Scotland stars thrill with unique routines

Mary Katherine Murphy

February 2, 2014

LAURINBURG — Some 250 people crowded the Highlands on Saturday evening for the second annual Dancing with the Scotland Stars, brought to their feet repeatedly by a friendly dancing competition featuring a half dozen local celebrity pairs.

Judging the dancers in the event, held to benefit the Storytelling and Arts Center of the Southeast, were last year’s fan favorites Joy Ellison and Tyris Jones, with Chris Fore rounding out the panel.

Last year’s judge’s choice winners, Roylin and Dee Hammond, kicked off the night with a special encore of their winning performance, a medley of moves inspired by “Singin in the Rain,” The Twist, the Macarena, and Thriller.

Despite the competition’s informality, a few of the contestants still confronted a few last-minute butterflies before taking the stage. Harley Norris, dancing with Lisa Blalock, donned a lucky pair of socks before joining his partner in a freestyle routine that began to “Time of My Life” from Dirty Dancing and ended with the pair offstage and among the crowd dancing to “Footloose.”

“We are strictly amateurs and we are just doing this for a good cause,” Blalock said. “We’re happy with freestyle dancing at a party, but organized dancing is not our thing.”

With music compiled by Blalock’s daughter Greta Griswold and moves “choreographed by YouTube,” their routine earned the People’s Choice award from crowd votes.

“I thought you were going to hurt each other, first of all,” Fore said between bursts of laughter. “That was the best worst dancing I’ve ever seen in my life.”

Winning the judge’s choice award — based on technique, teamwork, musicality, and costuming — were former SACS director Jan Schmidt and her husband John, who were the first of the competing pairs to dance.

“John and Jan, you made me want to fall in love,” Jones said. “I think you practiced on that ice we had last week, because you glided across the floor.”

Having polished their waltz with a few lessons from Karen Gibson, the greatest impediment for Schmidt was simply mustering the nerve to perform.

“The hardest part for me is just getting on stage,” she said. “John’s a ham, and he likes being on stage, so that helped also, having someone who’s comfortable.”

Former Laurinburg police chief Robert Malloy and wife Blanche earned the judges’ nod for “most original,” with a dance ending at “midnight” when Malloy had to exchange his august police uniform for an orange prisoner’s jumpsuit, a routine that belied more preparation than Malloy would admit.

“I picked up the paper one Tuesday morning and saw my name in it, I said oh hell,” he said of the moment he realized he would be competing, having forgotten to confirm his participation in the event. “Then I gave the paper to her and she made a loud noise when she saw her name and I said it’s okay, I was going to tell you about it.”

Though bribery may have been involved in securing Blanche’s involvement, the evening’s outcome disproved her declaration that “I’m too old to be trying to step.”

“I loved the drama that you put into it,” Ellison said following the Malloys’ performance. “You have a billy club so I’m going to say all nice things, don’t worry.”

Relative newcomers to Scotland County, having moved here only two years ago, Jose and Mabel Rivera’s salsa showed, in the judges’ estimation, the evening’s best technique.

“We started doing a routine, and we’ve never done a routine — I don’t think we’ve ever argued this much,” Jose ruefully recalled.

Performing the “Shall We Dance” routine from “The King and I,” Tammy Gibson came out twirling in a 19th century evening gown and hoop skirt as husband Whit stripped off his shoes in a more accurate portrayal of the King of Siam, efforts that earned the pair recognition for the evening’s best costumes.

“I feel like I need a Playbill for this,” Ellison said.

Dancing to “Blurred Lines,” Hugh and Amanda Dixon took home the evening’s “Best Teamwork” award, and highway patrolman Hugh showed his friends and colleagues a side of himself they had yet to discover.

“There are four or five people out there who paid just to come see me,” he said. “They think this is funny.”

Dancing With the Scotland Stars was accompanied by a live auction, called by Dave Wells, which raised more than $3,000 for the Storytelling and Arts Center.

“I’m glad that all of us have volunteered and there’s a good crowd tonight to support storytelling,” Norris said. “Don’t ever say there’s nothing to do in Laurinburg, we’re giving it to you tonight.”

Mary Katherine Murphy can be reached at 910-276-2311, ext. 17. Follow her on Twitter @emkaylbg.