Dancer dares to do the Paso Doble

Paso Doble: Just saying the name of this Latin dance elicits romantic images of strong men, beautiful women, measured movements and passionate guitar strums.

For a large crowd of dance enthusiasts in the Gorge, a recent fundraiser-competition called Dancing with the Gorge Stars provided the opportunity to witness the Paso Doble performed live, featuring Hood River native Gavin McAlpine.

“It was kind of one of those once-in-a-lifetime shots to do something that I was really curious about,” said McAlpine, a realtor with John L. Scott Realty. “It took me about a millisecond to say yes to doing it.”

While McAlpine is not a stranger to the stage — performing annually in the Columbia Gorge Dance Academy’s Nutcracker performances — this was his first foray into a true dance competition.

“I have no dance training whatsoever,” admitted McAlpine, who, though the only entrant from outside Wasco County, garnered significant cheers and hoots of support in The Dalles-Wahtonka High School auditorium, in front of three judges, all The Dalles residents.

McAlpine noted that although he wasn’t the top vote getter, he was extremely satisfied with his performance.

“The Wasco County Sheriff won it and that would be a hard person to beat in The Dalles!”

The event was presented by the Corvallis-based Utah Ballroom Dance Company. The dance troupe also performed in Hood River the same weekend. The troupe was on a 47-city tour across the West producing fundraisers for a variety of nonprofit organizations in combination with its regular dance shows.

The Utah Ballroom Dance Company stages the Dancing with the Stars events by teaching local volunteers specific ballroom dances and then partnering them with their semi-professional dancers for the “competitions.”

The Dalles’ event featured five volunteers from The Dalles community and McAlpine. Each volunteer worked with a Utah Ballroom dance partner for more than 15 hours of practice prior to the event.

McAlpine, to his credit, was the first local participant to ever seek out the challenging Paso Doble routine.

“They told me I was the first Paso Doble volunteer in the history of their presenting their ‘Dancing With’ events,” said McAlpine. “The Paso Doble has very crisp movements. It has an aggressive nature. It was the one I wanted to do.”

McAlpine was partnered with Casey Bartlemay, a longtime member of the troupe whose athletic build, flexibility and dramatic moves resembled that of a professional gymnast.

“She was absolutely fantastic as a dancer and teacher. I couldn’t have asked for a better partner,” said McAlpine. The pair were dressed in red and black, providing the additional visual drama needed for their chosen style of dance.

While McAlpine was “the lone foreigner” in the competition, he was encouraged by the great show of support from other Hood River residents.

“I was amazed at how many showed up from Hood River and I was equally shocked at how many people from The Dalles voted for me,” he said. “There was a lot of support all the way around.”

Thinking about next year, McAlpine admits that he would jump — or perhaps jeté — at the chance to do it all again.

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