Dancer and physician assistant Zachary “Zach” Leonard and Donna Werking, owner of Northern AZ Social, danced for a cause on April 14 at the 2nd annual Dancing for the Stars (DFTS) event held at the Elks Theatre and Performing Arts Center. The event raised more than $220,000 for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Arizona.
Ten dance teams were selected to perform. The teams are made up of celebrities and professional dancers in the community. In addition to learning a dance routine, they brought together friends and sponsors in support of local Boys & Girls Clubs.
Werking was selected as a celebrity dancer and paired with Leonard, who performed as a dancer in the 2017 Dancing for the Stars event. Leonard has been dancing since age 11 and specializes in hip hop, but is also experienced in tap, jazz and contemporary dance. In last year’s event, he performed with Leza Dandos, DJ for Magic 99.1FM, and took home the Judges Choice Award for a 1970s-themed performance on hoverboards. Zach is a physician assistant at the Prescott Valley NextCare Urgent Care and at Yavapai Regional Medical Center’s emergency room.
Werking has lived in Prescott for more than 23 years. She has provided marketing services for more than 13 years to the Prescott area. This has allowed her to work with many organizations in the Quad-city area.
Q&A with the Dancers
Q. Have either of you danced before?
Donna: I had two weeks of dance lessons from Leo Gallegos at Switch Performing Arts, but that was four years ago. Learning samba was another world to me.
Zach: I’m primarily a hip-hop dancer, but I started out doing tap and jazz as a young kid. However, I’ve never danced samba.
Q. How much time and dedication does it take to prepare for Dancing for the Stars?
Zach: I knew the more time committed to practicing, the more polished the performance would be. We pulled our routine together in about four months.
Q. How did you mentally and physically prepare for your performance?
Donna: I would’ve liked to incorporate yoga to increase my flexibility, but our dance practices were often three hours, three-four times per week.
Zach: Mentally, I would study the performances of Latin ballroom professionals to learn the subtleties of their showmanship and partner-work. Also, words of affirmation and a big hug from my partner were immensely helpful to ease nerves prior to performing. Physically, I stayed in shape by swimming, running and weight-training to keep my endurance up.
Q. Did you set goals for your performance?
Donna: If I agreed to perform, I wanted Zach to be my partner. We chose the most difficult Latin dance and we wanted it to be fast. We wanted a cool song and loud costumes.
Q. How did you come up with your dance?
Zach: We first selected a song – Calabria (Remix with Pitbull) – that had the energy we were trying to invoke. Next, we agreed on several classic samba steps that absolutely had to make it into the routine. Finally, we filled in the gaps with moves that were full of rhythm and personality. Our expert consultant Marina Rogova-O’brien was paramount in teaching us all of the technicalities.
Q. When did you know you wanted to do the samba?
Donna: Right away I saw the samba on Dancing for the Stars performed by Lindsay Arnold and Jordan Fisher and my mind was set!
Zach: You know, when your partner is inspired and feels passionate about dancing a certain style, I felt empowered to choreograph a saucy routine that exceeded her expectations.
Q. When did you decide on your outfits?
Donna: I bought my red dress two months out. I actually bought two dresses! Ironically, when they did not arrive from China by April, Marnie Uhl from the Prescott Valley Chamber let me borrow two backup dresses. She was a lifesaver! The dress I performed in came in a week before the show.
Zach: I ordered my costume from China, too. Miraculously, it fit like a glove! We both decided early on that we wanted our costumes to be red and spicy. Since Day One I started practicing in a pair of proper ballroom shoes because I knew the 1.5-inch heel would take some getting used to.
Q. What are your final thoughts on dancing for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Arizona?
Donna: I was told that you should always say yes to an opportunity because one day you won’t be asked, and that moment will pass you by. This was a moment that supported a greater cause, so I could not be more thrilled to be a part of it.
Zach: I never dreamed that I would be asked to serve the community in such a unique way. I’ve made some lifelong friends in the process, and most importantly, we’ve helped raise a huge amount of funds for the clubs. I’d like to continue doing what I can to support the youth in our area.