After advancing with the top three teams to the championship round of the 2020 Bolivar High School Dancing with the Stars on Saturday, July 18, Matt Griswold and Emma Larimore brought out a secret weapon to take the win.
The all-class fundraiser for prom and project graduation, which pairs students with local “stars” for a dance competition, had been postponed in April due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Larimore, a graduating senior, was paired with Griswold, a Bolivar alumnus and engagement specialist at People Centric Consulting Group in Springfield.
“When I first signed up, I was like, ‘We’re probably not going to win,’” Larimore said after the duo claimed the mirrorball trophy. “‘We’re just doing it to help out and stuff.’ This was way more significant than I thought. I feel like this is not happening, honestly.”
In front of a socially distanced and partially masked crowd, who all had their temperatures checked before being admitted, the duo broke out a new routine, different from their first-round performance.
The change-up, which included a selection from the Isley Brothers’ “You make me want to shout,” was engineered by dance coach Beth Knight, who previously coached former winners Zach and Erin Howard.
“Having us do two different dances and two different songs, that was a big part of the win,” Griswold said. “She’s intense.”
It was one of seven strong shows Saturday night, with each dance team showing off flashy outfits and thrilling moves for judges Harley Meador, Jeff Murray, Manny Ofori-Yeboah and Jenni Williams.
BHS principal David Geurin and former winner Erin Howard were emcees.
Bryan Inman and Sera Stanek were awarded best costume, while Larimore and Griswold took home best music honors in addition to their win.
Jay Sawyer and Katie Adams earned distinction for the most original routine, while Gage Foster and Crystal Hensley’s Elvis-themed dance was voted most difficult.
Dancers had solicited local businesses to donate for prom and project graduation, and those businesses were then recognized at the event.
Foster and Hensley were recognized as top fundraisers. Before expenses, the event raised $76,000, including in-kind sponsorships, Geurin said.
“I’ve had a great time, and it's just been bringing the community together has been fantastic,” he said.
Co-organizer Jennifer Carr said the audience was able to see the show while spaced in the gym bleachers and also from round tables. It was livestreamed on LiberatorWebTV, so viewers could avoid the crowds.
As previously reported by the BH-FP, other safety measures included working to limit loitering in large groups, cutting volunteer ranks by 25%, eliminating servers coming to tables in favor of patrons buying refreshments at a counter and splitting the setup crew into two shifts. The audience was released for intermission by sections to avoid large crowds in the common area.
Carr said masks and hand sanitizer were also provided.
With Knight’s guidance and a strong partner in Larimore, Griswold said he felt pressure to keep up. He said he found his fitness improved through the dance lessons.
“I love being in front of people and I just love crowds, and I know Emma is an awesome athlete, so I just had to not screw it up,” Griswold said.
Larimore said Knight’s guidance had been key.
“She pushed us, and she was a big part of our win tonight,” she said.
With the event over, Larimore said she’ll miss being part of it all.
“It just kept getting pushed back and pushed back, but now that it’s here and over, I’m so sad that it’s done,” she said.