Robby Robinson is keeping the fact he’s competing in the 2018 Dancing with the Richmond Stars show hush-hush. Until now, that is.
“I still haven’t told my mom, and I haven’t told a ton of my friends either because I don’t know if I want them to come watch me,” says Robinson, the general manager of VCU Sports Properties and radio voice of the VCU Rams. “I don’t even know if I want my wife to be there.”
He agreed to be a Richmond star because the proceeds from the show, presented by the MCVH Auxiliary of the VCU Health System and Children’s Hospital Foundation, will be used to fund the Children’s Activity Center at the Virginia Treatment Center for Children. The VTCC is the mental health arm of Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU.
“It’s a great cause,” he says. “That was the number one reason I volunteered. I don’t know that I would volunteer to dance in front of people without a great cause.”
This year marks the eighth year for the annual ballroom dance competition, modeled after the ABC’s hit Dancing with the Stars.
Robinson thought participating might help him up his dance game. “I’m a terrible dancer,” he says. “I’m the one in the group who hasn’t danced before.”
The night of the show he will be doing the East Coast swing with his dance instructor partner, Beth Gordon. “She’s fantastic. She’s very encouraging,” he says. “That’s the best thing. I have found everybody is encouraging.”
The two have been practicing for about a month and a half – a bit later than some dancers because of basketball season, Robinson says.
One of his most challenging tasks, he finds, is trying to master the rhythm. “I have no rhythm,” he says. “We are doing a basketball scene and for the first part of the song, I am dribbling a basketball on the off-beat. I don’t know what the off-beat is so it’s difficult to master.”
The first couple of times he practiced, he thought that his stage debut would be a disaster. “I knew it wasn’t good,” he says.
But now, he’s really looking forward to the show as long as “people don’t take it too seriously,” he says. “I’m a ham at heart. Getting in front of people and entertaining is something I enjoy.”
All of the stars of the show are learning their dances under the direction of Eleanor Robertson at Rigby’s Jig Ballroom Dance Studio. The studio volunteers the space and the professional dance partners from the studio volunteer their time and expertise.
The first course of action each year is a meet-and-greet where Robertson and her volunteers find out what the stars are interested in learning so they can be partnered with the right instructor. “We start with the dance, but we also take their personality into consideration as well as their height,” she says.
She aims for twelve lessons that usually start in January and end with a dress and tech rehearsal before the big night. “Everybody has really risen to the occasion,” she says. “They get out there and it looks fantastic. Every year it seems like the show gets better and better.”
Dancing in the show gives Dr. Crystal Crewe, nurse manager in the clinical decision unit in the emergency department at VCU Health, the chance to cross off learning a ballroom dance from her bucket list.
She’s always had a passion for dancing and this year seemed like the right time and place to put that to the test. She quickly discovered that ballroom dancing isn’t as easy as it looks on television. “I can do regular dances, but ballroom takes it to a whole different level. For the first few weeks of practice, it was like I had two left feet,” she says.
She will be dancing the nightclub two-step with her professional dance partner, Dave Headley. “He is awesome. He’s very patient,” she says.
She looks forward to her dance lessons because it helps her escape the chaos of her work. “It’s doing something for me. It’s about finding some me-time,” she says.
Even though ballroom dancing is out of her comfort zone, Crewe says it’s more familiar and comfortable now. “When I’m there [practicing], it’s like ‘hey I am dancing.’ I can’t believe it. I am going to join Rigby’s Jig after this is over.”
Robinson can also see himself taking lessons with his wife. “She’s a really good dancer,” he says of his wife. “That way, I could dance with her and not embarrass her.”
Dancing with the Richmond Stars takes place on May 18 at seven o’clock at the VCU Singleton Center, 922 Park Ave. Tickets for the performance and gala celebration are $100. Call 804-228-5827 for more information, or go here.