Mary Ann Harwood of Chatham, a physician in the emergency room at Cape Cod Hospital, began taking dance lessons about a year ago – but she never dreamed that she would soon be vying for first place in a dance competition in front of a sellout crowd.
This Saturday, March 4, Harwood will be one of nine Cape Cod doctors, each paired with a professional dancer, who will compete in a fundraising event for the Cape Wellness Collaborative (CWC). The event, “Dancing With the Docs Cape Cod,” is billed as a local version of “Dancing with the Stars.”
Is Harwood nervous?
“Of course I am,” she says, laughing. “I have questioned myself many times why did I say yes.”
Three judges will score the dancers at the black-tie event at the Willowbend Country Club in Mashpee. The public can also vote online or via text messages to help determine a winner.
Sarah Swain of Harwich is the creative force behind the fundraiser. Swain, who is a dancer and leader of the rockabilly band Sarah Swain and the Oh Boys, is also the president, founder and CEO of the non-profit CWC. CWC, based in Hyannis, provides “integrative wellness therapies” to Cape Codders with cancer. Swain founded the CWC in 2014 after she lost her mother to ovarian cancer. The group offers therapies including acupuncture, Reiki, yoga, massage, energy work and nutrition counseling free of charge to cancer patients on the Cape and Islands.
Swain credits physician Kathryn Dalton, who will also be dancing, with sharing the idea of a dance competition that she heard about at a conference.
“My mind pretty much exploded,” Swain said in an email interview last week. “The rest is history.”
Once she had determined on the style of fundraiser, Swain reached out to Harwood’s dancing partner and teacher, Adam Spencer, who is based in Chatham’s Studio 878. Swain and Spencer brought in the professional dancers while Dalton worked on persuading the doctors to dance. At a dinner CWC held in early October, dancing partners and dancing styles were assigned by pulling them out of a hat.
“Every couple has a difference dance style to tackle: swing, foxtrot, salsa, tango, country and western, jazz, disco, rumba and waltz,” Swain says. “Basic dance technique is hard enough to learn but having to master a ballroom style on top of that is a truly monumental task.”
Once partners and styles were assigned, the doctors and dancers began rehearsing at once.
Except for Harwood and Spencer, that is. They are johnny-come-latelies to the event—when a doctor dropped out, Harwood was recruited. At the same time Spencer lost his partner. They have been practicing twice weekly only since late January.
Harwood grew up in Tennessee taking dance lessons and danced in college. A little over a year ago she signed up for classes with Spencer. She began with ballroom dancing and segued into country and western, the style of dance the pair will perform at the event.
We think of country and western performers wearing western-style stitched blouses and belts with turquoise buckles. Harwood is not going to dress like that, although she concedes “the clothing has been a challenge. It’s been very hard to find.” In fact, she devoted two days to shopping in Nashville, back in her home state. She eventually hit upon a skirt that she will couple with short boots.
As for the dancing itself, she says of Spencer, “he’s an absolutely fabulous dancer. He has won all sorts of competitions. I’m doing my best just to keep up with him.”
And the music? That’s a secret, but the pair will begin with the Tennessee Waltz. “We both just liked it and we thought it would be a hoot,” Harwood says.
Harwood speaks highly of CWC. When her mother was dying of breast cancer 25 years ago, the support of CWC’s offerings was not available. So “I’m absolutely thrilled they’re doing it,” she says of the CWC and the event.
As well as Harwood and Dalton, the following seven doctors will compete: Jennifer Crook, Marc Fater, Patty Fater, Jose Fernandez, Jeffrey Martin, Molly Sullivan and Darijan Suton.
“Dancing With the Docs Cape Cod” will be held on Saturday, March 4, from 6 to 10 p.m. at Willowbend Country Club in Mashpee. Monies raised will go to Cape Wellness Collaborative. Tickets are $250 each and may be ordered online at www.dwtdcapecod.com. The evening begins with a cocktail hour followed by a gourmet dinner. A live auction and an open dance floor will be held after the dance competition. The event is sponsored by CWC and Cape Cod Healthcare in Hyannis.
Free live-stream viewing parties will be held at The Loft (at the Cove), 183 Main St., West Yarmouth and Seaside Pub on Main, 615 Main St., Hyannis. To watch at home through Cape Cod Community Media (C3TV), check local cable stations.
Viewers can vote online at www.dwtdcapecod.com or can text CCDOCS to 855-735-2437. Votes are $10 each and benefit CWC.