Six dance teams. Six charities. One incredible competition.

Last year’s popular SwingShift and the Stars: Dance-Off for Charity event returns this Friday, October 2 to the City Opera House in Traverse City.  Modeled after reality smash hit “Dancing With the Stars,” the competition pairs local celebrities with dance professionals for a chance to compete and raise money for local charities. Last year’s competition raised nearly $40,000 for area non-profits.

For a minimum donation of $5, audience members can vote for their favorite couple in a series of four live performances,. Votes from each performance are tabulated and combined with votes from a panel of three judges, which this year includes Leland Public School music instructor Jeremy Evans, The Dance Center owner Korin Drilling and Old Town Playhouse executive director Phil Murphy. Totals from all four performances are combined to determine the winning duo at the Grand Finale Charity Celebration and Award Ceremony on December 31, 2009.

Judy Harrison, founder of the event and lead singer of SwingShift, promises new dances in addition to new contestants and charities this year. “The contestants will be performing the bolero, samba, cha cha, waltz, tango and salsa,” said Harrison, adding that ticket sales are already “booming.”

This year’s local celebrity-and-pro pairings and their charities of choice are:

Rich Nadeau & Liz Reincke for Cherryland Humane SocietySusan McQuaid & Richard Dodge for Northwest Food Coalition
Pete Currie & Erin Peck for Grand Traverse Area Community Living Foundation
Diana Fairbanks & Hans Banghauser for Mammography Assistance Fund through Munson Healthcare Regional Foundation
Dr. Matt Madion & Jennifer Howard for Michael’s PlaceRamona Pleva & Ed Blackburn for Third Level Crisis Center

The competition schedule is as follows:

October 2: First CompetitionNovember 6: Second Competition
December 4: Third CompetitionDecember 31: Final Competition and Grand Finale Charity Celebration/Award Ceremony

All events are held at the City Opera House. Doors open at 6:30 p.m., audience dance lessons with Traci LeBlanc are at 7:00 p.m. (and during intermission), and dancing and competition are from 7:30-10:00 p.m. Tickets are $25 for adults and $23 for seniors/students for table seats, or $17 for adults and $15 for seniors/students for general admission. For tickets and information, visit

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