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Dancing with the Bars Raises Funds – and Spirits

Published: Friday, July 20, 2012

Updated: Friday, July 20, 2012 16:07

If you love ABC’s hit show “Dancing with the Stars” and drag queens, then prepare for the time of your life.

In the fifth annual Dancing with the Bars event on Sunday, notable bartenders, drag performers and other figures in the gay community will square off in a dance competition that doubles as a charity event.

Like the television show, the contestants are paired with a professional dancer to learn and perform a world-class ballroom dance.

One of the bartenders competing is Johnny Silva, who is representing the central Phoenix bar Fez.

“We are each paired with a dance professional, and we have to pick a song and learn a dance routine to perform on the day of the show,” he said.

Silva’s dance partner is John Holtsworth from Fred Astaire Dance Studio in Chandler. The two are doing a salsa and Silva is excited to show everyone how much he has learned.

“I believe it’s about doing my best and looking good out there,” Silva said. “I want to show the audience, the judges, and my friends that are coming to support me that I've been working hard and I can perform on stage, something which I've never done before.”

Paula Sha is one of the drag queens dancing in the event and so far has loved her experience training for Dancing with the Bars.

“We picked a great ballroom tango,” Sha said. “It is like sex with your clothes on.”

Just because this is a charity event, it doesn’t mean the contestants are working solely for fun.

They want to win, too.

“I want to win just as much as anyone,” Sha said. “I have put a lot of time and effort into this.”

Not only do the contestants have two practices a day but are required to raise $600 dollars for the Joshua Tree Feeding Foundation, which provides nourishment and groceries to low-income individuals who are HIV positive.

Because such time and commitment is required to compete in the Dancing with the Bars event, everyone involved is extremely passionate.

“It requires a lot of effort, time and hard work, from both the contestants and the instructors,” Silva said. “You have to be fully invested in something like this. Also having supportive friends, family, and coworkers push me. Let’s just say I can’t disappoint.”

In Sha’s case, she says that she has already logged in around 35 hours so far but plans on committing at least 30 more in preparation of the event.

She said she has learned what being a dancer is about and that she is approaching the competition as if she were a professional.

“I told my dance partner, I don’t want to just stand there,” Sha said. “I want to dance just as much as you dance.”

Silva also has learned a lot about what it is like to be a real dancer.

“I have a newfound respect for people who dance professionally,” Silva said. “Its hard work and I couldn't imagine doing it every day for a living.”

Just because the Dancing with the Bars event features a lot of popular gay personalities from around the Valley it isn’t an exclusively gay event.

“Everyone and anyone can enjoy this if you ask me,” Sha said. “It’s just great dancing.”


5th Annual Dancing with the Bars, Renaissance Phoenix,, Sunday, July 22, 5 p.m., $20 to $500 

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