by Jeremy Couso
This weekend Lassen Family Services is throwing a huge party full of glitz and glamour and it is all for a good cause! The 2nd Annual Dancing for a Brand New Me event is a dance competition featuring professional dancers and local law enforcement celebrities who have spent months learning and rehearsing routines and are ready to take the stage Saturday evening at the Veterans Hall to compete in three different musical genres.
The six couples in the dance-off, which is similar to network television’s Dancing with the Stars, will perform jazz and ballroom numbers and a wild-card song of their choosing while a panel of judges comments on the performances at the end of each round.
Along with the evening’s dance competition there will be a tribute to local law enforcement, an extensive list of raffle prizes donated by local businesses and desserts served at intermission by the Susanville Soroptimists. The program will also include a brief presentation by a guest speaker.
“Through this show,” said Melissa Downing, who is coordinating the event for a second year, “we hope to bring education and awareness to domestic violence as a community issue, inspire our community to speak out against domestic violence and bring forward hope and empowerment to victims. Only, together we can make the difference in the lives of others and in our community.”
“I am excited about the Brand New Me experience that will affect each community member that attends,” Downing continued. “Dancing for a Brand New Me promises to be entertaining and motivational causing each person to think about their part in spreading the message. No more excuses. No more silence. No more violence.”
The show begins at 7:00 and tickets are only available at Lassen Family Service’s office at 1306 Riverside Drive. You can call 257-5459 for ticket information.
Meet Your Dancers
Couple #1: Seanne McElrath and Stacy Wages, California Highway Patrol
Seanne has been performing, choreographing and teaching dance for over 10 years. He began dancing as a cast member with Best of Broadway and has danced with House of Dance and J and J Performing Arts. He was an assistant choreographer and dance instructor for the Marin School of the Arts and has earned a regional and national First Place Championship for Solo Artist in Dance with Showstoppers Dance Competition.
Seanne says that he is, “very privileged and deeply humbled to have been asked to be part of such a wonderful event for a noble cause.”
Stacy was born and raised in Susanville. After graduating from Lassen Community College, she transferred to and graduated from CSU Chico with a B.S. Degree in Recreation Administration in Community/Commercial Recreation/Special Event Planning.
Wages has been working as a public safety dispatcher for the past 8 years and has been with the CHP for the last 3 years. She says that it has been her privilege to work with all the local law enforcement agencies in Lassen County as well as the surrounding counties during this time.
Most domestic violence incidents are never reported and Stacy says that her hope in coming here and facing one of her fears is to show victims that they are not alone and provide them with enough courage to face their own fears and call for help.
Stacy truly believes the saying by Nelson Mandela, “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it.” Believing in public service, that good will always overcome evil and the good guys will always win!
“Once you realize that you are not alone and find enough courage to call for help.”
It doesn’t matterwho you talk to – it could be Stacy or another one of her partners from any of the agencies – but you can count on them to do the best that they can to help you with whatever circumstance that you facing and get you the help that you need.
“All you need is 20 seconds of insane courage and I promise you something amazing will come out of it” – Benjamin Mee, We Bought A Zoo.
Couple #2: Jessica Newton Wade and Nate Horton, Susanville Police Department
Nate Horton was born in Chicago and lived there until his father relocated his family to San Jose when he was nine-years-old. From San Jose, he graduated high school and went into the Army the very next day. He was stationed in Fort Campbell for the majority of his military career with a year-long deployment to Iraq.
After he got out of the Army, he moved to San Diego where he worked security in a bar on the beach for the next three years. After that, he went through the police academy and was hired with the Susanville Police Department, where he has now worked for nearly four years.
Horton says that he is participating in Dancing for a Brand New Me for two reasons – the first reason being that he is facing his biggest fear of dancing, especially in public. The second reason is that he thinks it’s important to bring awareness to something that he has dealt with on a regular basis throughout his career. He has seen the lives that have been affected, and the people that have been hurt. Hopefully, though awareness and support from the community, we can help minimize the problems with domestic violence that exist in our society.
Jessica Newton Wade
Jessica Newton Wade was born in Sacramento, California. Starting her dance journey at the age of three she studied with numerous dance studios thru out the Northern California and Nevada areas. Dance has always been a passion, a way of life for Jessica Wade. Moving to Janesville at the age of six, she became the Head Choreographer for Susanville Best of Broadway at the age of sixteen. She and her mother pioneered the not-for-profit and directed Best of Broadway successfully for thirteen years.
Mrs. Wade instituted the Classified Dancers, a troupe of local Lassen County youth who performed all over Northern California as well as competed at National Dance Competitions. The Classified Dancers went on to dance in companies, instruct dance, dance for university teams, become gymnastics coaches and much more! Jessica was also a member and Captain of the LHS Drill Team, a Lassen Youth Cheerleader and a part of numerous other groups, in Lassen County.
As a professional dancer Jessica Wade appeared in the Harlem Hip-Hop Festival in NYC, under the direction of Master CC. In 2006 Jessica took to the international dance scene as a guest dancer in the Northern European Festival of Dance, also appearing in the Kupio Dance Festival, Finland. As a member of The Mix dance troupe out of Northern California, Jessica has performed numerous executive events.
Her musical career has sent her on stage. Jessica performed as a guest artist for the BYU Summer Camps, in the musical Pippin, and review shows. She sang and danced to many Broadway numbers as a soloist for Best of Broadway, as well as the Susanville Symphony’s Swing Band, and Seasonal Shows. She was a performing artist for the National Anthem at rodeos all over California and Nevada, as well as singing for the National Finals Rodeo, in Las Vegas, Nevada, as well as the Reno Rodeo.
At the age of 18 Jessica Wade opened JandJ Performing Arts to broaden the dance community within Lassen County. She has been a guest instructor at numerous studios in California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, Hawaii and Europe. Apprenticing at the Frankfurt Company of Arts, she grew her love for dance and expanded her teaching techniques. JandJ Performing Arts students have been invited to many auditions, including Dance Moms, and Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Their competitive teams have been recognized for originality and passion, as well as ranked nationally. The Susanville City Kickettes are a Holiday Tradition in Lassen County and have been performing for our community for over ten years.
“Each student that walks thru the door of JandJ is going to feel like they’re working for their dreams. There is no limit. No matter how small of an area you come from. If you dream big and work hard your goals are limitless.”
Couple #3: Nicole McCoy and Dean Growdon, Lassen County Sheriff
Dean Growdon was raised in Lassen County and graduated from Westwood High School. He earned an Associate’s degree from Lassen College, a Bachelor’s degree from Union Institute and University, and is currently enrolled in a graduate program at the University of Nevada, Reno. Sheriff Growdon has worked for the Lassen County Sheriff’s Office since January of 1994, and was elected to the office of Sheriff-Coroner in 2010.
Growdon has served as a Governor’s appointee to the California Board of State and Community Corrections since 2011 and has been married to his wife Carol since 1997. They have two sons, Neil and Logan.
Sheriff Growdon has seen all types of domestic violence during the course of his career. He has seen it result in death, serious injury, broken families and scarred children. He believes that domestic violence cannot be tolerated in any form or fashion, and it is incumbent upon all of us to fight it.
Nicole has been dancing since she was 6 years old. Currently, she teaches at House of Dance including all styles of dance: ballet, jazz, tap and even hip-hop. Nicole has her B.A. in dance from the University of Nevada, Reno and danced with the Nevada Festival Ballet Company and Wing and a Prayer Dancer Company from 1988-1998 in Reno.
She is married to Gary McCoy. She and her dance partner, Dean, would like to dedicate their ballroom number “You’re Nobody Til Somebody Loves You” to their spouses, Carol Growdon and Gary McCoy.
Couple #4: Alex McElrath and Terrah Desselle, Lassen County Probation
Alex began dancing during his senior year of high school in a Vocal Stage Ensemble where he was introduced to Best of Broadway and has participated for a number of years. Over a decade ago, he joined House of Dance and took lessons from Jennifer House and later became an assistant instructor. He continues to teach at House of Dance.
Terrah was raised in Susanville, moving here at the age of six. She has danced at J and J Performing Arts and Susanville Best of Broadway since she was 10 and was a Susanville City Kickette in high school. Terrah began working with the Lassen County Probation department as a temp in March of 2015 and became full-time in May of 2015.
Desselle enjoys working with the Lassen County Probation Department and hopes to excel her career in law enforcement.
Couple #5: Doria Dalu and Matt Williams, High Desert State Prison
This year’s Dancing for a Brand New Me is twice as meaningful for Doria Dalu. Being a victim of domestic violence and retiring from a law enforcement career has helped make this event special. Choreographing it is the icing on the cake for her.
Doria started dancing at 15 when her mother took her and her sister to a Polynesian Dance Studio in Buena park, CA. She went on to learn the Jitter Bug in their front room taught by her father. As a senior in high school, she was asked to choreograph the high school play, which consisted of multiple jazz and ballroom style dances. A Polynesian number was thrown-in too, for good measure.
Having Polynesian dance as her forte, it wasn’t long after graduating that she stared performing professionally. Traveling to other states, Doria has performed in Las Vegas, Sea World in Florida, Ohio and San Diego. She has also performed at NFL linebacker, Jr. Seau’s, wedding and filmed a special with singer, Wayne Newton, and comedian, Ruth Buzzi.
Last year, she was honored to re-join Susanville’s Best of Broadway Team to choreograph ‘Grease.’ In addition to helping choreograph for the Susanville Choral Society and equally as honored this year, she is happy to be a part of Lassen Family Services’ Dancing for a Brand New Me.
Matt Williams is a 40 year-old husband and father of two. He is a lieutenant with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and has worked at High Desert State Prison for 12 years. He is very proud to serve the people of California in that role. Matt has been fortunate to grow up in Lassen County and he is now raising his children in the same great community that he grew up in. Working in prison and having been trained as a crisis negotiator, as well as serving with the peer support team for the institution, he is very aware of the way that domestic violence can shatter lives and the impact that it can have on generations in a family. He is committed to raising awareness of this issue and ensuring that those affected receive the help and support that they need to overcome.
This event is a challenge for Matt as he has never been very coordinated and did not even dance at his own wedding 19 years ago (Sorry Sherry!). Over the last year, he has resolved to challenge himself and conquer his fears. He has lost 40 pounds and has sought to challenge himself in many other areas, as well. He agreed to enter Dancing for a Brand New Me knowing that he would be far outside of his comfort zone. He wishes to thank his amazing wife for her support and his kids for putting up with all of the practices when they would rather be at the lake!
He would also like to thank Doria Dalu , his dance coach, for her unending patience, excellent coaching ability and ability to shake-off a bad spill and keep going. Her talent and positive attitude has been an inspiration throughout the process of preparing for this event.
Couple #6: Celeste Wiser and Gary McCoy, California Correctional Center
Celeste Wiser was born and raised in Susanville. She has been dancing within this community for 15+ years through various productions. Celeste has been at J and J Performing Arts since the beginning. As an original Classified Dancer, she completed 9 years in Susanville’s Best of Broadway, was Linfield College Cheerleader, a soloist in the Susanville Symphony Ballet “Elements” and much more.
Dancing, says Celeste, is a way to express herself with her body by releasing her emotions through her movements.
Though she left Susanville for nursing school in Portland, Oregon, she has never stopped learning, teaching and performing. She doesn’t think she will ever stop! Celeste is a registered nurse at Banner Lassen Medical Center and recently earned her Masters in Nursing Education.
Celeste is also a dance instructor at J and J Performing Arts. Celeste says that she feels truly blessed to have the opportunity to pursue both of her passions, even if that means that she is always on the go! She couldn’t do any of this without the love and support from her family and husband, KC Wiser.
Gary is a proud father of four children – Caleb, Aimee, Rachel and Gracie and devoted husband to Nicole. Gary has coached many Lassen Youth Sports such as basketball, baseball, football, and softball. He was a two-time National Championship Boxer for the University of Nevada, Reno in 1986 and 1988 and also received the “Best Boxer” Award at those championships. Gary participated in the Golden Gloves and USA sanctioned boxing matches in the early 1990s and is currently working at California Correctional Center and teaching a boxing class at Iron Horse Gym.
Gary enjoys spending time with his family foremost and playing softball with his Snafu Brothers. Gary is thankful to the Lord for his mom and that she is still here to love.
The Lassen Family Services event will begin at 7:00 Saturday evening on the stage at the Veteran’s Memorial Hall on Main Street. Tickets for adults are $15 and admission is $7.50 for seniors and kids under twelve. You can buy them at Lassen Family Services 1306 Riverside Drive. Tickets are selling out fast so make sure you get yours as early as you can.