Hoopes sweeps Dancing with the Graham County Stars season 3

Photo By Rebecca Johnson: Stephanie Hoopes is hoisted by her admiring dance partners as she performs as Dolly Parton. Hoopes swept the competition to become the season-3 champion of Dancing with the Graham County Stars.

By Jon Johnson


SAFFORD – The David M. Player Center for the Arts was rockin’ and rollin’ Thursday night as the Utah Ballroom Dancers combined with seven Graham County notables for the third season of Dancing with the Graham County Stars event. 

Emcee Andrew Gryniewicz set the mood and judges David Bell, Jody Judd, and Joe Goodman offered lively critique with wisecracks – even if some of Goodman’s offerings would have landed better in the “Mad Men” time period. 

Video By Jon Johnson/Gila Herald

The crowd on hand was not only treated to seeing its own dress up and dance but also were wowed by the expertise of the Utah Ballroom Dance Company players, who performed excerpts from their Hollywood show – a ballroom dancing tribute to the music of the silver screen. 

The event is a fundraiser, and this year Stephanie Hoopes swept the competition by raising the most money for her charity, receiving a perfect 30 on the judges’ scorecard, and being chosen by the audience as the champion.

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: Utah Ballroom Dance Company Players perform “Roxanne.”

Hoopes, dressed as Dolly Parton, danced the Quickstep to Parton’s hit song “9 to 5” and made a living for her charity, H.E.L.P., which brings much-needed medical and school supplies, clothes, and basic necessities to impoverished people in South America while giving students an opportunity to volunteer service in those countries as well. Hoopes raised $1,400 for her group, and the troupe made a total of more than $5,500 between all of their chosen charities. 

After receiving her mirror-ball trophy, a beaming Hoopes thanked her supporters and expressed her surprise. 

“This experience was way better than I had hoped for,” Hoopes said. “I was nervous.”

Photo By Rebecca Johnson: Mikayla Cope goes for a spin while dancing disco to Cher’s “Believe.”

Eastern Arizona College Small Business Center Director Kevin Peck may have been out of his element but he found a receptive crowd appreciative of his combining the iconic Michael Jackson moves with the Cha Cha during his dance to “Thriller.”

“This was not anything like I expected,” Peck said. “I came into this absolutely terrified. This is not my kind of thing, but tonight was phenomenal. It was an amazing experience.”

Former Gila Valley Idol Darryn Kamae is used to the spotlight but not having to move around in it so much. Despite the difference, Kamae came alive in a pair of parachute pants and did his best MC Hammer moves straight out of the 1980s. 

“You know, I had fun,” Kamae said. “It was painful to begin with, but once we got into it it was a lot of fun.”

Kamae said his favorite part of the experience was just being able to perform with the professional dancers. 

Photo By Rebecca Johnson: Kevin Peck, center, awaits the judges’ scores.

“I didn’t realize until after seeing them dance and perform together how bad we made them look,” he said. “They were really good and they were fun to work with. They were awesome.”

Click here to see a photo album of the event on our Facebook page.

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