Nancy Maria Balach is no stranger to music or performing on stage. However, the University of Mississippi professor and chair of the Music Department will soon be dancing her heart out to benefit local children.
Balach is one of this year’s celebrity dancers in the upcoming Boys & Girls Clubs of North Mississippi’s Dance Like the Stars Event in Tupelo.
The 16th annual fundraiser will be held on Aug. 21 at the BancorpSouth Arena.
Volunteers agree to learn a professional ballroom dance routine with a professional partner from Tupelo’s The Dance Studio, but more importantly, they agree to raise funding for the Boys & Girls Clubs. The dancer raising the most money is named the event Grand Champion.
“This is really a beautiful embodiment of so many entities across north Mississippi coming together to raise money for a really important entity,” Balach said.
Balach attended the event two years ago and was thrilled when organizers asked her to be one of the celebrity dancers for this year’s event.
“One of the things I love about the University of Mississippi is how so many people on this campus choose to connect with the community in really significant ways,” she said.
Balach is partnered with Andrew Davis with the Dance Studio of Tupelo. The two have been practicing once a week at the Oxford Fencing Club. While she has danced in many musical theater productions, she admits ballroom dancing with a partner was a bit out of her comfort zone at first.
“It’s an adjustment when you’re used to doing it solo and then you’re dancing with a partner, it’s a complete game-changer,” but Andrew is an awesome teacher,” she said.
While Balach said while she is enjoying the dancing, the fundraising part of the challenge is what matters to her the most.
She aims to raise $20,000 to $30,000 for the organization and has been going about raising money by using a personal touch to her requests.
“Having to show up to practice and sweat and learn the dance, that’s the easy part,” she said. “That is in my control. It’s the part of inspiring others to open their pockets and to share – that’s the hardest part,” she said. “I’ve been writing a lot of handwritten notes and mailing them through the U.S. Postal Service, emailing and calling people. I’ve visited folks and also using social media. I’m trying to make it personal and not just popping a card in an envelope and mailing it out.”
Some of the funds raised will benefit the Lafayette-Oxford-University Barksdale Club that is headed up locally by director Kenorus Wilson.
“He does a phenomenal job and we are very fortunate to have people here in Oxford stepping up and leading in these ways,” Balach said.
Other celebrity dancers Include Miriam Anderson of Ripley, Alli Hodges of New Albany and Brooke Burleson, Dr. Laura Marion, Trish McCluney, Victor McMillen, Daniella Oropeza, Dr. Gabe Rulewiz, Demetra Sherer and Joe Washington, all of Tupelo.