Villagers Jim and Carolyn Hutchens celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary last year by dancing the waltz to Irving Berlin’s song, “Always.”
The Hutchens waltzed to the same tune on Friday in the SeaBreeze Regional Recreation Center only this time, they celebrated a dancing victory. The Hutchens won the “Dancing With Our Stars,” competition before a sold out crowd to benefit The Villages Dollars for Scholars program.
“We knew that dance was special for us but I’m amazed we won,” Jim Hutchens said after receiving the trophy from Jim “The Z Man” Zurak of Dollars for Scholars. “We danced to that song on our anniversary and it felt great to do it again.”
“We’ve been practicing for months, we wanted to do it right,” added Carolyn Hutchens. “Tonight was exciting and fun; it’s wonderful to win but every dancer was great tonight.”
In addition to the waltz, the Hutchens also impressed the four judges with a lively and smooth East Coast Swing to a Doobie Brothers’ rock song.
Three other Villages couples were in the event: Terry and Nancy Mitchell; Michael and Lan Augustus, and Dave and Lou-Ann Martinez.
“There were no losers tonight,” Zurak said. “We’re all here tonight to raise money to help needy students get an education. That means we’re all winners.”
Dollars for Scholars has raised about $390,000 over the years to help local students with scholarships, said Carol Lutgen, who heads the organization. “We do whatever we can to help students in need get an education,” she said.
The big fundraiser for Dollars for Scholars for the past seven years has been the annual “Starry Starry Nights” talent show. But Zurak said this year’s “Starry” show in November, will be the last.
“We needed another way to raise money and we thought Dancing With Our Stars was a way to do that,” Zurak said, noting there are 115 dance clubs in The Villages.
The four couples displayed the wide range of dancing skill. Each couple did two dances and the judges – Geri Conrad, Greg Nelson, Don Wyman and Suzanne Crosby – determined the winner, along with an audience vote.
The Hutchens impressed the judges.
“I can describe that waltz in three words: smooth, sweet and dreamy,” Don Wyman said. “It was well done; you danced for the audience and each other,” added Geri Conrad.
“It was gorgeous,” Greg Nelson said, “an absolute pleasure to watch.” Suzanne Crosby praised the mood swing of “light and dark; the mood changed with the movement of the dance.”
The other couples also earned praise.
Terry and Nancy Mitchell opened with a waltz and followed that with an energetic cha cha. “The timing was excellent and Nancy was like a ray of sunshine,” Wyman said.
Michael and Lan Augustus brought some heat to a rumba and then did some fancy moves on a ballroom tango. “You look beautiful Lan, and you and Michael dance the same way,” Greg Nelson told them.
Dave and Lou-Ann Martinez displayed elegance and passion doing a waltz, followed by a West Coast Swing.
“It was sexy, slinky and awesome,” Nelson said of the swing performance.
Zurak was pleased with the dancing and the turnout.
“This was a great night,” he said. “And we’re already planning an encore for next year.”