The Coastal Star

Tim Quinn’s mother, Christine, laughs as Quinn and Sayra Vazquez Brann prepare for Boca’s Ballroom Battle at Fred Astaire Dance Studios of Boca Raton. The annual contest is Sept. 20 at the Boca Raton Resort & Club. Photos by Tim Stepien/The Coastal Star

Boca’s Ballroom Battle: Dancing ability a plus, but fundraising a must

By Margie Plunkett

When dance instructor Sayra Vazquez Brann asked her student to demonstrate his normal dance move, Tim Quinn connected her with his New York designer friends on a FaceTime call. “They imitated my movements,” Quinn recalls. Brann “was dying. I would literally stand in one place and kind of move my arm to hold my cocktail — and that was my dance move.”

Quinn, a celebrity makeup artist with Giorgio Armani Beauty, has since been practicing to compete in the 12th annual Boca’s Ballroom Battle, a competition modeled after Dancing with the Stars. His Fred Astaire Studio dance partner, Brann, has been teaching him the steps, posture and attitude essential to the dance they’ll perform at the Sept. 20 competition.

By July, Quinn had learned lunges and anticipated attempting a “somewhat terrifying” lift.

“This is a whole lot different” from his previous moves, he said. “I have a lot more respect for dance — I didn’t realize how much work it is.”

Quinn is one of eight local residents chosen for the dance competition at the Boca Raton Resort & Club, which benefits the George Snow Scholarship Fund. The Boca Raton-based organization grants four-year college scholarships to students in Palm Beach County, as well as Blanche Ely and Pompano Beach high schools in Pompano Beach.

The fund has granted $1.4 million in scholarships and support services this year and $12.1 million worth since 1982. Boca’s Ballroom Battle is the largest of the fundraisers that benefit the scholarship fund.

Dancers are chosen for their ability to attract contributions as well as their potential in dance. They take group and private lessons at Fred Astaire Dance Studios of Boca Raton,  and their dance partners are selected from the studio staff. At the end of the Battle, two winners are chosen — the man and woman who have brought in the most donations.

When Quinn was invited to compete, he thought of plenty of cons: his crazy travel schedule, time needed as his mother’s caregiver, and the nerve damage in his leg from a battle with cancer a decade earlier. He finally agreed to do it. But it was while attending the ESPYs in Los Angeles in July that he realized he could.

At the “Oscars of sports,” Quinn was inspired by men and women with major disabilities “who are megastar athletes. Here I’ve been for the last 10 years, because of the cancer treatment, thinking, ‘I can’t do that.’ Sometimes we limit ourselves in our own head,” he said. “These are people who haven’t let anything stop them.”

Ultimately, Quinn was really glad he agreed to compete. “I’m kind of sort of dreading it, but secretly I’ve always wanted to learn how to dance. So it’s kind of fun.” He was also moved by the “far-reaching impact” of the George Snow fund, the need for scholarship funds locally, and “how remarkable it is to change someone’s life.”

Instructor James Brann and contestant Minelle Tendler prepare for Boca’s Ballroom Battle. She said she ‘grew up dancing salsa my whole life. So I feel pretty confident.’

Another contestant, Dr. Minelle Tendler, who owns Tendler Orthodontics in Boca Raton, says dance comes naturally to her, but echoed Quinn on the effort involved. “I’m originally from Puerto Rico, so I love dancing, and singing and having fun. When they asked me would you be OK with the dance part, I’m like, ‘absolutely.’ But I’ve already done a few lessons, and let me tell you, it’s not so easy.”

Tendler says she has an advantage: She has good rhythm and “grew up dancing salsa my whole life. So I feel pretty confident.” But, she adds, “Ballroom dancing is very different from what I’ve done. It’s more coordinated and strategic.”

The biggest challenge in the competition — and lesson learned — for Tendler is the fundraising. “I’ve been a member of the Junior League for many years now. And I did a lot of charitable work back home in Puerto Rico, but this is totally different. It’s asking. Sometimes it’s hard to ask.

“That’s probably been the biggest lesson for me: You just have to overcome the initial fear and go for it,” Tendler said. “You ask and you shall receive. People donate. I keep getting surprised every day at all the people who want to support me and who already know of the George Snow Scholarship Fund. It’s been difficult, but eye-opening — and incredibly rewarding.”

Tendler says she has been a big supporter of the community, schools, her patients and all their teams. Now the table is turned. “I’m the community dancer, so all my employees, patients and parents are cheering me on. It’s a warm, fuzzy feeling to see that support in return.”

Contestant Eddie Ventrice and instructor Sayra Vazquez Brann prepare for Boca’s Ballroom Battle to raise money for the George Snow Scholarship Fund. Tim Stepien/The Coastal Star

Contestant Eddie Ventrice, a Boca Raton resident and managing partner of BV Group-UBS Private Wealth Management, describes his dancing ability as “not great.” He’s nervous at the prospect of performing in front of hundreds of people, but “I enjoy learning the dances,” he said.

That’s his favorite part of the competition. Least favorite? Finding the time to train and raise money.

The cause behind the dance competition — the support for students through the George Snow Scholarship Fund — “is something that I can relate to personally,” Ventrice says in a letter to donors and friends. “Being the first generation to attend college and coming from a family who struggled financially, I barely got by. I spent my college years working 30 hours a week, received financial aid and the maximum amount available in student loans.

“I have my dance shoes and I’m taking lessons,” Ventrice says, urging supporters to “please come out and have a good laugh at my expense at the Boca Raton Resort on Sept. 20.”

Other dancers at this year’s fundraiser: Margaret L. Blume, philanthropist; Jason Hagensick, president and CEO of the YMCA of South Palm Beach County; Fran Nachlas, RN, of the Boca Raton Outpatient Surgery and Laser Center; Diana Riser, president and co-owner of the Pace Branding & Marketing advertising firm; and Jody Saffert, director of organization development and effectiveness at Boca Raton Regional Hospital.

You can support your favorite dancer with donations at www.ballroombattle.com. ;

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