First Annual DREAM Showcase – May 23, 2017

1st Annual Showcase, Photo Alex Havasi

WOW! It sounded almost like a rock concert, the way people were carrying on. DJ Tom Mendola was on stage and set up lively dance music. Parents, students, and teachers were everywhere with standing room only. There was a place to take a picture of the stars of the show (Colfax and Woodlake students) with red carpet, stanchions, and backdrop with the Fordney Foundation logo and social media addresses. This was put up by Alex Havasi, the Assistant Director of Fordney Foundation. It was like experiencing a gala event with photographers running around the room snapping photos. And there was media coverage, ABC – Channel 7 News began filming and did an interview with Erica Arnold, the dance instructor! This is only the half of it. Was this a Fifth Harmony concert? “No,” but it sure was a special night, and we had star performers who wowed us just the same!

If you like a little excitement in the air, then you should have been at Taft High School on the night of May 23, 2017.   Taft High School hosted the First Annual DREAM Showcase.   There was so much energy in that room laced with anticipation, the crowd just knew something special

1st Annual Showcase, Photo Alex Havasi

was about to occur. And it did, compliments of The Fordney Foundation in partnership with Erica Arnold (EA Dance) and a newly formulated project called DREAM. DREAM stands for: Discover, Respect, Express, Achieve and Motivate.

The DREAM program is the brainchild of Erica Arnold and the Fordney Foundation. The DREAM program consists of 30 weeks of dance group lessons and each class is about 45 minutes long. Elementary school students learn the dance steps for many ballroom dances. This activity fulfills physical education requirements, creates valuable social skills as well as personal development. The very first schools to be involved in this program are Colfax Charter Elementary and Woodlake Elementary Community Charter schools. And, guess what, they were also the stars of the show!

Then it was time to get the show started with Erica’s longtime friend, a professional dancer himself and our emcee, Jonathan Curtis. Jonathan said he has known Erica for 25 years. Jonathan gave us a little background information on Erica. She hails from Utah. Her love for dance came

1st Annual Showcase, Photo Alex Havasi

at the age of three. Erica is trained in Ballet, Jazz, Ballroom, Tap and Hip Hop. She has been a featured dancer in many productions in Utah. This includes the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the 2002 Winter Olympics. She was also Junior National Champion in Ballroom dance in 2002. Both Erica and her partner represented the United States in the World’s Junior Ballroom Championship and placed 46th in the world!

Jonathan told us that about 365 students participated in this event. He has a natural ability to work the audience and interact well with all age groups. He got the students so worked up that every one of them wanted to be the person to draw each raffle ticket. They began

1st Annual Showcase, Photo Alex Havasi

screaming and waving their hands to be picked. He also challenged them and did a Michael Jackson slide and several got up to perform and copy his moves and steps. And we saw both schools entertain us with such dances as Rumba, Swing,Waltz,Tango, Hustle, Cha Cha, and Foxtrot. This was quite a range of dancing for 4th and 5th-grade students, just learning to dance. Both Colfax Charter Elementary and Woodlake Elementary Community Charter schools were simply terrific! And right now, I’d like to give a “big shout out” to all the participants (our star student dancers) and their teachers, in order of performance:

Woodlake 4th Grade: Teacher Cullen

Colfax 4th   Grade, Room #25, Teacher Mayberry

Woodlake 5th Grade: Teacher Otiz

Colfax 5th Grade, Room 17, Teacher Hanlon

Woodlake 4th Grade: Teacher Barbula

Colfax 4th Grade, Room 22, Teacher Steele

Woodlake 5th Grade: Teacher Miramontez

Colfax 5th Grade, Room 18, Teacher Howe

Woodlake 4th Grade: Teacher Miller

Colfax 4th Grade, Room 23, Teacher Hulett

Woodlake 5th Grade: Teacher Williams

Colfax 5th Grade, Room 19, Teacher Craven

Our First Annual DREAM Showcase raffle gave away some great gifts in-between dance sets, such as a Starbuck’s gift card, a See’s Candy gift card, an original oil painting from Pinot’s Palette, three pairs of “Slap Sees” sunglasses, fitness packages, dance lessons, a Fordney Foundation fleece jacket, baskets filled with goodies, and a whole lot more. Our raffle tickets were only $1 each. It is our way of raising funds so we can look forward to more children being able to learn to ballroom dance in the future.  If you are interested in becoming a volunteer or donating to our program, you can contact us at the email address below.

After the last group of school children performed, we were treated to some dancing by Artemi Okunev, who is Erica’s dance partner. Artemi

Anna Gilichensky, Artemis Okunev, Photo Alex Havasi

showcased the dancing talents of his student, Anna Gilichensky. They were both quite good! Then we saw an awesome performance from Emily Dobson and Anthony Tatoosi. Loved Emily’s shimmery pink costume as she and Anthony did a Paso Doble to a Michael Jackson song. Anthony is 11 and Emily is only 9. Members of the audience got a chance to ask them questions and they were happy to answer about their dance schedules and ages.

Emily Dobson, Anthony Tatoosi, Photo Alex Havasi

Next, we heard from Marilyn Fordney, the Founder and Director of Fordney Foundation. Ms. Fordney spoke of her amazing journey in life, and how her life’s work as a medical assistant and her passion for dancing intertwined. All of her past life’s experience has led her to this moment, where her dream of seeing young people having the opportunity to dance has come to fruition and is very rewarding. She congratulated the students on a job well done, as well as their parents for their support.

Marilyn Fordney, Photo Alex Havasi

We were then treated to a grand finale–a dance with Erica and Artemi performing to an all out appreciative audience. They were awesome!  Then it was time to give out the medals to our very deserving student dancers.

We had so much fun bringing our First Annual DREAM Showcase to you. We had a lot of volunteer help and we know we couldn’t

Marilyn Fordney, Photo Alex Havasi

have done it without you. We want to give a big “thank you” to all of the parents and friends who came to support their children. And of course, we thank our students for their hard work and efforts, making this night so memorable. Special shout out and “thank you” to both Mario Thompson, Principal of Woodlake Elementary Community Charter and Principal Robyn Friedman of Colfax Charter Elementary for allowing us to bring our dance program into your schools. A big “thank you” to our DJ for the evening, Tom Mendola, for keeping the tunes going throughout the evening. We thank Alex Havasi for all his hard work in setting up the backdrop and taking pictures of this event. We thank our child wrangler volunteers–Jonathan Friedman and Svetlana Roytman. In addition we thank all of the people behind the scenes who helped us out, Erica’s mother–Cindy Arnold, Marilyn Fordney’s sister–Esme Takahashi, Galina Silverman, Loren Silverman, Monet Pinkett, our wonderful emcee, Jonathan Curtis, Mike and Maya Urshansky and of course our great dancing entertainment from Emily Dobson, Anthony Tatoosi, Anna Gilichensky, and Artemi Okunev.

We of course are ever grateful for Erica Arnold and her divine dancing abilities and love of teaching ballroom dance. Erica’s DREAM project and Fordney Foundation’s objectives have definitely lined up. We couldn’t be more pleased how our first annual event turned out. In order for us to continue doing what we love, we encourage you to be part of it. If you would like to donate to the DREAM program and see more children get the opportunity to expand their abilities with the gift of dance, please do not hesitate to contact us at:

Erica Arnold, Artemi Okunev, Photo Alex Havasi

Thought Of The Week:

The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it   –  Henry David Thoreau


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Shane Meuwissen is the Media Specialist for Fordney Foundation.  He is a former dance instructor who know works with his company Slow Motion Dance Videos capture the beauty of dancing. If you would like to learn more about Shane and his video work, visit his website