Byline: Ashley Bishop
WORCESTER - Worcesterites didn't have to wait for tonight's episode of ABC's "Dancing With the Stars" to see celebrities take their turns on the dance floor this week.
A crowd of 450 at the DCU Center got a chance to see local luminaries put their best foot forward at last night's "Dancing with the City" benefit for Preservation Worcester, a private, not-for-profit organization dedicated to the preservation of the buildings and sites representing the culture, history and architecture of Worcester.
"This is a great cause, and I'm happy to support it," said City Manager Michael V. O'Brien, one of the featured competitors. "We spent 30 hours training for this night. When we began I had two left feet, so learning to dance has been a tremendous experience."
Mr. O'Brien was among the seven local celebrities who took part in the competition, along with his wife, Beata O'Brien, Worcester Tornadoes first baseman Chris Colabello, lawyer Marie Angelini, Public Works Commissioner Robert L. Moylan Jr., former world champion boxer Jose Antonio Rivera and Deborah Packard, executive director of Preservation Worcester.
Each "celebrity" was paired with a dancer from the Poise, Style & Motion Ballroom Dance Studio in Worcester, and given 30 hours of professional training to prepare.
"I knew if I was going to ask other people to dance I would have to do it as well," said Ms. Packard, one of the organizers of the event. "We're hoping this will become an annual event for Preservation Worcester, and overall it was really fun to learn the dance."
The pairs faced off in two rounds of competition, and then faced critiques from a panel of judges, including Worcester Magazine publisher Allen W. Fletcher, former Radio City Rockette Joan Sheary and Bill Morganti, owner of New England Ballroom and Dance Studios in Boston.
They were also judged based on audience reactions.
"We were looking for simple things," said Mr. Morganti, who has served as a judge on "Ballroom Boot Camp," a reality dance show on TLC. "They haven't...