Dance with your heart and your feet will follow

By Paul Lonardo

That’s the motto of John and Dee Soares, former competitive dancers and now husband and wife team, who own and operate Studio One RI in Lincoln. The facility, which boasts one of the largest dance floors in the state, specializes in providing instruction for a wide variety of dancing styles with the goal of making learning to dance easy and fun. Offering lessons in social dancing, wedding preparation, private and group lessons, youth and adult programs, jazz, tap, ballet and dance fitness classes, Studio One RI has a little bit of everything.

It was six years ago that the couple made their dream come true by opening up their own dance studio in a Saylesville factory complex.

“We found a beautiful facility with great floors and lots of windows.” Dee says. “We instantly fell in love with the place at first sight and have been slowly growing the business ever since.”

Dee’s background as a competitive dancer sometimes has her thinking about getting back into it competitively, and even though she and her husband are devoted to what they do for their students at Studio One RI, they remain very active and continue to dance, mostly through the United Country Western Dance Council (UCWDC), an international organization which promotes country western dance by producing festivals and competitions all around the world.

Dee’s love for dance aside, she says her passion is helping her community. She coaches a special needs dance team and is President of the Rhode Island Ballroom Associates. One of more the interesting productions that she is involved with through Studio One RI is a fundraiser called Dancing with the Doctors. This annual charity event offers a unique evening of entertainment and features some of Rhode Island’s most notable doctors, paired with professional dance instructors, competing in a dance-off to win the much-coveted “Mirror Ball Trophy” while at the same time raising money for a local charity.

The 2016 Dancing with the Doctors event will be held at Twin Rivers Event Center in Lincoln on April 16, with the proceeds benefiting Home and Hospice Care of Rhode Island.

This charity began several years ago, morphing from a different event called, So You Think You Can Dance New England, which was sponsored by Studio One RI for younger people.

“We sponsored this event for a couple of years,” Dee says. “It was a lot of fun, but it is difficult to organize children to dance; a lot harder than it is for adults. What happened was, with the success of the hugely popular ABC show, Dancing with the Stars, one day I told my husband that I wanted to do something like that, and he was right on board with it.”

Dee began brainstorming and her efforts eventually lead to Dancing with the Doctors, an event, which was influenced in no small part by the friendships she had with a number of local doctors who danced. When she passed the idea by them, they all thought it would be a lot of fun and committed to participating. One thing that was missing was a charitable organization to donate the proceeds. With many worthy charities go choose from, the only thing that Dee wanted to ensure was that the money be donated locally.

“That’s when I called a friend of mine who worked for CAT Country Radio,” Dee says. “I bounced a few ideas I had off her, and she told me about Amanda Leonardo, the morning DJ at the station, who was being nominated for Rhode Island Woman of the Year by the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Having a father-in-law who had been diagnosed with lymphoma, I thought that would be a perfect fit. So the very first Dancing with the Doctors charity event began as a way to support Amanda in her endeavor to become Woman of the Year.”

The event was a success for everyone involved, including Amanda, who ended up winning the honor of Woman of the Year. The following year, Dr. Anthony Deluise, who participated in the first Dancing with the Doctors and won one of the divisions, was nominated to be Man of the Year by the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Once again, Dee threw herself behind Dr. Deluise and held a second event, calling upon Rhode Island physicians to participate while securing sponsors to produce a second Dancing with the Doctors event in 2015. It was even more successful, raising $50,000. Dee is quick to point out that Dr. Deluise was elected Man of the Year.

The event this year will be benefit Home and Hospice Care of Rhode Island, an organization that is headed by Dr. Edward Martin, an internist and geriatric medicine specialist, with whom Dee has been acquainted with for several years.

“I wanted to do this for Home and Hospice Care,” Dee explains, “because they were there for me and my family when we were losing a loved one. They gave us guidance and support, making a difficult time a little easier, so we wanted to turn around and support them. They do a lot of good things for a lot of people.”

Dee plans to continue producing an annual Dancing with the Doctors event and donating the proceeds to a different charity each year. She already has a charitable organization in mind for 2017, one that is also near and dear to her, but she will not announce the name of that charity until after this year’s event.

“I think it’s important to support local charities,” Dee says. “I pick with my heart. So Home and Hospice Care will be the benefactor of everyone’s hard work this year.”

Eighteen doctors have signed on to make the 2016 event a success. While it is great fun for a great cause, it is also a big commitment and a lot of work. The doctors can’t just get out on the dance floor and wing it. Much preparation is involved, practicing and rehearsing and getting in shape. For about two months prior to the event, the doctors work closely with their dance partners and instructors at Studio One RI to prepare for the show.

Typically, doctors do not have a lot of down time, so Dee and the other instructors know that they have to be flexible, making themselves available virtually 24-hours a day. Sometimes they are at the studio rehearsing at 6 in the morning and other times 11 at night.

“We work our schedules around whatever will meet the doctors’ best needs,” Dee says. “We understand that they have stressful jobs and that they are in high demand, so we try to make the practice sessions as pleasant and convenient as we can possibly make it.”

Dee begins by working with each dancer individually to determine what kind of dance will best work for their skill level and experience, as well as their personality.

“Individual body type, size, and shape all come into play and make a difference,” Dee says. “Some doctors will arrive and say, ‘I want to dance to this song’ or ‘I want to do that dance.’ They usually know exactly what they want. So now it becomes our job to find the choreography to fit and make them all look good on the dance floor.”

While the individual dances are the doctors’ choosing, a majority of the performances are ballroom style, though all forms are available and selections can vary widely, from hip-hop and salsa to swing and the cha cha to the foxtrot and the waltz, tango and rumba, even soft shoe. In the past, there have been some unique dance concepts performed, including Batman’s bat dance, a Bonnie and Clyde routine, and Michael Jackson’s Thriller.

“We help them pick what’s going to work for them and what’s going to work for the audience, because it is, after all, a show,” Dee says. “A lot of times, we pick themes. For doctors who may not have a lot of dance experience, they usually like having a theme, because it’s easier to take on a persona and become that person, rather than having to go out there and try to do a cha-cha as yourself. So you can go out there and pretend you’re Ricky Ricardo and you’re dancing with Lucy, and you’re having the time of your life.”

The event is not only fun for the doctors, it is also very rewarding for them. Dr. Lou Rice, a specialist in infectious disease, who participated in last year’s event, told Dee that the dancing and preparation required to compete in Dancing with the Doctors is a therapeutic and peaceful time.

So, next time, as you’re sitting in a crowded waiting room outside your doctor’s office, it might make you feel better to know that your doctor might just be rehearsing his or her dance moves in preparation for this year’s event. Or better still, buy a ticket for the April 16 event and experience Dancing with the Doctors yourself.

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