AWC annual fundraiser strives to prove… ‘Everyone Can Dance’

The August Wilson Center’s annual “So You Think They Can’t Dance?” fundraiser gives local Pittsburgh celebrities the chance to strut their stuff on the dance floor.

“Dancing is so in your face right now and this is an opportunity to let people see their favorite celebrities that they see on television or elsewhere dance,” said Allyson Wynn, director of development for the August Wilson Center for African American Culture.


Almost a dozen local community leaders and celebrities will be partnered with members of the August Wilson Center Dance Ensemble to showcase their skills in such dance art genres as Hip-Hop, African and even Ballroom.

The August Wilson Dance Ensemble provides a bridge in the regional dance community, reaching across ethnic and socio-economic lines bringing different dancers with different backgrounds and styles together to celebrate the diversity of dance, while staying routed in the tradition of African dance.

The idea for “So You Think They Can’t Dance?” was the brainchild of the center’s Artistic Director of Dance Initiatives, Greer Reed-Jones.

“At this point, with shows on television like ‘Dancing with the Stars’ and people getting the chance to see what dancing is all about I wanted to show that everyone can dance and this fundraiser gives the opportunity to show that everyone is a dancer,” Reed-Jones said.

Each dancer is paired with a member of the August Wilson Center Dance Ensemble and given 30 days to practice a routine in the dance genre of their choice.

Each pair must complete a three to five minute dance, which is judged by celebrity judges.

“The judges will be looking for creativity and seeing if the person is having fun,” Wynn said.

The winning couple is chosen by the audience, which pays $10 to vote.

Last year’s event brought about 300 people to the August Wilson Center to watch the antics of the dancers.

Both Wynn and Reed-Jones hope to sell out this year’s event.

“Last year was our inaugural year and this year it’s back by popular demand. We raised some money, but this year our goal is to raise $50,000 to help all of our programs across the board” Wynn said.

The money would help bring awareness to the August Wilson Center’s many programs like the center’s visual arts ensemble and help defray the costs of teachers, choreographers or counselors or workshops.

This year’s celebrity dancers include: Emmai Alaquiva, Harris N. Ferris, Franco “Dok” Harris, Milton E. Raiford, Ted Roberts, Elise Sanders, Sabrina Saunders, Chauncey Smith, Colleen Travis and Jimmy Williams.

“Most of the people dancing are committed to the August Wilson Center’s mission,” Wynn said.

Sponsors for this year’s event include title sponsor Savoy Restaurant, Citizen’s Bank and The Pittsburgh Pirates.

“So You Think They Can’t Dance?” will be held Oct. 20 at 7 p.m. at the August Wilson Center, which is located at 980 Liberty Ave., Downtown. Tickets are $25. They can be purchased at the August Wilson Center box office or by calling 412-338-8742.

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