The Union Program Council hosted the fifth annual Dancing with the K-State Stars competition in McCain Auditorium on Monday evening.
The event, which began in 2009, places well-known K-State students onstage to show off their dance moves before a large audience and a panel of experienced judges. This year was no different. The fifth “season” of Dancing with the K-State Stars attracted contestants from all corners of campus, from the volleyball team to the admissions office to the upper echelons of student government.
Student body vice president Grant Hill, senior in accounting, had no dance experience before competing as a K-State Star, but he still took home the trophy along with his partner Lexie Casey, senior in elementary education.
“I thought I’d do something outside of my comfort zone,” Hill said. “It was definitely nerve-wracking, but luckily you can’t see the audience while dancing.”
Hill said he was nervous before stepping out onstage but quickly forgot the audience was even there.
“I saw Dancing with the K-State Stars last year when one of my colleagues did it,” said Kirsten Andrews, contestant and graduate student in counseling and student development. “I’ve grown up dancing and watched [“Dancing with the Stars”] and I’ve always loved dancing, so when I got asked to do it I was really excited.”
Andrews showcased a country-style swing mixed with two-stepping, a style that is popular around campus. Students enjoyed a wide variety of dance techniques covering well-known genres such as the salsa and the waltz, as well as lesser-known styles such as the merengue and the rumba.
Along with the new contestants, this year’s event featured two special guest judges brought in by UPC — Chelsie Hightower, “Dancing with the Stars” professional, and Sasha Farber, Hightower’s dancing parter.
Farber is known for being a choreographer for the shows “Dancing with the Stars,” where he currently appears as a troupe dancer in season 13 of the show, and “So You Think You Can Dance.”
Hightower was a contestant on the fourth season of “So You Think You Can Dance” and is remembered for her Emmy-nominated performance to a revision of “Bleeding Love” by Leona Lewis. Hightower is currently a regular dance partner, choreographer and trainer for the “Dancing with the Stars.”
The third judge was David Ollington, associate professor in the School of Music, Theatre and Dance and five-year veteran judge of this event.
All of the judges said they were impressed with the talent presented by the contestants in this year’s competition.
“The caliber has definitely increased from the past seasons,” Ollington said. “In the five years I’ve been judging, this has been the best set of dancers I have seen.”
The judging was based on criteria determined prior to the event.
“The guidelines that we scored on were technique, choreography, style and performance,” Ollington said. “I liked performers that played with the audience, used their space and when they looked like they are the music.”
The audience reacted enthusiastically as each contestant took the stage.
“I thought the dancing was fabulous,” said Rachel Tate, senior in hotel and restaurant management. “We saw some great surprises, especially Grant Hill.”
Dominic Ruiz, junior in regional and community planning, was impressed with Hill’s moves as well.
“There was a lot of talent I’ve never seen before,” Ruiz said. “I know Grant Hill because he’s in our fraternity, and it was interesting to watch because we’ve never seen him dance before.”
Despite his success, Hill said his short-lived dancing career is most likely over.
“I think I’m going to go on a hiatus,” Hill said. “Ending on top is probably best.”