at the Wood Theater in Glens Falls.
One of five dance teams, Donahue and Camp will vie for the coveted “Mirror Ball” or “Fan Favorite” awards as part of CWI's 55th Anniversary Celebration.
And now known as Couple No. 3, Donahue and Camp, who is the Glens Falls YMCA wellness director, are paying attention to every synchronized step, arm movement and detail of their “jitterbug” routine before Saturday’s performance at the Wood Theater in Glens Falls.
“It’s been so much fun; we laugh so much,” said Camp during their rehearsal session at the YMCA in Glens Falls on Friday. “We clicked and I shared my vision with him from the beginning. When I started playing clips of songs he said, ‘I like that song!’ And (what I wanted) mirrored what he was thinking.”
On Friday, more than an hour into rehearsal, Camp had Donahue working on his squats and the way he holds his arms. She demonstrates how everything must be perfectly aligned and then refers to a video of their routine. “See here,” she points to specific foot placement, hands and how they line up with each other.
Donahue laughed about how he couldn’t get his hands right. “I got tied up,” he said, pointing to a photo of elastic bands around his hands and arms to help him remember to keep his hands and elbows squared for a particular move.
This close to next week’s big night, all five couples are rehearsing and fine-tuning, said Klock, who personally paired the dance celebrities with seasoned dancers.
The teams are: No. 1, Mike Dubray, midday host 98.5 WCKM, and Janice Garong of Arthur Murray Dance Studio, Saratoga Springs; No. 2, Duane Vaughn, executive director Tri-County United Way, and Allie Bullard, The Dance Center of Queensbury; No. 3. Donahue and Camp; No. 4, Gail Hamel, Hamel Resources, and Timothy Sherman, CM Fine Arts School, Clifton Park; No. 5, Maj. Jim LaFarr, Warren County Sheriff’s Office, and Deanna Krug, Arthur Murray Dance Studio, Saratoga Springs.
According to Klock, the couples seem perfectly paired and it wasn’t completely by accident. Once they had the celebrity dancers and the professionals, she explored each one on social media looking for interests and affiliations.
“I printed head shots of everyone and took the information I had to our meeting and that’s how we paired them” she said. “It worked out surprisingly well.”
CWI’s first offices were opened in a space right behind the Wood Theater, said Donahue. “And now we’re coming back to that location for Saturday’s event,” he said.
Offering a full range of services for all ages — medically frail, developmentally disabled, brain injured, learning disabled, economically disadvantaged and individuals with other challenges — CWI serves 1,200 people a month at 30 sites located in Washington, Warren, Saratoga and Essex Counties. And they employ 700 people throughout the area.
The proceeds from Saturday’s dancing extravaganza will benefit CWI's programs and the people they serve, Donahue said.
“Dancing with the Adirondack Stars” celebrity judges include Candice Frye, LARAC; Kate Austin-Avon, AdvoKate; and David Kaiser from G.F. National Bank. The evening’s emcees are Amy Macy, CWI human resources director, and Chuck Aiken, owner of Big Show Entertainment.
Saturday’s event will be exactly like the ABC Television series “Dancing with the Stars,” said Donahue.
“We will have videos ahead to show how far we’ve come and the dancers will talk about their experience,” he said. “We didn’t want to do another gala or golf tournament. We want it to be fun. The night’s all about fun. And we hope people will leave knowing more about CWI.”