Less than two weeks before the 2021 Dancing with the Gillette Stars, one of this year’s performers, Layne Cockrum, was still working on his Running Man.
“Hop. Slide. Hop. Slide,” Lindsey Lundvall, who choreographed his 1990s hip-hop medley, repeated again and again.
To his credit, he both hopped and slid. But something was off. After about 15 minutes of Cockrum hopping and sliding while Lundvall smiled and laughed, it still hadn’t clicked.
“How do you hop when your foot’s still on the ground?” Cockrum asked, exasperated and struggling to find the right balance of “hop” and “slide.”
“You were supposed to learn that when you were 12,” Lundvall quipped back.
His partner for the performance, Stacey Peterson, watched on with amusement.
The seriousness with which the Cockrum and Peterson duo has taken the preparation for their upcoming Dancing with the Gillette Stars performance was matched by the lightheartedness that comes with goofing off while rehearsing dance moves to songs that were popular when they were in high school.
Dancing with the Gillette Stars is returning this Saturday after surviving a mid-pandemic banquet last October, where more than $200,000 was raised for the YES House Foundation.
This year’s “Nothing but the ‘90s” theme has each of the amateur and locally famous dancing couples and groups pulling from the pre-millennium billboards for musical inspiration.
Although Public Health guidelines for large gatherings are more relaxed than last year, the event organizers are still taking a cautious approach.
The familiar site of hand sanitizer bottles and disposable, optional face masks will be provided. The 65 or so tables purchased for the fundraiser will be socially distanced 10 feet apart.
After raising more than $200,000 last year, YES House Foundation Executive Director Mary Melaragno hopes to top that number this year.
The event begins at 6 p.m. Saturday in the Wyoming Center at Cam-plex.
“They all come in thinking, ‘Oh, we can dance, this will be a breeze,’” said Jerri Wandler, who first hatched the idea for Dancing with the Gillette Stars more than 10 years ago.
The show itself may go by in a breeze, but the work leading up to it is far from it.
Cockrum and Peterson’s best day of practice was their second day of practice, when a power outage at the Campbell County Recreation Center forced them to work on their routine alone in the parking lot.
The power turned off inside, but they brought the practice outdoors. Even in the beginning, there was no time for time off.
That day they had no mirrors to rely on. Instead, they had the fear of passing cars to increase the feeling of being watched. One of Cockrum’s friends stepped onto his balcony overseeing the Rec Center lot and gawked at the dance duo practicing an intricately choreographed routine on asphalt for the whole city to see.
Without the mirrors to use to check their form and monitor their movements in relation to one another, they had to rely on their memories and reading off of each other’s physical queues.
“(Without a mirror) you’re basically, completely on your own,” Lundvall said.
Rehearsing without that reflective crutch may be more difficult, but that may also be why two weeks before the show, the section they rehearsed that night remained one of their most well-versed.
“Our brains were mush that night,” Peterson said.
There won’t be a mirror when they step on stage Saturday night either. And while they will be recognizable to much of the audience for being stars in their own rights, Gillette is a tight-knit enough community that they will recognize most of the faces in the crowd, too.
“It’s a little nerve-racking,” Peterson said.
But the idea is for them to step on stage, face the lights, hear the music and let the muscle memory kick-in.
“We want it to become muscle memory so the night of, if you black out, your body will keep going,” Lundvall said.
Lundvall said she isn’t a classically trained choreographer to the extent that the other Dancing with the Gillette Stars choreographers are. As a hip-hop dancer, her repertoire is less ballroom and more ball court. But that lends itself to who her duo is.
Both Cockrum and Peterson danced for their high school drill teams, so some of the choreography and rhythm is still engrained in their former teenage selves. A self-proclaimed dancer, just not a choreographed dancer, Cockrum even famously performed with his drill team at halftime of the South Dakota boys basketball state championship one year.
The mix of songs was narrowed down from a list of about 30 different options. The Coolio-House of Pain-Tupac-Will Smith medley was ultimately chosen for its recognizability, but also the energy those songs bring.
Wherever their act falls in the order, their excitement and energy will be a tough act to follow.
With about 10 days until showtime, Cheryl Morse met her dancing couple in-person for the first time. But even about 20 minutes before that, she didn’t know what to expect.
“I just don’t know what I’m looking at right now,” Morse said. “ I just haven’t seen them yet.”
From Texas, Morse worked with couple Laura and Trevers Chapman on their cha-cha routine to “Wild Night” by John Mellencamp.
While telecommunications may have taken hold for business of all kind over the past year or so, it is apparently not ideal for the intricacy of dancing.
“Zoom is no way to learn ballroom dancing,” Morse said. “There are a lot of things Zoom is good for. Ballroom dancing is not one of them.”
When the Chapmans arrived fashionably late, what Morse found was a good starting point. There were lots of tweaks to be made, but mostly minor tweaks to be made.
They ran through their routine while Morse watched with one arm folded and the other on her chin. A human metronome, she kept time and critiqued in rhythm.
“1-and-2-and-3-and-4-and-pick your head up,” Morse instructed. “1-and-2-and-3-and-4-and you’re late.”
The Chapmans were pegged as potential Dancing with the Gillette Stars participants after they were spotted dancing at last year’s Gillette Rotary Ball. Watching them cha-cha to Mellencamp in the upstairs fitness room in Club Energize, you can see why.
There’s a casualness and coolness to their routine — a certain nonchalant quality and ease.
Together they swung arms, twirled bodies and shuffled feet.
An hour into their practice, there was still work to be done, but finally in-person, at least the real progress could begin.
Brendan Boyd and Austin Winters floated across the empty Rec Center fitness room rehearsing their Dancing with the Gillette Stars routine. As both held their closing pose, their choreographer, Karri Byrd, walked the line between praise and critique.
“You nailed it,” Byrd said. “But …”
There’s always a “but.” Even with less than two weeks to go before taking the stage, Boyd, 18, and Winters, 26, were still finessing the details.
Like knee placement. Their Dancing with the Gillette Stars routine to the 1990s country hit “Fancy,” by Reba McIntire, is only a few minutes long but requires hundreds of meticulous foot placements.
Apparently knee placement matters just as much.
“I know I can fix it,” Winters, kneeling on his left knee, pleaded with choreographer Karri Byrd, who molded the “Fancy” routine with Boyd and Winters as her muses.
The routine calls for kneeling on the right knee, but Winters, a left-knee kind of guy, said the opposite knee is a more natural landing place and easier for him to lift up and backpedal from that stance.
Byrd, having contorted Boyd into much more uncomfortable dance moves and positions throughout their weeks of training, didn’t budge.
“You can fix it by putting your right knee on the floor,” she said.
Begrudgingly but with a smile, he obliged.
That one movement of hundreds is emblematic of the detail required to both be a star and dance with them. With the broad strokes of the routine more-or-less under control, Winters and Boyd are left to refine the details.
Between takes, Winters approached Boyd to work on a specific move. The freeze frame of that routine looked more like a half nelson, or some other grappling maneuver, than part of their dance routine. But that’s the attention to detail needed at this point in the process. A misplaced hand or moment out-of-sync could spell, not quite disaster, but maybe good-hearted embarrassment.
“Once the music comes on, you’ll be fine,” Byrd said.
Practice is for the minutia. When their curtain call comes, there won’t be time to make adjustments or, for that matter, even think. Whatever nerves may be present, or doubts may linger, the music will turn on and muscle memory will kick in.
Possessed by song and trained beyond their consciousness, they’ll do the pirouettes, twirls, shimmies and lifts as rehearsed. Neither are very experienced as dancers, but that won’t matter much once Saturday rolls around.
Undoubtedly, they will continue to smooth out the details. But if the show were tomorrow, they would do just as well.
“I can leave today knowing that we got it,” Boyd said.
The rehearsal is a means to subvert their thoughts and just “do.” That, along with how in-tune they are with one another, will determine how well the performance goes.
The better it goes for them, the better it goes for the crowd, the more inclined said crowd is to donate to the YES House Foundation, which, really, is the whole reason they and the rest of this year’s dancers agreed to dress up and dance to 30-year-old songs in the first place.
A Gillette man accused of trying to run over his parole officer and dealing drugs has pleaded not guilty to felony charges against him.
Kenneth Powers, 56, has been charged with possession with intent to deliver marijuana and LSD as well as aggravated assault and battery.
His roommate, Kenneth Heagy, 53, also faces charges of possession with intent to deliver marijuana as well as possessing felony amounts of meth. He also faces misdemeanor charges of possessing LSD and cocaine.
Police were alerted to the possibility of drug distribution from their home on Laramie Street after two tips were made to the Crime Stoppers line indicating that Powers and Heagy had large amounts of narcotics and guns. The tips explained in detail what they would find in the house, as well as the name of Powers’ parole officer and that Powers had ordered meth pipes from Amazon, according to an affidavit of probable cause.
Police learned that Powers’ parole officer had received a similar tip and she called Powers in for a meeting to ask about the reports.
Powers was on probation for delivery of a controlled substance.
He initially denied all of the allegations, but then admitted that there was a gun or guns in a safe in Heagy’s room, according to the affidavit.
The officer told Powers that police planned to search his vehicle and home, and he stood up and told his parole officer that he needed to use the restroom. She told him to sit down several times, but he refused.
“Powers walked out of the office and outside. He then began running towards his vehicle, still refusing probation’s orders,” according to the affidavit.
Powers got in his vehicle and drove rapidly toward the officer in the parking lot, who continued to tell him to stop.
“Powers drove right at her and nearly hit her with his vehicle,” according to the affidavit. She was able to jump out of the way. Surveillance video shows that although he had parked next to an exit, he drove the other way towards his parole officer, according to the affidavit.
“This reckless behavior shows an extreme indifference to the value of human life and would have likely resulted in serious bodily injury had (she) not jumped out the way of the vehicle,” wrote investigating officer Julianne Witham.
Meanwhile, police went to the home on Laramie Street, where Heagy refused to answer the door. They got a search warrant, but Heagy still refused to come outside until they used a pepper spray inside, according to the affidavit.
Officers said 29 minutes had elapsed.
When they got inside the trailer, they found signs that Heagy had been flushing drugs down the toilet.
“Marijuana was located in the toilet and baggies and containers were located in the bathroom trash can,” according to the affidavit.
One of the bags in the trash can reportedly had “Me only” written on it with a black marking pen while another of the empty bags had “sell” written on it. Police also found a tab of LSD.
They found a safe inside in Powers’ bedroom that held 15 baggies of marijuana weighing about an ounce each. Next to his bed was another baggie with one ounce of marijuana, a scale and other baggies.
In the freezer portion of his mini-fridge was a folded up piece of tinfoil containing 82 tabs of LSD, according to the affidavit.
In Heagy’s room, they found a bag containing 3.4 grams of marijuana, an ibuprofen bottle with “me only KH” written on the lid in black marker that held several baggies, five of which contained 2.9 grams of meth and one with 1.4 grams of cocaine. Another pill bottle was labeled “used” and held four jeweler’s baggies with about 1.5 grams of meth, according to the affidavits.
Powers remains in Campbell County jail on a $250,000 bond. Heagy bonded out on Sept. 28.
They both pleaded not guilty in District Court last week to the charges against them.
Powers’ next scheduled court appearance is Jan. 12, while Heagy’s is Jan.4.
Aggravated assault and possession with intent to deliver each carry maximum penalties of 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
CHEYENNE — A plan for a potential gold and copper mine near Cheyenne is steadily progressing, with a company putting forth vast community outreach efforts in recent months for a project that could bring hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars to Wyoming.
Last year, gold exploration and development company U.S. Gold Corp. began exploring the possibility of mining a gold and copper deposit about 20 miles west of Cheyenne. Called the CK Gold project, it would be located at the site of the dormant Copper King Mine, which neighbors Curt Gowdy State Park.
Though it could be a few years before any mining occurs, it’s a step toward adding to the state’s economy – one that has historically depended on the waning coal industry and that hasn’t had an operating gold mine in decades.
The company is currently in a data collection phase, with a pre-feasibility study close to completion and a plan to work on a more detailed feasibility study sometime next year.
All of this is to gather information for permit applications – primarily with the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality. Then, the company would begin to pursue financing and investment for the project.
“The more we get into it, the better it looks,” U.S. Gold Corp. President George Bee said last week.
The mine would likely operate for 10 to 12 years, followed by restoration of the land for cattle grazing, which it’s currently used for.
The potential mine would be partially located on state land allocated to help fund public schools. A 2012-13 estimate put revenues for K-12 education from this project at about $36 million, and at that time, gold prices were lower than they are today, said Jason Begger, who leads communications for the project. The amount also doesn’t include additional tax revenues the state would receive if the project pans out, he said.
Brian Farmer, executive director of the Wyoming School Board Association, recognizes there’s a long way to go before schools in the state could receive any money from the CK Gold mine. But he’s optimistic.
“If they can kind of get through those hurdles and demonstrate that it’s a viable project that does not have negative impacts, or that the negative impacts are minimal, then it may be one that’s worth pursuing. And I’m looking forward to seeing where that could go,” Farmer said.
Farmer said it lines up with Wyoming Legislature’s efforts in recent years to maximize the value of these school trust lands, and royalties from mineral extraction are typically far greater than those from cattle grazing.
The potential project would also create jobs. Bee estimated 1,000 to 1,500 people could be hired to develop the mine, with 150 to 200 working permanently at the site once mining began. Money spent on local vendors and other peripheral economic activity for a decade or more would provide even more of a boost, he said.
For Bee, a career mine developer, it’s a goal for any project to keep money within the state where it’s located. He also hopes to leave Wyoming’s economic situation better than it was, and to minimize the mine’s impact on the environment.
Begger said there’s been a huge effort this year to engage the community, from nearby landowners to statewide organizations. He’s tracked 48 meetings with about 130 people in an effort to be as transparent as possible, he and Bee said.
“There are a lot of people who aren’t necessarily excited about the prospect of a mine next door. But I think they also understand, too, that it’s jobs, it’s taxes, the schools need funding,” Begger said. “I think, in this state, people understand that there’s a right way and there’s a wrong way to do things, and that’s what they’re mostly interested in, is making sure that things are done the right way.”
In April, the company met with the majority of private landowners to the west of the planned mining site, Begger said. Most of their questions were technical – concerns about wildlife, water, light pollution and noise.
But U.S. Gold Corp. is concerned about these issues, too, he said, and has been gathering data to help address them.
The company also recently negotiated a “critical” agreement with a private landowner that, if the project goes forward, would allow the company to access part of his land.
“If he didn’t want to do that, probably the mine wouldn’t be able to happen,” Begger said.