Arts and Entertainment

Auction helps Whidbey Island Dance Theatre stars shine bright

WIDT alumna Raelani Kesler, here performing “This Bitter Earth,” choreographed by alumna Jamee Pitts, will perform at the Evening with the Stars. - Michael Stadler photo
WIDT alumna Raelani Kesler, here performing “This Bitter Earth,” choreographed by alumna Jamee Pitts, will perform at the Evening with the Stars.
— image credit: Michael Stadler photo

The dancers of Whidbey Island Dance Theatre train all year long to bring audiences top-notch dance productions.

Sore muscles and bloody toes are a small price to pay for the privilege of bringing joy to audiences through the powerful language of dance. Twelve months a year, they sweat in classes, stick to grueling rehearsal schedules, all while keeping up with high school, to shine in shows such as the Nutcracker or their spring concert, Cinderella and Choreography Showcase.

Once a year, however, the community gets to celebrate those young dancers.

This year’s Evening With the Stars Dinner & Fundraising Auction will be held at 5:30 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 23 at the Useless Bay Golf and Country Club.

An Evening with the Stars offers attendees a chance to support the Whidbey Island Dance Theatre mission and enjoy dance performances in a more intimate setting.

This is Whidbey Island Dance Theatre’s eighth annual dinner and auction which helps raise funds to continue high quality dance productions such as the dance company’s Nutcracker and Cinderella ballets or the Choreography Showcase which features a variety of dance styles.

“We started putting on a fundraising auction simply because ticket sales to our two major shows aren’t enough to cover all expenses,” said Amy Lehman, assistant artistic director of Whidbey Island Dance Theatre.

The dance company provides the opportunity for young dancers to perform on stage in semi-professional settings, train with acclaimed teachers, and attend training and conferences on a regional and national level — in short to prepare aspiring dancers for a potential career in the performing arts.

“Without the generous financial support of our community we could not fulfill our mission and continue to give our dancers the production, festival, performance and educational opportunities that they must have to enter the pre-professional and professional world of dance,” said long-time artistic director Charlene Brown. “We expose them to all areas of their art form.”

Whidbey Island Dance Theatre has been doing this successfully for nearly two decades, as scores of alumna who have gone on to professional dance careers stand proof.

One of those dancers is Katelyn Candelario Lodell. She studied dance in college and has since performed professionally. Lodell has also returned to the island production of the Nutcracker as a professional dancer. Her father Frank Candelario will lead the evening as the auctioneer. Candelario is well known for his passion for the dance company that has given his daughter so much over the years.

Besides helping to pay for production cost and additional training of the dancers, the auction also contributes to the dance scholarship that is available for company dancers.

“The majority of our Gretchen Jacobsen Lee Scholarship Fund is raised during the ‘raise-the-paddle’ section of our auction,” Lehman said. “I say majority because other than minor donations we might get during the year, it all comes from the auction.”

Scholarships helped five company dancers attend summer workshops in Walla Walla, Edmonds and Utah last year, she added.

“We also do a ‘raise-the-paddle’ for future projects,” she added. “Three years ago, when we were putting on our first production of Cinderella, we raised money to build the new costumes. Last year we raised enough money to buy a new floor for the auditorium, which we used during this year’s Nutcracker.”

A dinner and live auction will be the main event.

“It’s a fun time to dress up, eat great food, bid on some fabulous items and support our non-profit organization,” Lehman said.

Items on the auction block include Everett Silvertips tickets, paintings, handmade items, delicious food items and more. Additional monetary donations and items are still welcome, Lehman said.

Dinner and complimentary champagne are served, with a no-host bar.

Dance performances will round out the evening.

Lehman said the company dancers give two short performances — snippets of pieces that will be performed at the Choreography Showcase/Cinderella production in the spring. Jamee Pitts and Lara Littlefield are the two choreographers presenting shortened versions of their dance pieces at the auction.

Tickets cost $60 per person, or $100 for couples. Call 341-2221 or email for tickets.

WIDT is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, so all donations are tax-deductible.

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