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Lassen Family Services ‘Dancing for a Brand New Me’ This Weekend at Vets Hall

Friday, October 18th, 2019

Six dance teams will compete this weekend on the stage at the Veteran’s Memorial Hall on Main Street. photos by Stephanie Blakeman

One of Susanville’s most spectacular fundraising events of the year is coming up this weekend, October 18th and 19th, and organizers of the Dancing for a Brand New Me show say tickets are going fast for both Friday and Saturday night performances.

This is the 6th year for Lassen Family Services’ dance extravaganza. The competition features six well-known and talented community dancers who are paired with six professional dancers from local dance studios. The couples will dance to a variety of genres in three rounds in a competition similar to network television’s ‘Dancing with the Stars’ with a panel of judges commenting on the performances at the end of each round.

The Dancing for a Brand New Me event was created by the LFS team in 2014 as an attempt to bring something new to the community through outreach and entertainment with the focus on domestic violence. Former Lassen Family Services Executive Director, Melissa Downing, and Jennifer House, from House of Dance, were instrumental in bringing it from inspiration into reality.

This year dancers will perform to musical genres including Masquerade, Disco and a dancer’s choice round where any style is fair game.

Along with the evening’s dance competition there will be a guest speaker and performances by dancers from J and J Performing Arts, Joan’s Studio of Dance and House of Dance.

On Friday night the audience will get to vote for the People’s Choice winner – much coveted by the competitors because it is awarded by the crowd at the Veterans’ Hall. Fans of the dancers are also able to vote ahead of time online by making a donation to Lassen Family Services. Click here to donate and vote. Votes collected online are one dollar a piece and each vote helps that team’s final People’s Choice Award score during Friday night’s competition.

On Saturday night a panel of judges will score each round and name the year’s Champions. This year’s judges include local notables Larry McCracken, Celeste Wiser, Melyssah Rios, Gary Bridges and Susanville Police Chief Kevin Jones.

Tickets for the performances, which will be held at 7:00p.m. both Friday and Saturday, are $15 a piece and are available at Lassen Family Services, 1306 Riverside Drive or at Margie’s Book Nook in uptown Susanville. You can also click here to purchase them online. All proceeds go to Lassen Family Services helping serve local victims of abuse.

Let’s Meet Our Talented Dance Teams!

Brandon Pratt and Doria Dalu

Brandon Pratt

Brandon Pratt is a Lassen County boy through and through. He attended Shaffer Elementary School, graduated from Lassen High School in 1995, and earned a degree in Welding Technology from Lassen Community College in 1997. He is a former Whopper Flopper, logger and ironworker. Pratt has been an officer for the California Highway Patrol for 14 years. He is the president of the CHP 140 Squad Club and donates countless hours to support the great Lassen County community.

He has two beautiful daughters, Peyton, 10 and Avarie, 7.  After serving as a judge in the 2018 Dancing for a Brand New Me, Brandon wholeheartedly volunteered to dance for the 2019 fundraiser.

He is super excited to be partnered with choreographer, Doria Dalu, and to be a part of Lassen Family Services’ effort to serve domestic violence survivors.

Doria Dalu

Doria Dalu has been a choreographer for Dancing for a Brand New Me for five years. As a survivor of domestic violence; not only is it an honor for her to be invited back as a volunteer, but it also gives her pleasure to help raise awareness for Lassen Family Services.

Doria started dancing at age 15 when her mother took her and her sister to a Polynesian dance studio in Buena Park, CA. Later, her father taught her the Jitterbug in her family’s front room. As a senior in high school, she choreographed the high school play, which consisted of multiple jazz and ballroom style dances.

It wasn’t long after graduating that she started performing professionally. Doria has performed in Las Vegas, and also, at Sea World in Florida, Ohio, and Southern California. She performed at NFL linebacker, Jr. Seau’s wedding and filmed with Wayne Newton and Ruth Buzzy. Doria is in her 14th year as a choreographer for Susanville’s Best of Broadway production.

Click here to vote for Brandon and Doria

Shelley Bennett and Alex McElrath

Shelley Bennett

Shelley Bennett is the multitasking mother of three awesome kids: Jacob, Landon and Sofia. Shelley is an English teacher at Lassen High School where she also coaches Drill Team and is the Class of 2020’s advisor.

She is married to Leo Bennett, land surveyor and her high school sweetheart. Shelley loves to volunteer as the Miss Lassen County Director and Northern California Cancer Advocates’ president.

She has wanted to participate in Dancing for a Brand New Me since she first found out about the fundraiser. In her free time, Shelley enjoys watching her kids play sports and perform. She also enjoys reading and crafting.

Alex McElrath

Alex McElrath is a Reno native who has lived in Susanville most of his life. He first began dancing his senior year in the Lassen High School vocal stage ensemble. It was there that he was introduced to the Best of Broadway production and met Jennifer House. With Jennifer, he started taking classes and, eventually, began teaching.

McElrath has participated in every Dancing for a Brand New Me event to date. Alex is, now, married to his dance partner from the first year, Ruth, and this last summer they welcomed a new baby boy, Callan. Alex is currently one of the principal instructors at House of Dance, teaching break dance, standard Waltz, slow Foxtrot, salsa, Cha-Cha, Rumba, East Coast Swing, Argentine Tango, and a dance combination class.

Click here to vote for Shelley and Alex

Eric Perry and Terra Avilla

Eric Perry

Eric Perry is the administrator of Diamond Peak Boys Home in Susanville. He was born and raised in the San Joaquin Valley. Perry was drafted by the Chicago Cubs and spent four seasons playing professional baseball. During that time, he developed a passion for helping troubled youth, making it his career.

Perry says that he feels blessed to have had a role the lives of hundreds of California’s most troubled teenage boys. His organization has helped countless high school graduates, highly decorated members of the military, and a lot of good men that didn’t know they were until they experienced the program.

He works every day with children that have witnessed and are survivors of domestic violence.

Perry said that he is so lucky to have been given Terra Avilla as a partner, because her energy, patience, and enthusiasm have made it so much fun for a guy like Eric, “whose bones creak when he climbs out of bed.”

Terra Avilla

Terra Avilla is the proud mother of two little girls, Anna ‘Peach’ and Elena ‘Pearl’. She is currently a Susanville Police Department Officer and has worked for the department for 6 years.

Avilla is married to Frank Avilla, the baseball coach at Lassen College. Frank is her biggest fan and she says that she would not do half the things she is able to achieve without his support.

She is an avid volunteer and thoroughly enjoys the opportunity to be a part of such a wonderful event.

In her free time, Terra enjoys running, singing in the car, and spending quality time with her family. This is Terra’s 6th year participating in Dancing for a Brand New Me and she looks forward to it all year.

Click here to vote for Terra and Eric

Nycki Lofton and Mondy Rigling

Mondy Rigling

Mondy Rigling has lived in Lassen County for the last 16 years. She is originally from Santa Rosa and graduated from Ursuline High School in 2005. Rigling is married to Chris, who works at High Desert State Prison, and together they have two children; spunky Christopher, 12, and creative Brooke, 10.

Mondy currently works as the Office Administrator for Homme’s Landscaping. Mondy’s favorite way to spend her time is with her family, whether in Susanville or Santa Rosa.

Nycki Lofton

Nycki Lofton is a new choreographer to the Dancing for a Brand New Me team. She has lived in Susanville for 7 years and has two beautiful children, Amaiya, 7, and Aiden, 4, and an amazing husband, Lafayette. Lofton is a proud United States Navy Veteran.

She is the owner of Nycki’s Knits and Creations and one of the dance instructors of the strut class at J&J Performing Arts and is the instructor of the Sassy Sweat fitness class at New Image Racquetball and Fitness Center. Lofton is very charity and community-oriented and loves to have fun!

Click here to vote for Mondy and Nycki

Theresa Phillips and Seanne McElrath

Theresa Phillips

Theresa has lived in Susanville since 1983. She moved here with her family from Las Vegas where she grew up. She has worked for Lassen Municipal Utility District since 2003, as the Public Relations and Energy Services Manager. Prior to joining LMUD, she was the Executive Director of the Lassen County Chamber of Commerce.

Currently, she sits on the Lassen County Chamber Board of Directors and is the Lassen County board member for Alliance for Workforce Development.

Theresa’s favorite pastimes include playing guitar and singing, working with the Susanville’s Best of Broadway production, enjoying the great outdoors and spending time with her family and friends.

Seanne McElrath

Seanne is originally from Reno, Nevada, but has spent most of his life in Susanville. He has been dancing for over 20 years and has participated in many local events for the arts.

McElrath has been a professional dancer for Dancing for a Brand New Me since it started six years ago and works with the other professional dancers, as needed, to help them with teaching their Star partners.

Whether he is a choreographer, performing, or instructing, he is always happy to serve the wonderful Lassen County community.

He currently teaches classes at House of Dance, along with his brother, Alex. When McElrath is not dancing, you can find him at Forest Office Equipment, where he has worked for the last four years.

He says that he is “deeply humbled and honored to be involved with such a noble event.”

Click here to vote for Theresa and Seanne

Brad Medvin and Amanda Tannous

Brad Medvin

Brad Medvin was born in Akron, Ohio and grew up in southern California.  He is the proud father of Louis, 25, and Samantha, 10.

Medvin moved to Susanville in 1998 where he has worked with the Bureau of Land Management, US Forest Service and the City of Susanville Fire Department.

In 2013, he was hired at the California Correctional Center Fire Department as a Fire Captain. He continues to serve as a volunteer firefighter with the Susanville Fire Department.

In his off time he enjoys spending time with his children and friends, traveling and attending sporting events.  During football season, you can catch Brad on the sidelines of the Lassen High football team’s home games as a member of the ‘chain gang.’

Brad’s daughter has been a competitive dancer for the last 7 years with J&J Performing Arts and has given Brad inspiration, along with some pointers for dancing. Brad is dancing in memory of his mom and a close friend that he holds very close to his heart.

Amanda Tannous

Amanda was born in Fresno, California and raised in Clovis, California. Amanda has been in Susanville for two years. She lives here with her two energetic and courageous children, AadaMarie and Tanner.

Tannous graduated from Fresno City College in 2013 with her Associate Degree in dance. Amanda teaches modern dance at House of Dance and is a valued choreographer for Susanville’s Best of Broadway. This is Amanda’s first year as a professional for Dancing for a Brand New Me.

Click here to vote for Brad and Amanda

It isn’t all about the dancing however.

Through this show Lassen Family Services hopes 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.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness month across the nation and here locally Lassen Family Services has reached out to our community through a series of events and projects aimed at raising awareness and acknowledgment of a crime that is truly heinous in nature – domestic violence.

According to Lassen Family Services 40% of California women will experience physical intimate partner violence in their lifetime.

There is a long history behind Lassen Family Services. The private, non-profit organization was founded in 1979 and relies completely on federal, state and foundation grants and public donations to provide a lengthy list of free services to our community; domestic violence and sexual assault rape crisis counseling/intervention, emergency shelter and transitional housing, 24-Hour crisis line, sexual assault response team, Court Appointed Special Advocates program, child abuse treatment program, legal assistance/court advocacy, parent education, prevention education, law enforcement and hospital accompaniment, emergency food and clothing, emergency and non-emergency transportation and community referrals.

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