RICK FERNANDEShad his dancing debut at The Portuguese Club in Danbury where his family regularly attended events in his youth. Even at this early age he exhibited an innate ability for an array of rhythmic moves. But it quickly became apparent that he was a gifted young man of many talents and he chose to pursue one that was much more fun than dancing....electrical engineering and computer science, at Princeton University, followed by the thrilling rigor of obtaining an MBA at Harvard. His many professional achievements in the internet services sector led him to the position of CEO at Webloyalty.com, Affinion International and his 2012 founding of the inspiring HooplaHa.com. Now 'retired', Rick enjoys golfing, boating and traveling to all points of the earth. But nothing beats relaxing in Florida with his wonderful wife, Lori, sons Nick and Daniel, and his extended family and friends. We are honored to have him agree to 'get his groove back' in support of INSPIRE's innovative mental health programs!
Anna Belyavtseva relocated to Connecticut from Moscow just over 2 years ago. She has participated in many elite dance showcases including Dancing With the Stars Russia in 2015. She now competes as part of the USA Professional Competitive Team. Her recent titles include: Eastern American 10 Dance Champion, US Dance Championship Finalist and World Professional 10 Dance Semi-Finalist. Anna is also a well-heeled traveler and speaks four languages.
MELISSA RUSSO is a native of Trumbull who has been dancing since age three. Her background in Tap and Jazz prepared her for her first Ballroom lesson at Fred Astaire and she immediately fell in love with that experience. Now a dance instructor and competitor, she has captured multiple First Place awards at Fred Astaire Pro-Am Competitions in American Rhythm. She is excited to soon compete in the Smooth category as well. Melissa feels so fortunate to be able to share her love of dance with her students. When she is not dancing, you can still find Melissa performing on stage - She's an award winning professional magician, baloon artist and also a licensed hair stylist!
MARK SMITH grew up in Trumbull and is a graduate of Trumbull High ('82) and then University of Connecticut ('87). He then met his beautiful bride of 26 years, Kimberly, and they settled in the Fairfield Beach area. Together they have two fantastic daughters, Kaila and Caroline. Kaila is a 2nd grade teacher and Caroline is a sophomore at the University of South Carolina. Mark has spent his entire career in technology and software sales, and is currently a Regional Sales Manager at Oracle. His team focuses on business software for healthcare organizations. Mark's passions include golf, fly fishing, travel, BBQ cooking and volunteer work. He is known to be athletically gifted as well as willing to 'bust a move or two' as the first of his friends to take the dance floor. He is excited to support the valuable mission of INSPIRE and to raise funds for them by letting his 'feet' do the talking!
VICKIE WILCHINSKY was born in NYC and grew up in Connecticut. She has earned degrees in Pre-med, Art and Natural Science Illustration and has worked as a medical illustrator for most of her career. Recently she has become ensconced in the fine arts and has established herself as a talented oil painter - exhibiting and selling her work throughout New England, New York and California. Vickie is married to Mark Wilchinsky, an orthopaedic surgeon who was very influential in convincing her to take this Chance to Dance! When not working, Vickie and Mark enjoy golf, travel and entertaining family and friends anywhere near water. Although she has no formal training, she has a natural love and feel for dance, much like her art. With the help of Felix, her dance partner and coach, she anticipates a successful outcome of her brave and artful performance to benefit INSPIRE's mental and emotional wellness programs!
DENISE CARON-QUINNis a native New Yorker who moved to Southport in 2006 when her husband Terry was unable to get proper rest surrounded by the sounds of a city that never sleeps. With three adult children now out of the house, they quietly reside with their 12 year-old daughter, two dogs and three cats. A former registered nurse and hospital administrator, Denise is currently the president of In Order to Succeed, a lifestyle management and concierge firm that helps people live fuller lives with less stuff. Although a licensed private pilot, she spends most of her time lately with her feet on the ground. Being a contestant in this event has enabled Denise to reconnect with the disco beat of her youth. Anyone who knows Denise will attest that she rarely passes up a Chance to Dance. She and her talented partner, Manuel look forward to boogieing on the FTC stage to raise funds to support INSPIRE's important mission!
MEET OUR 2017 DANCE PAIRS
OUR DISTINGUISHED JUDGES
OUR 2017 PEOPLE'S CHOICE AWARD WINNERS!!
VICTORIA CAREY is the owner and director of Falsh Pointe Dance and Glitter & Grime in downtown Fairfield. She opened the studio to provide a nurturing environment that would support everyone so inspired to explore the world of dance. As a mother of four, Vickie feels strongly that keeping our children active and involved in activities that they love, in an environment that encourages them to spread their wings, is a critical tool for self-esteem and confidence. She has been honored to supply instructors, celebrities, and rehearsal space for A Chance To Dance since its inception. INSPIRE is grateful to have found such a loyal supporter of this event and our mission !
'I would like to applaud all of our courageous contestants for taking on this challenge, and look forward to the opportunity to recognize the unique offerings that you will each bring to this event !"
TATYANA LARINA is the most recent addition to the talented line-up of dance professionals at Fred Astaire-Norwalk Studio. She was born in Russia where she started competing in dance at the age of 9 and won many Championship titles over the years. Tatyana attended the Moscow Academy of Dance and worked as a dance instructor at the Dinamo Dance Studio in Moscow. She also was a member of the prestigious dance group “Randevu”, starring in leading roles in many productions. Here in USA she’s looking forward to starting a new dance career with her partner Manuel Trillo and to passing on her incredible insights regarding dance performance and competition to all her students at Fred Astaire.
Mike Mitri hails from the island of Staten and is a graduate of Notre Dame University and Fordham Law School. He retired in 2014 from Charter Brokerage Company, which he co-founded, to focus on his
work as a Broadway Producer. He is an valued volunteer in the Fairfield community and joined the FTC board in 2012. Mike is an enthusiastic supporter of INSPIRE and bravely took the role of a celebrity Chance to Dancer in 2016! He and his wife, Karen, and are the proud parents of Daniel, Julia and Becca.
Thank you Mike for your lending us a hand on the stage again this year!
is a native of Spain where he is a three-time Spanish Champion in the International Ballroom and Latin style division. He has also won the European Viennes Waltz Championship and over 5O other similar competitions. He has been part of the cast of various Spanish dancing television shows, most recently "Dancing With The Stars". He relocated to the United States four years ago in his quest to capture an American Championship. Manue's infectious high-energy, enthusiasm and confidence motivates all his dedicated students to reach new heights at Fred Astaire Studios in Norwalk. He is honored to dance for INSPIRE tonight with the delightful Denise Caron-Quinn!
JAMIE ORVIS has strong local roots-he grew up in Wilton and has resided in Fairfield for the past 26 years. He, his wife Anne, and their children Amanda and Ryan, have taken advantage of all that this great town of has to offer. Jamie owns Security Solutions, a Norwalk-based alarm company. He has been a dedicated volunteer within his industry as well as in our community. He has chaired several charity golf tournaments and is a six-time participant in the Appalachia Service Project. Jamie was instrumental in rebuilding the Fairfield United Soccer Assoc. and in creating the extremely successful FAST Soccer Tournament in Fairfield. In 2008, his deep passion for live music drew him to the Fairfield Theatre Company where he is now the Chairman of the Board. "I try to have a little fun every day. The FTC is a perfect blend of doing something I truly enjoy while bringing happiness to 75,000+ people each year." Jamie agreed to lend his hand (and feet) to our event as an opportunity to showcase two unique local entities-INSPIRE and FTC because..."We are all in it together!"
THE MASTER OF OUR CEREMONY
started dancing at the young age of seven and has been trained in ballroom, latin, jazz, tap and hip hop. He also began acting at this time and discovered quite a passion for the stage. So much so that he decided to pursue a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre at Southern Connecticut University. He competed and won several collegiate ballroom competitions while studying ay SCSU. Felix earned the opportunity to train at the prestigious Circle in the Square Theatre School in NYC. In 2013 Felix joined Fred Astaire. He brings his love of the arts and joyous energy to the studio everyday and he passes on his skill to his students who have won several regional championships.
OUR 2017 MIRROR BALL TROPHY WINNERS!!
MAR JENNINGS is America's top lifestyle expert, a 3-time Emmy-nominated TV host/Executive Producer and a best-selling author. His acclaimed gardening and design books - LIFE on MAR's series: A Four Season Garden and Creating Casual Luxury are both sold worldwide. He is also the creator, host and Executive Producer of the 2-time Emmy-nominated TV series: LIFE ON MAR'S:The Home Makeover Show, currently in production of Season 2 with national syndication in 2017. No stranger to dance and performing himself, Mar is a 4-time regional and sectional ice-skating gold medalist! He is thrilled to bring his diverse experiences and his well-respected eye for 'what works' to the judges' table again this year!
SCOTT MITCHELL continues to advance his family's legacy by playing an important role within the luxury retailer that his grandparents founded in 1958. Scott manages his family-owned Richard's of Greenwich. His dedication to his clients extends equally to his unwavering service to our community. Scott joins our distinguished panel of judges this year to lend us his support and we are honored to have him. He surely knows style when he sees it.
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