Contestants gear up for fundraising dance-off

Brooke Curley Photo/Gila Valley Central: Safford Mayor Jason Kouts, right, practices his moves.

By Brooke Curley

SAFFORD – With five practice sessions and the entire community watching, the heat is on for the Graham County Dancing With Your Stars contestants.

Local community leaders and business owners will participate in the inaugural Dancing With the Graham County Stars event March 4 at the David M. Player Center for the Arts. The event is a fundraiser for multiple local organizations in the Gila Valley and is put on in conjunction by the Utah Ballroom Dance Company, which created the touring show to capitalize on the reality dance show craze. Each participant is partnered with a professional dancer and will collect donations for the organization of their choosing. The contestants will then dance-off to try and win the coveted mirror-ball trophy. However, the attendees will vote for the ultimate winner of the trophy.  The contestants include, Safford Mayor Jason Kouts, Pima Mayor C.B. Fletcher, Thatcher Councilor Ryan Rapier, Dr. Debbie Chapman, Tracy Botkins and Royce Hunt.

When Gila Valley Central caught up with the contestants, they had practiced three times and were getting ready for their costume fittings. Botkins, who will be performing the waltz, chose to wear a sparkling off blue gown with sequins. Kouts, who will be swing dancing, will be wearing a white sailor outfit.

Botkins, who is waltzing for the Special Olympics, told Gila Valley Central that the hardest part of learning the performance is that she has to slow down.

“I’m a very fast paced person,” Botkins said. “It’s a very slow song.”


Botkin’s teacher and dance partner, Anthony Whipple, was impressed with her progress.

“She’s doing really well,” Whipple said. “She’s definitely made a lot of progress since day one, and so I’m really happy with that. She’s very enthusiastic, very energetic, but the waltz is a very smooth graceful dance.  We’ve got to get some work done to get her to slow down because she likes to run all over the place.”

Whipple is one of the multiple instructors/dancers of the Utah Ballroom Dance Company. This is the first time the dance company has come to visit the Gila Valley, and Whipple said he hopes to return in the years to come.

The organizations set to be receiving donations are The Special Olympics, Pima High School Honor Guard, Peach’s Neet Feet, SEACUS Meals-on-Wheels, the Mt. Graham Regional Medical Center Foundation and The Boys & Girls Club of the Gila Valley.

The Graham County Dancing With the Stars performance will be March 4, at 7 p.m. at the David M. Player Center for the Arts. Admission is $25 reserve seating and $15 for general admission.