By Emily Gallagher
Times West Virginian
In a fundraiser featuring couples, one dancer will be in the spotlight alone this weekend.
During Saturday’s “Marion County’s Own Dancing with the Stars” event, after five local “celebrity” couples dance for judging, 16-year-old Sophie Silnicki will take the stage as the fundraiser’s featured dancer.
Tina Shaw, president of the Marion County Chamber of Commerce, which is partnering with the United Way of Marion County for the event, said it’s an honor to have Silnicki perform at the fundraiser.
“She is an extremely talented young lady who is from Fairmont and has danced all over the country,” Shaw said.
Shaw said having Silnicki perform at the fundraiser will set the event apart from other fundraisers.
“We thought that she would bring something different with her performance,” she said. “We thought it would be awesome to showcase her.”
The fundraiser will take place Saturday at Colebank Hall on the shared campus of Fairmont State University and Pierpont Community & Technical College. A social hour will start at 6 p.m., with the dance competition beginning at 7 p.m.
Shaw said Silnicki will be performing two back-to-back dances after the competition is over.
“While she dances, we’ll be tallying the scores, and we’ll announce the winner when she’s done,” Shaw said.
Although she is a Fairmont native, Silnicki travels the country performing at competitions and invitationals. She is a 4.0 student of the Keystone national online academic school and a full-time pre-professional scholarship student at Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School.
“She travels to Pittsburgh six days a week,” Shaw said. “Her dream is to be a professional ballerina.”
Silnicki began dancing at a young age at her mother Stephanie Lopez’s studio, Movements in Dance in Fairmont. On week nights, Silnicki is the assistant choreographer at the studio.
Silnicki has competed at the Youth America Grand Prix International Ballet Competition for the past six years, the premiere ballet competition recently featured in the award-winning documentary “First Position.” In 2009 she was awarded the Hope Award, which is the highest award in the pre-competitive division, and in 2012 she won the highest award in the junior division, the Youth Grand Prix at the Torrington, Conn., semifinals competition.
From 2008 to 2009, Silnicki performed the role of Clara in the Radio City Christmas Spectacular National Tour, performing in Buffalo, N.Y., Cleveland, Ohio, Pittsburgh, Pa., and Seattle, Wash.
In 2008, Silnicki won the platinum medal at the Dance Educators of America Ballet Seminar Competition in Las Vegas, Nev.
Performing at events is something Silnicki is used to. In September, she was a guest performer at the Miami, Fla., International Ballet Festival Young Medalist Gala.
Shaw said having Silnicki perform at the fundraiser will add to the excitement building up to the event. With the fundraiser already sold out of tickets, she said organizing the event has been a lot of hard work and volunteer work.
“We never thought it would be this successful so early,” Shaw said. “We have a lot of volunteers helping us, and neither the United Way nor the chamber could do this without our volunteers, including our dancers and our choreographers.”
Shaw said organizers are excited about the fundraiser, which will raise funds for both nonprofit organizations.
For more information about Marion County’s Own Dancing with the Stars, visit www.marioncountydancingwiththestars.com.
Email Emily Gallagher at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @EGallagherTWV.