State Senator Kevin S. Parker (D-21) and his dance partner and instructor Zakiyah M. Harris of Asase Yaa African American Dance Theatre took home the crown Tuesday night at the 3rd Annual Stars of New York Dance-- a dance competition modeled after "Dancing with the Stars," that partners "stars of the community" with local professional dancers and choreographers to raise money for children in the arts.
The event was held at Long Island University's Kumble Theatre and was hosted by Errol Louis, political anchor of NY1 News and "Inside City Hall."
The winning couple's 80s hip hop routine and wardrobe won the judges over for its authenticity -- true to the all of the classic moves and style of that time -- and its infectious ability to evoke back-in-the-day fun!
For one particular judge, Danny Simmons -- older brother of hip hop impressario Russell Simmons and rapper Joseph Simmons ("Reverend Run" of Run DMC) -- the decision was a no-brainer: He gave the couple a "10."
The other judges, Karen Thornton-Daniels, artistic director for Restoration Dance Theatre; Troy Blackwell-Cook, wardrobe supervisor for Dancing with the Stars Live in Vegas and Sabrina Winston-Harris of Balance Dance Theatre, followed suit, also awarding the 80s duo with a perfect score of "10."
But the win didn't come easy, as the other competing couples also gave stellar performances, including Frances Bell Henry, executive director of Frank R. Bell Funeral Home, who danced with Kevin Joseph of Pure Elements; Reverend Richard Honeywell, associate pastor at St. Paul Community Baptist Church, who danced with Naeemah Brown of Cradle-N-the-Rock Youth Dance Ensemble; Donna White, teacher at Trey Whitfield School, who danced with Ian Da Silva of Creative Outlet Dance Theatre; and John L. Sampson, New York State Senator (D19), who danced with Serina Young of Synergism School of Dance.
Founded by Cheryl Todmann, Stars of New York Dance this year honored Reverend Dr. Johnny Ray Youngblood, executive pastor of Mt. Pisgah Baptist Church in Bed-Stuy, for his leadership in helping transform and build the communities of Bed-Stuy, Brownsville and East New York.
"I am just one of thousands of people who have found their unique calling under the leadership and tutelage of Reverend Dr. Johnny Ray Youngblood," said Todmann who, after joining Mt. Pisgah, learned to dance, became a personal trainer, learned fundraising and became an advocate for underserved children.
A list of Who's-Who in the community joined Todmann at the podium to sing the Reverend's praises, including New York State Senator Eric Adams; Chirlane McCray who was standing in for her husband, New York City Public Advocate Bill de Blasio; Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz; and former New York City Comptroller and New York City mayoral candidate Bill Thompson.
Albany and City Hall were in the building, without a doubt. And yet the event held all the glitz, glam, fun and entertainment you could only dream of getting from a fundraiser as critical as is this one to the community.
"I'd like to say to Cheryl and everybody else here-- especially those who were here last year-- that the first time, it's a phenomenon," said Errol Louis, speaking on the importance of Stars of New York Dance. "The second time, it's a trend... The third time, it's a tradition.
"Welcome to a tradition."