On Friday night, Rosse Hall was transformed from a mere performance space into a reality TV competition arena. Kenyon College Ballroom Dance Club (KCBDC) presented Dancing with the Kenyon Stars, an annual event that pairs students with faculty members in a lighthearted dance-off. Although attendance was free, audience members were encouraged to buy $1 ballots to vote for their favorite duo, and all of the proceeds were donated to the local Winter Sanctuary homeless shelter. The event also featured a panel of judges but, much like the British monarchy, they existed merely as figureheads, devoid of any real political power.
Gambier Mayor Leeman Kessler ’04 and Professor of Music Ben Locke (known affectionately among students as “Doc Locke”) emceed the event, introducing each pair of competitors and cracking jokes to each other. Locke’s stand-up comedy was one of the night’s highlights, eliciting both laughter and loving groans from the audience. (He proudly showed off his geographic knowledge, boasting that he could name the capital of every U.S. state. When an audience member asked him what the capital of Oklahoma was, his reply was instantaneous: “O!”)
Before the actual dancing began, Pep Band set the tone of the night with energetic instrumental renditions of Doja Cat, ABBA and the “Pokémon” theme. Then, after brief technical difficulties (it wouldn’t be a Kenyon event without them), the first competitors took to the stage. Elizabeth Redmond ’25 and Campus Safety Administrative Assistant and Transportation Coordinator Miracle Mahle danced a foxtrot to Harry Connick Jr.’s “Wink and a Smile.” Although the technical issues meant the music had to be played from a miniature speaker, the dancers more than made up for it with accessories and enthusiasm.
The next pair was Sacha Franjola ’26 and Student Accessibility and Support Services Advisor and Assistive Tech Coordinator Mary Harris, who wore matching flapper dresses as they cha-chaed to Abba’s “Money, Money, Money.” They were followed by Thomas Metcalf ’26 and Center for Global Engagement Director and Affiliated Scholar in Anthropology Marne Ausec, who danced the East Coast swing to “Let’s Groove” by Earth, Wind & Fire.
In between the third and fourth pairs of competitors, What’s K-Poppin’ club members performed two group numbers, dancing to Stray Kids’s “Case 143” and TWICE’s “Scientist.” After this upbeat interlude, Ally Lavy ’26 and Associate Director of Career Development Karen Leuthold took to the stage, doing a lively cha-cha to Dua Lipa’s “Dance the Night.” They were a visually striking duo; Lavy wore the iconic neon “Barbie” movie rollerblading outfit, while Leuthold donned a sparkling pink dress. The final competitors were Sophia Percy ’26 and Associate Director of Counseling Holly Baker, foxtrotting to Frankie Valli’s “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You.”
After the final pair took their bows, it was time to tally up the votes. While the ballots were being counted, What’s K-Poppin’ took the stage once again for two more dances. Their performance was followed by the much-anticipated Newbie Showcase, where new KCBDC members get the chance to show off what they’ve learned. They danced to One Direction’s “What Makes You Beautiful,” a delightfully nostalgic end to the series of performances.
At last, it was time to announce the winning duo. Doc Locke cracked a few more jokes before telling the audience that… drumroll please… Ausec and Metcalf had won! They were all smiles as they took to the stage, hugging and congratulating each other. “I had a great time, even though I forgot my steps,” Ausec wrote in an email to the Collegian. “I really enjoyed watching the other dancers; there is a lot of talent among the students and staff!”
Although Dancing with the Kenyon Stars may technically be a competition, both the members of KCBDC and the faculty members want to emphasize that the event’s primary goal is to raise money and awareness for charity. As Baker wrote in an email to the Collegian: “I am so grateful for everyone who came out to support our performance and most of all for supporting the work of the Winter Sanctuary.”
Features Editor Sacha Franjola ’26 is the competition coordinator for KCBDC.