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Ray Routhier

Portland Press Herald staff writer Ray Routhier will try anything. Once. During 20 years at the Press Herald he’s been equally attracted to stories that are unusually quirky and seemingly mundane. He’s taken rides on garbage trucks, sought out the mother of two rock stars, dug clams, raked blueberries, and spent time with the family of bedridden man who finds strength in music. Nothing too dangerous mind you, just adventurous enough to find the stories of real Mainers doing real cool things.

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Posted: November 6, 2017

Reality TV stars join the PSO for ‘Ballroom with a Twist’

Written by: Ray Routhier
Dancers from the TV shows "Dancing with the Stars" and "So You Think You Can Dance?" will perform with the Portland Symphony Orchestra on Saturday and Sunday. Photos courtesy of "Ballroom with a Twist"

Dancers from the TV shows “Dancing with the Stars” and “So You Think You Can Dance?” will perform with the Portland Symphony Orchestra on Saturday and Sunday.
Photos courtesy of “Ballroom with a Twist”

Can a full symphony orchestra make you better at the bossa nova, or put more spice in your salsa?

Anna Trebunskaya, a dancer on ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars,” thinks so. That’s why she’s excited to be part of a touring show called “Ballroom with a Twist,” which is performing at Portland Symphony Orchestra “Pops!” concerts Saturday and Sunday.

Anna Trebunskaya of ABC's "Dancing with the Stars" says performing with a full orchestra" is "an incredible feeling."

Anna Trebunskaya of ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars” says performing with a full orchestra” is “an incredible feeling.”

“On TV, we dance to a much smaller band. With a full orchestra, the sound is just incredible,” said Trebunskaya, 36. “Every instrument has its own sound and energy, you can feel the rhythm on the floor, vibrating through you. For a performer, it’s an incredible feeling.”

Besides Trebunskaya, the “Ballroom with a Twist” cast includes another “Dancing with the Stars” regular, Damien Whitewood, and two dancers from Fox’s “So You Think You Can Dance?” — Randi Lynn Strong and Jonathan “Legacy” Perez. Also in the cast is singer Gina Glocksen-Ruzicka, who was on Fox’s “American Idol.”

In the first half of the show, the PSO will play classical pieces like Brahms’s “Hungarian Dance No. 5” and “Sabre Dance” by Khachaturian, as well as pieces by Dvorak and Tchaikovsky that explore different types of dance, said Carolyn Nishon, executive director of the PSO.

Then, in the second half, the dancers will come out and perform with the orchestra, dancing ballroom, modern and even hip-hop styles.

“You wouldn’t think it would work, but break dancing to an orchestra is really great to watch,” said Trebunskaya.

The music will include Broadway musical tunes, but the exact program won’t be announced until show time, from the stage, Nishon said.

Nishon said the PSO got the idea to collaborate with “Ballroom with a Twist” from Alexander Mickelthwate, a finalist to replace Robert Moody as the orchestra’s music director, who has since taken himself out of the running. Nishon said some PSO members had also played with “Ballroom with a Twist” when the troupe performed in Boston.

Nishon said the PSO has had performances in the past that have featured dancers, but never one with “as many moving parts” as this one.

Trebunskaya thinks “Ballroom with a Twist” is a great way to expose dance fans to the power of an orchestra, while letting fans of symphonies see the power of contemporary dance live and in person.

Trebunskaya grew up in Russia, where her parents owned a dance studio. She began dancing when she was 6 and never really wanted to do anything else. She came to America with her parents when she was 17 and soon began garnering attention and awards at various ballroom dance competitions. She was a 1998 U.S. National Amateur Youth Ballroom Champion and a 2004 USA Rising Star Latin Champion.

She first appeared as a regular on “Dancing with the Stars” in 2006 and has appeared in 11 installments of the series. She’s danced with football stars Jerry Rice and Kurt Warner, comic actor Steve Guttenberg, figure skater Evan Lysacek, boxer Sugar Ray Leonard and actor Gary Busey.

She said the easiest partner to work with was Lysacek, since as a figure skater he was used to performing to music and controlling his body movements in artistic ways. But she said her most rewarding partner experience was probably with Busey, who was over 70 at he time and who is still affected by a brain injury suffered during a motorcycle accident more than 30 years ago.

“For somebody who was older and who had injuries, he was so open to trying new things that it made it very special,” said Trebunskaya. “The biggest challenge is to take someone who has a fear of doing something they don’t think they can do and making it fun.”

“Ballroom with a Twist” at PSO Pops!

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday
WHERE: Merrill Auditorium, 20 Myrtle St., Portland
HOW MUCH: $32 to $83

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