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Canton Ballet kicked off its new fundraiser Touchdowns & Tutus on Saturday night to a high energy crowd of over 1,200 at the Pro Football Hall of Fame Campus Umstattd Performing Arts Hall. The performance of local high school football talents paired with Canton Ballet dancers, a unique concept for Stark County and possibly the entire U.S., was a huge success. The sold out VIP tailgate after party at the Pro HOF Event Center was attended by 305 persons. Both events raised $70,000 to benefit Canton Ballet.
Chair Ashley Bettis stated, "Words cannot describe how proud I am of all the kids. They worked so hard. It was astonishing to see the huge transformation in both their dancing and their attitudes throughout this process. They are the walking definition of what courage means. They will always be my stars."
The dance event was led off by professional contemporary dancer Dacia Biletnikoff accompanied by renowned percussionist Elec Simon and vocalist Rudy Parris. Biletnikoff is the daughter of 1988 Hall of Famer Fred Biletnikoff who was in attendance; Canton native Simon is a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers Q-Stix who play for all Cavs' home games; and Native American singer, guitarist and songwriter Parris was featured on an NBC The Voice finale.
Emmy-nominated sports reporter Jamir Howerton was master of ceremonies. Howerton is a highly experienced NFL multi-media producer and sideline reporter.
Capturing first place was Minerva football player Trey Carl and his partner, Central Catholic freshman Taylor Adams. Each received $500 and HOF Legends Concert tickets. Decisions were made by celebrity judges Sylvia Mackey (John, HOF 1992), international ballet teacher and coach Laura Alonso, two-time Pro Bowler Vernon Davis, TV and radio football analyst and show host Matt Wilhelm, and by audience participation.
Proceeds will benefit Canton Ballet programs including scholarships, educational outreach, live music for classes, guest choreographers and master teachers, and its public theatre productions.