CJ’s last dance – sort of | SummitDaily.com
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CJ’s last dance – sort of

CJ Mueller
special to the daily

Where do I start? Last Saturday night I performed with Bri Cuoco, a professional dancer, in front of 562 people attending the Second Annual Dancing with the Mountain Stars.

We danced to “Hound Dog” by Elvis (he is still the King). In last week’s diary I said something about how the memory of the performance would fade over time, but I had no idea how much I would be affected by our performance and the entire experience. Those 90 seconds dancing with Bri will be imbedded in my brain as strongly as any memories I have. To simply be able to spend time with Bri and the other professionals was phenomenal – each and every one of them was enthusiastic, friendly, polite – not to mention they were spectacular dancers. Only a few times in my life have I seen a live dance performance, even though I greatly enjoy seeing dance on television and in the movies.

So the experience of rehearsing for three days and then performing – being up close and personal with 10 top professionals and nine local friends – was truly unique and much more powerful than I ever imagined it would be.

One of my favorite images was arriving late to our first rehearsal with the pros. As I entered the studio, there were eight couples scattered around the dance floor, each couple intent on their own dance, talking, going over different movements, all at once. I realized this was a priceless time that, for the locals was once in a lifetime, and for the pros, well, it was their life. Just as skiing has been my life. So I paused to soak it all in before getting down to work with Bri.

The night before, when we first met, I made a point to sit by Bri and a couple of the other pros, and loved every minute of conversation with them, learning about their lives and experiences. And I can’t forget my fellow “local stars”: Rae Anderson, who I have known for longer than I want to tell you (wasn’t she stunning?); Alton Scales, who I had never met before but hope our paths cross frequently in the future; Dave Karoly, living la vida loca, henceforth to be known simply as “The Dave”; Karin Bearnarth, who finally gave in and slowed down enough to ski with me one afternoon last season; Jon Kreamelmeyer, who paid me a great compliment by simply saying I make him smile; Massey Pitts, who always makes me smile; Lisa Korry Cheek, who, along with her dance partner Michael Riccio performed my personal favorite routine of the event; Dan Gibbs, who moonwalks better than Neil Armstrong and tied for first place with Alton (if you weren’t there this year, plan to be there next year – the winners come back to perform again!); and finally Freda Nieters, the matriarch of our group, the matriarch of skiing in Summit County, soon to be inducted into the Colorado Ski Hall of Fame.

There is just not enough room to share all the happenings, but here are a few, in no particular order. I now have nine closer friends that shared this experience and several more I met because of this experience. Pam Churman (who I have known longer than Rae), Karen Wray and Stephanie Bruner all cheerfully put up with me for many weeks. Deb Edwards knows how to do it right, and if you miss next year’s edition of Dancing with the Mountain Stars, you are missing not just the premier entertainment event in Summit County, but also a fantastic dinner and show.

The judges for the event, Melanie Frey and Teresa and Roger Moen, would be delighted to help you learn to dance if you get the bug. My one regret is that when I got my feet photographed for publicity I should have had on my 25-year-old Lange ZR ski boots that still are on my feet every ski day.

I forgot one of my dance steps Saturday afternoon and I don’t think my 20-year-old dance partner could relate to my almost-60-year-old brain fatigue. Hunter Hamilton, Rae’s partner, got me back on track. For me it was 90 seconds of pure joy with no care of how I scored. I only wish I could have nailed it for Stephanie and Bri like I did in rehearsal.

Michael Riccio, Rae’s partner, came up to me after the first rehearsal and told me I had nailed it – a small compliment can mean a lot – try it some time! I realized the day after the event that if I had won I would have gotten to do it again next year – there is some motivation for you aspiring “Stars”!

Zac Brazenas, Freda’s partner, is a perfect gentleman, and I will long remember watching him walk Freda to her car one night after dinner, being so attentive, making sure she was safely on her way. So many memories: Backstage with all the dancers the day of the event- hanging out, practicing, changing into costume, into sweats, into tuxedo, into costume, rehearsing, loosening up, gabbing, listening to Dan’s iPod, getting makeup and hair done (thank you Tina from Tina’s Mountain Do’s in Dillon for making me look 20 years younger!), presenting gifts to our partners, Mandy’s meditation circle just before the show, Bri and I waiting to be the first dance of the night, watching each of the other dancers as we huddled around the backstage monitor.

And Mandy Moore, what a talent – matching us with music, dances and partners, choreographing all the dances including the finale with all the pros. Mandy is simply remarkable. More favorite memories: Throwing my black leather jacket to Patty Theobald in the audience as my dance started, seeing Mike Kopicky dressed up. Finally, the image of 500 people jamming the dance floor immediately when the show was over and it was time to party. I don’t remember ever seeing so many people hitting the dance floor so fast, and so few left seated.

Music and dancing are such a joy. Skiing powder is still my favorite dance, but I need more dancing back in my life. I will try to seek out more opportunities to dance. I hope you will, too. Life is too precious not to indulge in simple (and healthy) pleasures. And don’t forget to smile while you are dancing (The Dave!).

Next year 10 lucky people will get a once in a lifetime opportunity, thanks to the Summit Medical Center Health Foundation. To Bri Cuoco I simply say thanks again, I hope you know how special it was for me. To Mandy and the other pros I say I can’t wait to see you all again and best wishes to you all. To the audience last Saturday night I say thanks for your support of the foundation. To the staff and volunteers I say “You did it. You did it well. Nobody does it better.” To you who are reading this I say don’t miss next year’s event. I will be there, enjoying dinner and the show, and I will see you on the dance floor.


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