As a former Ford model, Nancy Pantoliano of Wilton has a lot of experience gliding down runways, but gliding down a dance floor is a different story.
Pantoliano has no professional dance experience, but is going to slip on some pumps and give things a whirl at the sixth annual Dancing with the Stars Gala for the benefit of ElderHouse Adult Day Center. The event is being held Saturday, March 23, from 6 to 11 p.m., at Rolling Hills Country Club in Wilton.
The gala will showcase Pantoliano, office leader with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices, and seven other Fairfield County business leaders, who will perform with an award-winning dance professional in a Dancing with the Stars-like competition.
Pantoliano is paired with Fred Astaire dance professional Alexander Andrianov and will be performing the Latin cha-cha in the competition.
“It’s quite the routine,” Pantoliano said in a phone interview from Las Vegas.
To get in shape for the competition she has been training twice a week since the end of January at the Fred Astaire Dance Studio in Norwalk, one of the gala’s sponsors.
“We initially had to see if I could just put two feet in front of each other,” she laughed.
But after a lot of hard work and practice, Pantoliano is ready to perform in front of an audience. While in Vegas for a convention, she even found a dress with feathers and fringe that she says is perfect for her dance debut. “It’s been really fun and it’s all for a good cause,” Pantoliano said.
A perfectionist at heart, Pantoliano watched a video of one of her dance practice sessions where she noticed a few mistakes she made. “Alexander was great. He said, ‘Don’t worry, no one else will know.’ He told me the most important thing was to relax and have fun, so that’s my plan,” she said.
Participating in a benefit for ElderHouse, which provides support and services to older adults and their family caregivers, means a lot to her. “I grew up in Florida and was a candy striper at a retirement home in Florida and loved the experience, especially listening to patients tell their stories. That is what they do at ElderHouse, they take care of the people we should be celebrating,” she said.
The gala on Saturday will feature cocktails, dinner and a live auction, and the dance competition will provide the main entertainment.
The eight dance pairs will compete for top awards including: Best Male and Female Performances, chosen by a panel of judges; People’s Choice, voted by attendees for their favorite star dancers; and Best Friend to ElderHouse for the best fund-raising efforts.
In addition to Pantoliano and Andrianov, other couples competing at the gala are:
Karen Bradbury of Closet & Storage Concepts, with dance professional and Fred Astaire studio owner Martin Goethsche.
Lukas Macniak of ABR Builders LLC, with dance professional Tatyana Larina.
Scott McKessy of Halloran & Sage LLP, with dance professional Tatyana Larina.
Duane R. Morgan of Morgan Levine Dolan, PC, with dance professional Anna Belyavtseva.
Anthony M. Roncalli of PLP Associates Holdings LP, with dance professional Anna Belyavtseva.
Karen K. Scott of KMS Partners|Compass, with dance professional Manuel Trillo.
Debbie Spinola of Partners Café & Pizzeria, with dance professional Manuel Trillo.
Pantiolano hopes the cha-cha she and Andrianov are performing to Uptown Funk by Bruno Mars will heat up the dance floor a bit.
But if that doesn’t work, she may have to challenge her husband, actor Joe Pantoliano, to get up and shake his stuff. “Joe wants to see me dance, because he doesn’t think I can,” she said, “But he’ll see.”