WINDHAM – Audience members at the first night of the annual Dancing with the Staff event at Windham High School saw a first-time dancer become a front runner, sock monkeys getting down, and a school board member riding a pink bike to the “Thrift Shop.”

The event, which benefits Windham’s Project Graduation, kicked off with Windham-Raymond school board member Toby Pennels, Adult Education Director Tom Nash, and Windham High School secretary Debbie Hall performing a risque number to the popular song, “Thrift Shop,” by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. After the number, the show’s host, Bill Ellis, questioned the group on the close dancing.

“Now, would you let students dance like that at a school dance?” Ellis asked while the crowd broke into laughter.

Pennels responded honestly.

“Yes, but they have to be 3 feet apart,” said Pennels.

The fun and hilarity continued through the evening while teachers, coaches and office staff took the stage to show off their skills and support Project Graduation, which offers students a memorable last get-together immediately following graduation exercises.

“It really is for a good cause, I’m especially glad to be here,” said judge and Windham Middle School teacher, Kim McBride. “We revel in our judgment duties. Although, the audience decides, we have no power. We are really just the Greek Chorus.”

First-time participant Travis Guerrette paced back stage after seeing the packed audience and wondered what he had gotten himself into.

“I’m here because I was asked,” said Guerette, freshman football coach at Windham High School. “Beth Gaudet asked me, it’s her fault I’m here,” he joked.

Guerette was not initially involved in the event, but when a teacher had to drop out at the last minute he was asked to step in. That only gave him a week to learn the dance, quite a feat for someone who by his own terms is “not a dancer.”

Guerette’s partner, Rebecca Cole, a Windham Primary School teacher and seasoned dancer and theater performer, had no qualms about her new partner.

“He’s awesome, he is a natural,” said Cole. “We were just partnered together and have only had a couple rehearsals, but he is going to do great.”

Cole was right. She and Guerette were voted into the top three at the end of the night along with the team of Kelly Bragdon and Ted Becker, as well as Andrea Lavigne and her partner Adam Beal. Beal and Lavigne dressed as superheroes.

The event, which usually raises more than $10,000 for Project Graduation, consists of two nights and two different dances by the performers.

“Oh yes, they have to learn two dances,” said box office manager and Windham Primary School staffer Sandie Rogers. “That’s why we have two weeks in between shows to give them some time to practice. It’s such a great community event; it brings all of our schools together and everyone has a good time.”

The final night of Dancing with the Staff is Thursday, March 28, and tickets are currently on sale at all Windham schools as well as Raymond Elementary. The cost of tickets is $10 for adults and $5 for students. Tickets will be sold at the door, but Rogers encourages purchasing before the event.

“We usually sell out,” said Rogers. “So we always suggest folks buy them ahead of time. People will definitely want to see the second night of dancing and the winners. It’s so much fun, every year the dancers seem to be stepping up their game.”

Windham High School Spanish teachers Elizabeth Bubier and Tianna Burton practice their routine in the hallway before their performance at the first installment of Dancing with the Staff event. When asked how they were feeling prior to going on stage, Burton said, “We both have a horrible time saying no. It always seems like a good idea at the time until you have to perform in front of people.” “Terrified,” Bubier succinctly added. 
Photo by Heidi Hamblen

Travis Guerette, freshman basketball coach at Windham High School and a first-time performer at Dancing with the Staff, sneaks a peek at the audience before the show. “I am very nervous,” joked Guerette. “Beth Gaudet talked me into this, it’s her fault I’m here.” Guerette was partnered with dance veteran Rebecca Cole just one week before the event after Cole’s partner dropped out. “Travis has never danced before,” said Cole. “It’s OK though, he’s awesome, he’s a natural.” 
Liana Fusco and Julie Richards, noon aids at Windham Primary School, perform the “Funky Monkey” at last Thursday night’s Dancing with the Staff, a fundraiser for Project Graduation. Richards’ daughter is a senior this year so she felt participating was a “good way to show support.” Fusco was in it for another reason: “I watched the show last year and decided they weren’t going to have that much fun again without me,” she said.
Windham High School student Crystal Frappier, 16, sits patiently while Main Stage Productions Director Suzy Cropper does her hair. Frappier and a group from Main Stage performed a medley from the musical, “Mamma Mia,” at Windham High School’s fundraiser, Dancing with the Staff. The two-night event raises money for Project Graduation. Courtesy photo

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