Why You’ll Be Seeing Me in a Tutu

I’m “tutu” excited to share some news – I’ll be Dancing with the Stars for the Charlotte Ballet this spring.

The Dancing with the Stars of Charlotte Gala pairs local business and civic leaders with the professional dancers of Charlotte Ballet to raise funds for the ballet company and each star’s chosen charity. The gala, which is in its sixth year, raised about $875,000 last year.

The “stars” compete to earn money and votes – each vote is worth $1.

And here’s some more great news – I’m currently in first place in terms of money being raised!

I’ll be dancing in honor of my big sister Ruth Samuelson, who died this year at 57 of ovarian cancer. Money raised will support a research fund created in Ruth’s name at the Levine Cancer Institute. Ovarian cancer often goes undetected, showing no symptoms in the early stages, until it has spread within the pelvis and belly. At this late stage, ovarian cancer is more difficult to treat and can be fatal. Research can help us better understand and treat this deadly disease.

Am I nervous about prancing around on stage with a professional ballerina at my side? Absolutely. But at the same time, I’ve been thinking about how important it is to not take oneself so seriously. There are many times in life when a more somber approach may be most appropriate.

But there’s value in relaxing and not being afraid of what other’s think, especially when you are doing something for a good cause. Take the photo used for this blog. Is it embarrassing? Yes. Does it provide fodder for endless teasing and ridicule? Absolutely. But when I think about the good it might do – raise awareness of and funds for ovarian cancer research – I realize I’m ok with being “en pointe” in this campaign, to borrow a ballet term.

Speaking of being “en pointe,” I’m incredibly lucky that I’ve been paired with Charlotte Ballet’s Sarah Lapointe.

An award-winning dancer, Sarah was named this year as one of Dance Magazine’s “Top 25 to Watch.” My wife and I had dinner with her at the start of this joint venture, and discovered that Sarah is not only talented but is a delightful person.

The experience has also reminded me of how valuable cultural amenities are for a community – for both personal enrichment and economic development. (I wrote on this topic after visiting Miami for Art Basel.)

The Dancing with the Stars Charlotte Gala will be March 3, 2018 at the Knight Theater at The Levine Center for the Arts.

In addition to me, the “stars” will include: Civic Leader Patty Lambert; Western Carolinas Director of Wealth Management at PNC Bank, Jennifer Green; Managing Director for Barings, David Secrest; President of Central Piedmont Community College, Kandi Deitemeyer; and President and Chief Executive Officer for Carolinas HealthCare System, Gene Woods.

To learn more about the Gala or the Charlotte Ballet, go to

We would love you to support me, “The Dancer Crushing Cancer”. You can vote online or checks may be sent directly to Emily Portal, Charlotte Ballet, 701 N. Tryon St., Charlotte, 28202. Make sure checks or gifts from the Foundation from the Carolinas are designated “Charlotte Ballet – Dancing with the Stars: Team Sarah & John”.

So take a “leap” into supporting the arts and cancer research or any of the other great teams, but get up and off the sidelines! Here’s to trying new things in 2018! May you and your family have a healthy and adventuresome New Year!


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