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Here at McKenzie & Willis, we have long been supporters of the Home & Family Charity. Over the years we developed a special relationship with this incredible charity, having worked on various projects together including their new home in Christchurch.

Every year, Home and Family run an annual fundraiser called ‘Dance! With Home & Family’, to raise vital funds for children and families in need. We are pleased to announce that this year our very own Ashlee (Furniture Consultant at our Christchurch showroom) will be taking part!

In a Dancing with the Stars style, 10 awesome local professional dancer/choreographers are partnered with an amateur dancer, vying to take out the title of Dance. We sat down with Ashlee to find out more.

Dance with Home and Family 1

Why did you want to take part?

Home and family approached McKenzie & Willis advertising the event and asking for volunteers. I jumped at the opportunity as I thought it sounded really fun and that it would push me outside of my comfort zone.

I found it even more appealing knowing it was a fundraising event for Home and Family because they do such amazing work in the community. It feels really good knowing I’m helping the community but I’m so lucky to have such a supportive workplace, everyone has been behind me every step of the way.

Dance with Home and Family 2

Do you have any background in dancing or performing?

When I was young I did Tap Dance for a few years but my real passion and love has always been for Theatre. From the age of 13 to 18 I was involved with the South Canterbury Junior Drama league in Timaru. Every year I would audition and it would involve months of rehearsals and end with a week of performing every night to a full house in the Theatre Royal. At 18 I moved onto the Adult Drama League and took part in the production Showboat.

There is something really magical about being a part of a production, delving into another world that you put your heart and soul into and performing to a large crowd gives you a real rush.

Tell us about the dance you will be performing?

We will be performing a Lindy Hop Swing dance routine to ‘Hallelujah I Love Her So’ by Ray Charles, performed by Gordon Webster.

Typically danced to big jazz bands, Lindy hop got going in the late 20’s as a vernacular African-American dance style. It was basically the hip hop of the time and remained popular during the 30’s and 40’s. The Charleston (1920s) was one its precursors, and boogie woogie, rock n roll, and modern jive all evolved from it.

This kind of dance isn’t something I had done before. Swing is a high energy, fast moving and a fun style of dance which I am really enjoying learning. I just hope I can do the style justice!

Dance with Home and Family 3

What training are you doing?

Daniel and I signed up knowing we had 7 weeks to get a routine ready to perform so we are meeting twice a week for roughly 90 minutes. Every lesson, Daniel gives me a refresher course of the moves taught the class before along with new moves that we then we put together into the routine.

Last week was our first session at the YMCA and it was great to have a larger space to really get the routine flowing. All going well by show night this will be muscle memory and it will look effortless. Daniel has been so great to work with and has a real skill for teaching.

What does a typical day look like for you in the lead up to the show?

In the morning during my working week I play ‘Hallelujah I Love Her So’ while getting ready for work, I’ll play it in the car on the way to work and with headphones on my lunch break. I’ll be sitting at my desk during the day moving my feet to the beat, doing the steps under the table. As they say repetition is the key to success.

The song we have chosen isn’t one I knew before this but I have come to really love it. I am very lucky that it’s a cute song in that respect or I might have struggled having to listen to it so much. On my day off we have a late morning rehearsal and when I get home I continue to run everything through in my lounge, I’m determined to have it memorised and look natural.

What is your dancing partner’s background?

Daniel Collins has been dancing Lindy Hop for 9 or so years, and Blues for roughly 6. He teaches both types of dance in Christchurch as part of Swingtown Rebels. Daniel has done a lot of choreography and regularly teaches beginners although I believe this is his first time doing both at the same time. That being said he is doing a fantastic job!

The Dance! With Home & Family event is coming up on the 21st September 2019 at Christ’s College in Christchurch. Help us support Ashlee’s fundraising goal for Home & Family by donating here or for tickets to this amazing event click here.

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