Dancing with the Michigan Stars (DWTMS), an event committed to raising funds for local charities, will be held at the Ann Arbor Marriott Ypsilanti at Eagle Crest, March 12. This festive black tie event will feature ten local celebrities partnered with professional ballroom dancers from Arthur Murray Dance Studios, as they compete to win the championship title.
Five Liberty members are greatly involved with this year’s DWTMS.
is the organizer of Dancing with the Michigan Stars and the owner of the Arthur Murray Dance Studio in Ann Arbor and Northville. Ira Mark, Nerissa Sarantos, Heidi Elder Ewing and Kristin Finn are celebrity dancers.
Tansy became interested in dancing in college, while bartending at a bar filled with swing dancers. From there she learned how to swing, and the rest is history! She got a job as an instructor at Arthur Murray, competed in national dance competitions, and purchased the Ann Arbor Arthur Murray Dance Studio in 2005 and the Northville Arthur Murray Dance Studio in 2010. This year will be Tansy’s sixth year as the Dancing with the Michigan Stars organizer.
The mission of DWTMS is to combine the love of dance with community outreach.
For the first five years of the fundraising event, proceeds were donated to one local charity. This year the dancers get to choose the charity of their choice.
“This year,” Tansy explained, “we wanted to get more grass roots about it, in hopes of supporting local and small organizations that don’t get funded.”
Each celebrity dancer receives 20 to 30 dance lessons with their professional partner over a four-month period. “The less dance experience the dancers have,” Tansy shared, “the better.” “People like to support someone who’s willing to make a fool of themselves!”
Dancing with the Michigan Stars begins at 6 p.m., with appetizers, cocktails, a live band and gift bags for the first 200 guests. Dinner is served at 7 p.m., and the first half of the dance competition, including five teams, begins at 8 p.m. A 45-minute intermission separates the first half of the competition from the second half, where the remaining five teams will perform. An awards ceremony will conclude the event around 10 p.m., but guests are welcome to stay to dance and socialize.
Ira, Nerissa, Heidi and Krisitin are four of the ten celebrity dancers nominated to participate this year. Their energy and unique personalities, combined with their commitment to their charities, ensure an exciting and successful Dancing with the Michigan Stars.
comes to this event as a bit of a “ringer.” She was a cheerleader and a member of the dance team in high school; and the Senior Superlative in her high school yearbook read, “Most likely to dance in a Rap video.”
In the Dancing with the Michigan Stars competition, Nerissa will perform a salsa and samba combination to “Hips Don’t Lie,” by Shakira. A challenge to perform, Nerissa proclaimed, “I’m in it to win it.”
Nerissa is dancing to raise money for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, where “no child is denied treatment based on race, religion or a family’s ability to pay;” and where families never receive a bill for treatment, travel, housing or food.
She chose this charity because her girlfriend’s one-year-old child is currently receiving aggressive chemo treatments at St. Jude’s. “Having two young daughters, myself,” Nerissa shared, “I cannot fathom the heartache and stress my friend’s family is enduring.” “This little girl is a fighter. She’s brave. She’s my hero. I’ll be dancing in her honor.”
Nerissa is the lead renovation and design consultant with Ewing Pros Renovations and a member of Ewing Pros of Real Estate One
Heidi Elder Ewing
arrives at Dancing with the Michigan Stars with “zero” dance experience and admits she was clumsy as a child. As an adult, though, Heidi grew into an athlete with a committed workout ethic. “I love the challenge dancing provides,” she exclaimed.
Heidi is dancing to raise money for North Star Reach, a summer camp for children with serious medical conditions, free of charge, in Pinckney, Michigan. “Campers at North Star Reach experience all of the fun, joy and independence that all children receive at camp and appreciate a rare sense of normalcy.” A health center staffed by medical professionals allows children with complex medical needs to come to camp.
Heidi’s five-year-old son, Theo, was diagnosed with Focal Epilepsy in 2019. As a result, the Ewing family is focused on all the positive ways Theo, and all children with a medical diagnosis, can live a normal life.
The ability for these children to go to summer camp holds a special place in Heidi’s heart. “You know how something calls you?” Heidi asked. “Camp calls me.” “My husband, Rob, volunteered most of his childhood at YMCA Storer Camps, and his father was director of the facility for over 25 years.”
“I’ll be dancing with my heart,” she continued, “to a salsa inspired dance.” “I chose a nostalgic song that should be a crowd pleaser.”
Heidi is co-creator of Ewing Pros Renovations and a real estate professional at Ewing Pros of Real Estate One.
is participating in this year’s Dancing with the Michigan Stars to “sacrifice her dignity” in order to raise awareness and money for the Charles Woodson Clinical Research Fund. Her past dance experience is limited, but her senior project at Greenhills School was “ballroom dancing” with her boyfriend, where they ultimately performed four dances.
Today, Kristin hopes her athleticism and competitiveness will contribute to her performance. She’ll be dancing a cha-cha to a Jennifer Lopez song, wearing a sparkly blue dress with lots of fringe. A maize colored accent to her outfit is yet to be determined!
Kristin’s been involved with the Event on Main, a fundraiser for the Charles Woodson Clinical Research Fund, for the past ten years and currently serves as its chair. Its mission is “to advance innovative research ideas that have great potential to transform treatment approaches and offer real cures for children who need it most. At a time when industry and government support for creative programs is shrinking, especially when it comes to pediatric medicine, the Woodson Initiative is ensuring young investigators’ breakthrough discoveries.”
“It’s the research, including all of the innovation and collaboration within,” Kristin elaborated, “that excites the inner nerd in me.”
Kristin is an active member of the Ann Arbor non-profit community, working extensively over the years for the Junior League of Ann Arbor, C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital and Cause for a Party.
agreed to participate in DWTMS because he could choose his own charity. He comes to the event with no previous dance experience. “And in addition,” Ira added, “I have no rhythm and can’t even clap to a beat.” “My goal is to make sure I don’t hurt my partner or myself!”
Ira’s been practicing with his professional partner, once a week, since November. He’s keeping the type of dance he’ll perform a secret, but teased, “I’ll be dancing to an upbeat variety pack that suits my flexibility.”
Washtenaw 100 will be the recipient of Ira’s fundraising efforts. It is an organization that provides “immediate financial support to the families of law enforcement officers in Washtenaw County who die in the line of duty.” In addition, it annually awards college scholarships to the children of active duty law enforcement officers and firefighters, and monetary grants to local law enforcement and fire departments.
A Liberty member for nearly 20 years, Ira retired from a successful career in mortgage banking in 2009. Among his current commitments, Ira serves as president of the Ann Arbor Golf and Outing Club.
If you’re interested in attending this fun and worthwhile event, or in supporting one of its dancers’ deserving charities, call the Arthur Murray Dance Studio (734) 995-9500; or go to eventbright.com and search Dancing with the Michigan Stars.