Chairperson Cathy Franquinha proposed the dance competition last June as a benefit to raise money for Town Hall’s senior and after-school programs.
“Dancing speaks to all ages, and it’s a good cause because Maspeth Town Hall serves people ages 2 to 92,” said Franquinha. “It gets the community together in a fun way and the board of directors is also giving back to the community because they’re the dancing stars.”
From June through February, the contestants took private dance lessons and practiced their routines for hours on end. The big finale, a group dance, was learned in just five lessons from Moves & Motions Dance Academy in Glendale.
“When people look at you and they think it’s so easy, they don’t realize all the hours and work that goes into it,” said Eileen Hagen, president of Maspeth Town Hall and a former professional dancer. “If you ask any of the dancers now whether they want to go into show business, they’ll say no because it’s too hard.”
Six dances were performed by six couples: Eileen Reilly and Howie Lorenz (Salsa); Robert and Silvia Aiello (The Hustle); Cathy and Joseph Franquinha (Mambo Italiano); MaryEllen and Gerry Beirne (Tango); Jim O’Kane and Eileen Hagan (a tribute to the late Michael Jackson); and Joseph and Maria Papavero (Cha-Cha).
The Michael Jackson tribute and the Mambo Italiano both scored perfect 10s, but the judges deliberated and declared Franquinha and son Joseph as the winners.
Franquinha thanked the more than 50 sponsors who sponsored the event, which raised over $20,000 for Town Hall. People have already requested that “Dancing with the MTH Stars” be made an annual event.
“Besides being a fundraiser, this has definitely been a friend-raising experience,” said Franquinha. “The response from the community has been overwhelming. Absolutely incredible.”