MEET OUR 2019 CELEBRITY DANCERS

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DANA WALSH

Dana was raised in Libertville, Illinois and studied at the University of Illinois. After graduation she moved to Chicago to work on the Institutional Equities desk at Bear Stearns. A few years later she had the opportunity to move to New York City to a position with Bear Stearns Capitol Markets, where she would meet her husband, Rick. In 2002 Dana and Rick welcomed their son, Owen into their lives and the family of three relocated to Fairfield.  Dana is always on the go and can be often found on the golf course or tennis courts at The Patterson Club in the summer months. When the New England winter arrives she also enjoys spending plenty of time skiing and snowboarding with Rick and Owen.  Although Dana has never danced on a stage before tonight, she is thrilled to be part of A CHANCE TO DANCE 2019 and in typical Dana-style will be giving it her all to entertain and inspire the crowd at Fairfield Theatre Company.  

PETER DiDOMENICO

Peter grew up in Hamden, graduated from UConn with a B.A. in economics, and has lived in Fairfield since 1993. He is the proud father of Lily, Peter and Grace. The Didomenicos love living in Fairfield and often participate in local fundraising events. For the past 12 years Peter and his kids have organized, with the help of neighbors and friends, an annual event assembling complete Thanksgiving dinners for families in need throughout the greater Fairfield. Last year they delivered over 600 Thanksgiving dinners! Peter sits on the board of FOCUS (For Our Children's Unlimited Success), a Connecticut nonprofit organization which he helped establish 18 years ago.  The organization raises money for underserved children and families throughout Connecticut. He is an avid golfer and enjoys his summers paddle boarding at Fairfield beach.  He also enjoys cycling, especially in local fundraising events such as the CT Challenge and The William Raveis Annual Ride and Walk, which raise money for cancer-related research.  He is the owner of Champion Maintenance and Construction of Fairfield, an environmentally-friendly commercial cleaning and maintenance company and also maintains a mortgage license with William Raveis in Shelton.  Peter is looking forward to dancing with Tatyana and hopes to be a capable and winning dance partner in INSPIRE's 5th Annual event. But, most of all, he sincerely hopes that through his participation, he can help others in our community.

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KAREN JONES

Karen grew up in Moline, Illinois and attended both college and graduate   

school in her home state. She received a BS in Mathematics and a Masters in 

Computer Science, both with high honors, from Northern Illinois University. 

She spent her entire career at IBM, starting as a Systems Engineer and 

later moving to management positions in numerous Marketing Divisions. 

Since her retirement, Karen has become a professional volunteer! She has

served on the boards of both the College of Education and the Health Center 

of UCONN. Currently, she is Chairman of the Board of SIMPLY SMILES,

a non-profit that provides bright futures for impoverished children, their families, 

and their communities of Oaxaca, Mexico and S. Dakota's Cheyenne River 

Reservation.  She has also been a Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship 

volunteer; a student mentor at Shepherds; and a very dedicated member of 

Southport Congregational Church's Mission Outreach Board as well as frequent 

Co-Chair of their Rooms With a View event. Karen and her husband, Bob, reside 

in Westport and Sarasota and although her golf, yoga, bridge and entertaining 

are fun...nothing compares to spending time with their daughter Jackie, her 

husband Lenny, and grand baby Ava. Karen graciously joined our 2019 cast to 

raise funds to expand INSPIRE's programming for emotional and mental health.      

ANDY BERMAN

Andy's entire adult life has been focused on fitness, fun and giving back! After graduating from Danbury High School and Southern Connecticut State University, 

he parlayed his experience as a wrestler and his natural state of high energy and infectious enthusiasm to become a certified personal trainer. Andy has been involved in physical fitness, personal training, motivational speaking and educating others about health and fitness ever since. In 2014 he opened his own business-Mental Grit Fitness- where he motivates his clients to be the best they can be in both body and mind. He encourages his clients to break through their comfort zones in order to reach new goals and better health. Andy is also passionate about giving back. He believes that each of us has the power to touch the lives of others in some way. He serves on the board of Catch-A-Lift Fund, a national non-profit that helps combat wounded veterans all over the U.S. to recover and rehabilitate both physically and mentally through physical fitness, motivation and support. He also sits on the board of the My Team Triumph, CT Chapter which creates athletic endurance events for disabled individuals. In 2009 Andy founded Push Against Cancer, a massive push-up marathon that has raised nearly $500,0000 for The Hole-in-the-Wall Gang. Andy was 'totally in" when it came to supporting INSPIRE'S mission and his chance to tackle one of the few physically challenging art forms he has never mastered...the dance! 

It's official: comfort zone broken.

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Yolanda is a native New Yorker who lived in 4 of the 5 boroughs 
in her youth and then escaped to th

YOLANDA KARPEL

Yolanda is a native New Yorker who lived in 4 of the 5 boroughs in her youth 

and then escaped to the 'countryside' of Pleasantville to attend Pace University. She also resided briefly in both Peru and Puerto Rico before settling in Fairfield 20 years ago. She successfully advanced a corporate career in the market research industry for 25 years and only recently transitioned to being a full-time mom. She now manages a family of four teenagers and one (very spoiled) baby King Charles Cavalier named Reilly. Her numerous childhood relocations have made her someone who loves world travel, rarely shys away from any adventure, and is often found stepping outside her comfort zone. She can be found fulfilling her need for speed on a full-throttled jet ski or taking a high-performance race car around the track. She also enjoys parasailing, zip lining and playing in competitive USTA tennis matches. Although she is certain she possesses two left feet and a bit of stage fright, Yolanda gamely agreed to accept this Chance To Dance in order to show her belief in the importance of INSPIRE's wellness programs that support Fairfield families.    

AMY BARRETT

Amy hails from Glastonbury and graduated from Fairfield University with a BA degree in Spanish and Communications. She spent her Junior year abroad studying in Spain where she developed a passion for learning first-hand about new cultures, food and people through travel. She resided in San Francisco and then Seattle, before ultimately returning to Fairfield. Her New England roots have made her a die-hard Red Sox, Patriots and UConn fan. Amy has worked in the Biotech/Pharmaceutical industry for 

19 years, holding various roles in sales, management and training. When not working, she volunteers at her daughter Ava's school, enjoys yoga, spinning, weight-lifting 

and cooking and also runs the Fairfield half-marathon with her husband, Matt. 

Relaxing by their fire pit with Matt, Ava, Maddy and Carter is always a special treat! Amy's dance background is limited to some middle school lessons she took in preparation for her father's wedding to her stepmother-a ballroom dancer! Although it is true that on their honeymoon, she and Matt did end up ON STAGE with the band TRAIN..sort-of dancing..or swaying...to their hit song 'Marry Me'! Amy's own life experiences have shown her the importance of mental wellness and she is honored to be on the FTC stage to support INSPIRE'S valuable mission to teach coping strategies that can reduce stress and anxiety.

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and their partners from Fred Astaire Norwalk

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MANUEL TRILLO

is a native of Spain where he was a three-time Spanish Champion in the International Ballroom and Latin style division. He has also won the European Viennes Waltz Championship and over 5O other similar competitions. He has been part of the cast of various Spanish dancing television shows, most recently 'Dancing With The Stars.' He relocated to the United States seven years ago in his quest to capture an American Championship. This year he became an American citizen and the proud owner of his own HOME in Norwalk! Manuel's infectious high-energy, enthusiasm and confidence motivates all his dedicated students to reach new heights at Fred Astaire Studios in Norwalk. 

He is honored to dance in this event for the sixth consecutive year, partnering with two lovely ladies- Dana Walsh and Karen Jones.

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TATYANA LARINA

is the most recent addition to the talented line-up of dance professionals at Fred Astaire Norwalk Studio. She was born in Russia where she started competing in dance at the age of 9 and won many Championship titles over the years. Tatyana attended the Moscow Academy of Dance and worked as a dance instructor at the Dinamo Dance Studio in Moscow. She also was a member of the prestigious dance group Randevu, starring in leading roles in many productions. She came to the U.S. in 2017 to start a new dance career, and to pass on her incredible insights regarding dance performance and competition to all her students at Fred Astaire. Tatyana and her 2017 celebrity partner, Rick Fernandes, won our People's Choice Award and won our 2018 Mirror Ball Trophy with partner Stephen Giambalvo! She looks forward to partnering with Peter DiDomenico on the FTC stage. 

ALEXANDER ANDRIANOV

ALEXANDER ANDRIANOV

joined the Fred Astaire Norwalk team in 2016, bringing with him invaluable experience from his Russian dance background. He has a diploma as a Master of Dance Sport and won the World Open Cup Vice-Championship title in Standard. Alexander has a very vigorous, competitive and positive personality with very broad interests from dancing to high math and quantitative finance which he still continues to study. He is excited to dance with Yolanda Karpel and Amy Barrett this year. 

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ANNA BELYAVTSEVA

is originally from Moscow. She has an extensive international dance background, having competed with the strongest couples in Europe as an amateur and then later as a professional in the World Dance Council Division. In 2015, Anna participated in the world-famous television program, Dancing with the Stars - Russia. Later that year, Anna moved to the USA to compete in the Professional Ten-Dance and Showcase division. She is an Eastern American Champion, United States Finalist and World Semi-Finalist. She also teaches and dances competitively with students at the Fred Astaire Norwalk Dance Studio. Anna speaks four languages (English, Spanish, German and Russian). Before moving to US she both worked and lived in Germany and Switzerland. Anna takes the stage with partner Andy Berman to vie for the 2019 Mirror Ball Trophy!

OUR DISTINGUISHED JUDGES

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BILLY BLANKS JR.

 Billy Blanks Jr. is a dancer, choreographer, author and the creator of feel good fitness programs such as Billy Blanks Jr’s Dance with Me, which is set to three different dance genres (Hip Hop, Bollywood, Country). Billy pitched his business on Shark Tank in May 2012. The program was re-named DANCE IT OUT! and has been a huge success ever since. He and his wife have been called  “America’s First Family of Fitness” and Dr. Oz called them “America’s Fat Fighting Couple”. Self-taught and working professionally in his youth, Billy has had Paula Abdul as a mentor, advisor and close friend since he was 11 years old. He has danced in music videos with Paula, Madonna and Quincy Jones and other top artists. His credits include TV and film appearances and he starred as Tyrone Jackson in the Boadway musical FAME European touring company. Billy lives in Greenwich with his son, Elijah, and currently serves as Artistic Director of Wall Street Theatre in Norwalk. He is the son of fitness guru Billy Blanks of the Tae Bo Exercise program fame. 

BIG THANKS to Billy for joining our 2019 judges's panel. 

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VICTORIA CAREY

 VICTORIA CAREY is the owner and director of Flash Pointe Dance and Glitter & Grime in downtown Fairfield. She opened the studio to provide a nurturing environment that would support everyone so inspired to explore the world of dance. As a mother of four, Vickie feels strongly that keeping our children active and involved in activities that they love, in an environment that encourages them to spread their wings, is a critical tool for self-esteem and confidence. Since its inception in 2015, Vickie has been an incredibly loyal supporter of the A CHANCE TO DANCE event. She has generously supplied instructors, celebrity dancers, rehearsal space, and even our opening act: The Flash Pointe Dance Competition Team!

 INSPIRE is very grateful to Vickie for her involvement in this event and support of our mission.

'I would like to applaud all of our courageous contestants for taking on this challenge, and look forward to the opportunity to recognize the unique offerings that you will each bring to this event !" V.C. 

The Master of Our 2019 Ceremony and Honorary Event Chair

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MAR JENNINGS

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Mar is America's top lifestyle expert! He is creator, host and Executive Producer of the 3-time Emmy-nominated TV series, LIFE ON MARS: The Home Makeover Show, and also a best-selling author. Season 3 of his nationally syndicated show is now in production. No stranger to dance and performing himself, Mar is a 4-time regional and sectional ice-skating Gold Medalist and most recently captured the 2018 Men's ISIA Senior World Championship! Mar has been a longtime supporter of our event and part of our distinguished panel of judges for the past 3 years. We are thrilled to have him bring his ever-enthusiastic and fun personality on our stage this year.