DC’s Dancing Stars Gala celebrates six years in November

Hit TV show ‘Dancing with the Stars’ gets a local twist with this one-of-a-kind fundraiser starring some of the region’s notable residents.

people standing with trophies
The awards ceremony at the 2018 DC’s Dancing with Stars event. (Photo courtesy of Maria Coakley David)

When you put professional dancers and elite celebrities like athletes, singers and journalists together on a stage, it’s bound to be entertaining. Throw in a grand prize of $10,000 for a nearby charity and it gets even better. 

The participation of notable locals is what makes DC’s Dancing Stars Gala—the annual fundraiser in Tysons Corner inspired by hit TV show Dancing with the Stars—so successful, according to founder Maria Coakley David. 

“It’s so similar to the show and it’s an experience that all our participants say is one of the best things they’ve done in their lifetime,” says Coakley David. “Yet, the best part is that people get to see their community members on stage working so hard for a charity close to their heart, which really resonates.”

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man spinning woman in white dress
Darren Haynes of WUSA9 spins a dancer at last year’s event. (Photo courtesy of Maria Coakley David)

While the inaugural event began just six years ago, Coakley David and her husband Jim were introduced to dance over a decade ago when the pair took ballroom dance lessons for Valentine’s Day. Not long after, the duo opened the first Fred Astaire Dance Studios in the DC region, as part of the company’s franchise network.

Today, both Jim and Maria are leaders in their respective industries, as well as passionate dance enthusiasts who have worked together to generate over $1 million for local charities from this annual event. 

This year, seven well-known individuals, including United States Olympian Julie Culley, Great Day Washington host Kristen Berset-Harris and Mike Manatos, who serves as chairman of the board of the Mid-Atlantic branch of the Make-A-Wish Foundation, will perform alongside dance professionals in front of hundreds of people.

Leading up to the competition, each participant is encouraged to raise money for their designated charity, which all benefit a variety of causes, such as economically vulnerable mothers, those impacted with breast cancer, leukemia and other critical illnesses, and more.  

three people with 10 in hand
Last year’s judges were Monte Durham from Say Yes to the Dress (left), Chelsie Hightower (center) and former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer (right). (Photo courtesy of Maria Coakley David)

On the evening of the affair, each participant will dance it out with their professional partner, whom they’ve been practicing with over the course of the past few months, for a chance to win the grand prize of $10,000 for their respective charity. Whether they go for ballroom, salsa or a ballet performance, the choice is theirs. 

In addition to the on-stage entertainment, guests will enjoy a sit-down dinner, a silent auction, a live DJ and specialty cocktails throughout the event. Plus, this year’s emcees include Emmy-award winning television personality Will Thomas and founder of media consulting company Laura Evans Media, Laura Evans Manatos. As for who decides the winner? Emmy-nominated ballroom dancer Chelsie Hightower, who has been featured as a regular dance partner, trainer and choreographer on ABC’s Dancing with the Stars, as well as audience members.

“Most of these people have zero dance background, which just makes it so much fun,” says Coakley David of this year’s featured participants. “With so many charity events in this town, I think this is really different and stands out.”

For tickets to the DC’s Dancing the Stars Gala or for more information on sponsors, competitors and benefiting charities, click here. // Four Seasons Hotel: 2800 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, DC; $35-$375

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