Jen's World: Light on my feet? Not so much

"So then you'll just run up and jump over me," he says.

"Seriously?" I respond.

"Yeah. Try it," he says.

"I have no vertical," I insist. "I mean, ask my kids. They'll tell you I can't get more than six inches off the ground."

"Try it," he says.


I'm at Dahl Dance Studio, wearing heeled ballroom dancing shoes with sweat socks in them, and trying to muster the guts to jump over my dance partner.

Any one of these things — the studio, the shoes, the jumping over another human — is completely foreign to me. Or at least it was before I got the call from Bari Amadio. Bari is executive director of Rochester Arts Council — and the face behind the organization's annual fundraiser, Dancing for the Arts. Dancing for the Arts raises money for youth arts education by pairing dance professionals with local "celebrities" for a Dancing With the Stars-type competition.

Bari had asked me to participate in last year's competition. But, as fate would have it, the 2013 competition was to be held on my son's birthday. Which was an awfully convenient coincidence.

"I just can't steal his day," I told Bari. "But I'll do it next year."

"Next year," after all, is always so far away. "Next year" is another land, another time.

… Until it's not. Until next year becomes this year, and I am in the midst of 10 dance lessons in 10 weeks. I am learning a song. I am, presumably, learning a dance.

My husband and I took ballroom dancing classes once. This was back in the '90s when Brian Setzer's "The Dirty Boogie" came out, that one GAP commercial featured "Jump, Jive & Wail," and everyone wanted to swing. It was a community education class, and we were supposed to learn five different dances over the course of six evening classes.

We'd just had carpet laid in the basement of our house by Quarry Hill Park, and hadn't been able to afford furniture for it yet. And so we practiced our fox trot night after night in that long, narrow room that smelled like carpet glue and was lighted by the fluorescent lights Jay had just installed.


1, 2, 3, 4

1, 2, 3, 4

1, 2, 3, 4

We weren't very good, and if you asked us to fox trot for you now, we wouldn't have the first idea how to start. But dancing in that basement is a good memory.

I think Dancing for the Arts will be a good memory, too. After it's over. But right now, it's just scary.

To say that Dancing for the Arts is out of my element is like saying that walking on the moon is out of my element. It's ridiculous to think that I'm doing this. I mean, not only do I have to learn a ballroom dance in just 8 more lessons, but I will have to perform that dance in front of hundreds of people AND a panel of judges. And if that's not scary enough, my dancing pro partner has brought home the coveted Dancing for the Arts trophy before — and it's no secret he expects to bring it home again.

So, you know, no pressure or anything.

But, clearly, I could use some help — which is why I'm coming to you. Like in Dancing with the Stars, the public can vote for the event's winner. But unlike in Dancing with the Stars, you can vote for me before you even see me dance. Which, from my point of view, seems like a pretty good deal.


So here's my request, dear readers: In the past 8-plus years of Jen's World, I've asked you for feedback, for advice, for stories. And you've delivered. Now I'd like to ask you for your vote, which is, ultimately, a vote for youth arts education in Rochester. Each vote for John Vitek and me costs a $10 (tax-deductible) donation to Rochester Arts Council. (This IS a fundraiser, after all.) To vote, just visit, and follow the directions. Then, even if I fall flat on my face on April 12 (which John optimistically assures me won't happen), I won't feel like a total loser. Just a partial loser … with a lot of supportive friends.

Thank you for considering!

Jennifer Koski is assistant editor at Rochester Magazine. Her column appears Wednesdays. Send comments to

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