Derek LeBlanc’s high-voltage moves, megawatt smile and precision steps helped him win the sixth annual Dancing for a Cause fundraiser.
The music pulsed and the crowd roared Saturday night as the show, fashioned after TV’s “Dancing with the Stars,” took over the Lamar-Dixon Expo Center in Gonzales.
Twirling, jumping and rocking on stage in sequins and feathers were local businessmen and women who showed off their passion for dancing and support of Community Opportunities — The Arc of East Ascension, a local nonprofit organization that provides services and opportunities for people with disabilities.
Some of the money from Saturday night’s show will be used to hire an instructor to teach computer classes at the Gonzales COEA center, Dennis Stevens, COEA business operation manager, said before the show.
Commencing and closing the evening’s festivities were special dance numbers by The Arc of East Ascension Dancers, who performed to the gleeful song “Happy” by Pharrell Williams.
LeBlanc said it was those dancers who inspired him to take part in the event. He also got a bit of inspiration from his dad, St. Amant Fire Chief and Constable James LeBlanc, who lit up the stage a few years ago.
“I am a volunteer fireman. I am a cop for the city of Gonzales. Doing all this stuff with the community, I get to work close with COEA and every other group that we have for our people with disabilities,” Derek LeBlanc said. “So, I was inspired by watching Dad do it and also by wanting to help to give back to the community for the people with disabilities.”
LeBlanc’s partner, Alyssa Kling, a personal trainer and dance instructor who has been involved with Dancing for a Cause since its first year, said her inspiration for the night’s winning, high-energy performance came from the 2013 film adaptation of “The Great Gatsby.”
“I love that era, the 1920s,” Kling said with a smile. “I dance West Coast swing, but I have a best friend that teaches Lindy Hop. I learned from her, and then I used all my styles — tap, jazz, hip-hop. It kind of all made this number.”
Kling and her partner practiced together once a week for two months before Saturday’s competition.
“It’s my first time ever dancing competitively. Ever since I was a kid, I always danced — just cut up, but I never actually did it competitively,” LeBlanc said.
“He’s worked really, really hard. He already had some rhythm, but technique wasn’t quite there. I worked on the technique, and he practiced. It came out perfect,” Kling said.
The show included Brittany LeBlanc and Le’Brian Patrick, who danced the paso doble; Lisa Bacala and River Peterson, the cha-cha; Donna Villar and Andy Inzenga, tango; Rick Dickmyer and Claire Preston Broyles, disco; Deron Talley and Christy Mendoza, West Coast swing; Dr. Harry Brown and Courtney Black, foxtrot; Shelly Arceneaux Graham and Leonard Augustus, samba; Kent Schexnaydre and Beverly Cook, jitterbug; Alsie Dunbar and Van Vo, hip-hop and West Coast swing; and Stephanie Haas, Augustus and Patrick rounded up the competition with a salsa routine.
Ascension Idol winners from 2013 and 2014 Jesse Bateman and Faith Carmouche appeared as guest performers as well.
The evening was interspersed with informational video clips about the Arc of East Ascension. Latangela Sherman, of KQXL, and attorney Ryan Chenevert, last year’s dancing winner, served as hosts.
Czarina Walker, Parish President Tommy Martinez, Judge Jessie LeBlanc, attorney Matt Pryor and Jaclyn Tisdale served as judges.
The Fan’s Choice Award was given to Graham and Augustus, whose samba was deemed “The Spiciest,” and the Shining Star Award went to Dickmyer, who wowed the crowd with his John Travolta-inspired disco number.
To view our photo gallery from the event, click here.