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Dancers make history at Brunswick County Dancing with the Stars

Choreography, costumes and charisma contributed to the energy generated at “Dancing Through the Decades,” the fourth Dancing with the Brunswick Stars gala Aug. 10. Voting began months ago and continued through the evening when 21 couples took the stage to raise money for scholarships to Brunswick Community College, Supply, N.C. The 400 people paid $100 a plate to attend the gala held at the college’s Dinah E. Gore Fitness & Aquatics Center.

Brunswick Star Whitney Sauls and her professional partner Jamie Watson made history by taking home two of the six awards presented. The pair’s 2000-era cha-cha to “Mercy” earned them runner-up in the Best Performance category.

“He had you movin’ and groovin’ and just floating across the stage like it was effortless,” said judge and country music star Madonna Nash. “It was so much fun to watch.”

The couple was then given top honors by being named 2012 Dancing with the Brunswick Stars champions because they received the most votes. Votes cost $10 each and the couple amassed 3,676 votes.

“Whitney created fundraisers and held parties to raise money,” said Susan Lawing, executive director of Brunswick Community College Foundation. “She worked it right.” Lawing explained that the Foundation hoped to raise $125,000, which would provide about 20 one-year scholarships. The total came to $160,730, far exceeding expectations.

“We knew we had a good shot at [winning],” said Watson, owner of Revolutionz dance studio in Leland, N.C. “We just got a lot of support. I’ll do this again next year.”

Sauls, general manager of Sloane Realty in Ocean Isle Beach, N.C., said the couple practiced since June and knew they’d face impressive competition. “It was fun doing something out of character for me, getting in front of people,” she said. “It was outside my comfort zone.”

Earning the second highest number of votes with 897 were Brunswick Star Mac Berenji, owner of Grapevine Restaurant in Calabash, N.C., and his professional partner Debra Hughes, owner of Let’s Dance Studio in Myrtle Beach. They started the program off by doing the early 1900s tango to “I’m Sexy and I Know it.”

The winner in the Best Performance category went to Brunswick Star Celeste Rogers of Will Rogers State Farm insurance in Supply, N.C., and her professional partner, Paul Jarrell of Dance Express Performing Arts Studio, Wilmington, N.C. They chose the 1960s-era hit by Elvis, “Stuck on You,” as their dance selection.

“I’m excited about raising money for student scholarships,” Rogers said.

The couple’s jazzy moves impressed judge Judy Girard of Wilmington, a former television executive.

“The technique was obviously very good,” she said.

Winners in the Most Entertaining category were Brunswick Star Everette Milligan, sales and marketing director for Real Green Turf, Ash, N.C., and professional Philip McGee, co-owner of Studio Dance Conservatory in Wilmington. They dazzled the audience with their unique costuming and rendition of the 1960s “Do You Love Me.”

“I very much enjoyed the choreography and your outfits are great,” Nash said.

“You got a 9.5 on the Richter Scale,” said judge Richard Karron, retired actor having appeared in more than 35 films and television programs.

Brunswick Star Marie Marshburn of Jones Ford in Shallotte, and her professional partner Juan Gonzalez of Fred Astaire Dance Studio in Myrtle Beach closed the program with a current popular dance, the paso doble. They chose the instrumental “My Way” from “Happy Feet” and earned the runner-up award for Most Entertaining.

“Their way was awesome,” Nash said. “The choreography was so good and intriguing. Your dress. I couldn’t stop watching it just glide all over the floor.”

Ben Baker, president of the Foundation, said all the money raised goes to the scholarship endowment. “It helps a lot of fine and deserving people,” he said. “It’s good to see the [community] give to a good cause.”