Everything I need to know about life I learned from dancing

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Dancing with the Stars



Since Dancing with the Stars – Shasta County Style is over, I’ll share my impressions from two months ago, when I first met Jake Carver. He just graduated Foothill High School.







He’s more than 10 years younger than my daughter.

I now know Jake a lot better. He’s a dedicated athlete, musician, choreographer, dancer and day-time Shasta College student. He committed himself to the grueling dwts schedule, even though it meant knowing he’d not get a summer job because he’d be out of commission for three weeks’ worth of evenings.

Lately I find myself quoting Jake, whose wise dance advice works well for life, too: 

No matter how bad you mess up, don’t stop, just keep moving. 

If you do something wrong, like step with the wrong foot or fling out the wrong arm, don’t try to correct it. Everyone will notice. Just stick with it and it will look intentional. 

Don’t look at your feet while you dance. It’s an energy-drainer for the audience, and besides, it’ll make people look at your feet where they might notice mistakes. 

Hold your head up and people will look at your face. Then smile.

 Jake emailed me Sunday, the morning after our Dancing with the Stars – Shasta County Style performance.

Saturday we waltzed to “Take it to the Limit” by the Eagles and did a disco to “I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor. (See video, below.) I wore a black-and-green chiffon dress for the waltz, and a bright red dress for the disco. Jake wore a black tux for the waltz and white slacks, white shirt and a brown vest for the disco. Our props included a newspaper and a pink slip.  

Redding Rancheria CEO Tracy Edwards and her partner, Matt Armstrong, earned the most audience votes, which crowned them the 2008 Dancing with the Stars – Shasta County Style champions. (Yay Tracy and Matt!)





Back to Jake’s email, where he said he was impressed with how well everything came together. Jake said I’d come a long way as a dancer and that all the hard work was fun, and worth it. In fact, he said he considered Saturday a success.

But I especially loved this part of his email: “Yeah, we didn’t win,” he said. “But you know what? Everyone loved our routines.”

Actually, we – and all our fellow dwts dancers – did win. 

We won friendships with our co-dancers that made overt competition seem silly.   

We won an intensive, schedule-breaking, dinner-missing, family-abandoning boot-camp-like dance-training experience that included sweat, pulled muscles and exhausting rehearsals in an often-sweltering YMCA gymnasium during triple-digit smoky evenings.

Most of all, we won the pride of knowing we entertained an auditorium full of people in the stunning Cascade Theatre, while we simultaneously raised money for two worthy community causes: The Shasta Family YMCA’s youth programs and Shasta Women’s Refuge.

Personally, I won a feeling of accomplishment to face something that terrified me: to dance on a stage before hundreds of people.

To paraphrase Les Baugh, a fellow dwts dancer last night: “I can speak before 10,000 people but don’t make me dance on stage.”

Amen, brother.

But we did dance on stage – Les Baugh, Don Burton, Tracy Edwards, Chita Johnson, Kurt Starman and yours truly. 

All of us are accustomed to public speaking. All of us are confident, ambitious, busy, fairly competitive individuals. 

However, in the able hands of our six professional dancers (mostly teenagers, some as young as 15) we were pushed to the absolute ledge of our comfort zones. There, our dance partners then caught and taught us.

Last night, waiting in the Cascade Theatre wings to walk on stage for the first time, those young people were the ones giving us pep talks.

You look great.

You’ll do great.

You can do it.

You know what – if you make a mistake, that’s OK.

It doesn’t matter if we win. It’s for a good cause.

We went on stage. We danced. We had fun. We truly did.

I’ll never forget it. In fact, it may have inspired me to take a dance class or two. But not right away.

Today, I’m relieved Dancing with the Stars – Shasta County Style is behind me.

I’ll return to my work schedule. I’ll resume my family connections and responsibilities. I’ll quit counting one-two-three in the grocery store line. I’ll stop thinking step-ball-change as I fall asleep at night.

I’ll dream of dancing in a chiffon dress.

Head up.


Doni Chamberlain
Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded what’s now known as anewscafe.com in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke. Chamberlain is an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She lives in Redding, California.
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31 Responses

  1. Avatar Erin says:

    Fabulous!! Brilliant choice of music — looks like you were having a blast. Congratulations on a job well done, and thanks for taking your readers along for the ride.

  2. Avatar Dolores says:


    You go girl!! I loved it!!

    Thank you for sharing.

  3. Avatar Judy Darting says:

    John Travolta would be proud! I sure am!

  4. Avatar Diana McConnel says:

    YOU were absolutely lovely! I smiled so much my cheeks ached. I was in the third row sandwiched between Kurt Starman and Tracy Edward's families where we all cheered for everyone and bought a million tickets. I wish all your fans could have seened your performance. But even though you look like a dancing ladybug in the video it brings back memories of a great evening. Thanks.

  5. Avatar Pat J says:

    Dissappointed! The You Tube says, "We're sorry, this video is no longer available". ????

  6. Avatar John Dixon says:

    Doni – You did fantastic, loved the show, the performers, the audience, and the CAUSE……… Women's Refuge and the YMCA are two really deserving groups. Kudos to you fine lady, your courage and humor shown thru like a beacon.

  7. Avatar GrammaLyn says:

    That's so great that you have a video of that dance to see and hear how much everyone enjoyed it. Patrick John was on his feet the second it was over, cheering! That was really a terrific show, and I'm glad it was so popular. It looks like a real Win-Win for everyone.

  8. Avatar kerri says:

    Girl, you've got some MOVES!! Huge standing ovation from us!

  9. Avatar Michele E. says:


    You are a continual inspiration! You didn't just look amazing, you ARE amazing! Love you, Doni!


  10. Avatar Jan Gandy says:

    Doni — that took guts, girl! It was great fun to watch. Mary and I enjoyed it so much. Would love to know more about the "professional" dance partners. Who are they and just what was their dance experience?? There wasn't anything in the program.

  11. Avatar Tammy D says:


    Loved the choice of music and you are fabulous! Congratulations on great performances! Now, you just need to get Bruce out on the dance floor!


  12. Avatar Marsh says:

    How do I get to the video? Blonde moment?

  13. Avatar Pepsigrm says:

    Doni-You guys were awesome!! The whole evening was such fun. Thanks for showing us once again that we are survivors no matter what life brings us….and you danced for such a worthy cause. Kudos to you and Jake both.

  14. Avatar Canda Williams says:

    Doni, You were fabulous out there on the dance floor! You looked absolutely beautiful, and kept your radiant smile the whole time. (I had good binoculars) What an inspiration you are to those of us who fear leaving our comfort zone! You looked like you were having a ball up there, and we were having a blast watching you and cheering you on. Doni, you're the best!

  15. Avatar Celeste White says:

    It's true, you were a vision! Loved your disco number! And you certainly scored on your dresses.

  16. Avatar Karen Calanchini says:

    You were great Don, and so was your partner. The judges loved you guys!

  17. Avatar George S. says:

    Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhh Doni. Doni, Doni, Doni. That was wonderful. I think having the camera shot so far out was actually a benefit to those watching it on YouTube. The mistakes were really hard to see and if one doesn't wear their glasses while watching it it even looks that much better. Good job. Not everyone is willing to do what you did and for such a good cause.

  18. Avatar Carla Jackson says:

    Doni, you're my new hero. The stress & preparation of the event PLUS the threat of evacuation would have killed me.

    I can't believe you didn't win! Musta been rigged 🙂

  19. Avatar Judy Salter says:

    OMIGOSG…that was fantastic. I was whooping and cheering just watching the video. What a great event for our community. You ROCK!!!

  20. Avatar Kathleen says:

    How fun. You looked beautiful and loved the dress. You did a terrifc job and should be so proud of yourself!!

  21. Avatar Budd Hodges says:

    Thank you Doni for your contribution to Women's Refuge, a safe haven for abused women and children. You did great, young lady. You'll be remembered for your donation to this great organazation founded in the 70's by Chris Ortiz.

    A fun time was had by everyone and a great deal of money was raised to support them. What an effort! Way to go!

  22. Avatar Karyn Harvey says:

    FABULOUS Doni!!!! We had such a wonderful time Sat. evening watching everyone dance, and especially you and Jake! We were cheering you on! What courage you have, and what wonderful memories you made. I knew you were special…this just proves it!! You are quite an inspiration. You got our votes!

  23. Avatar Barbara Stone says:

    Congratulations, Doni! Despite the fires, the evacuations, the family issues… YOU DID IT! And you looked great in that red dress ~;>)

  24. Avatar victoria Bernet says:

    Doni—Congrats on your most deserved accomplishment, you "wowed" us with your dancing, graceful presentation, and oh so delightfully "Doni" commentary. I enjoyed the evening so much.

  25. Avatar Bill says:

    …"Cause now she's back…" The Don(i) of Dance!

  26. Avatar Lauren Brooks says:

    Congrats, Doni! You did it! And you did it with style. 🙂

  27. Avatar Tracy E says:

    Doni, you did it, I never had a doubt. Women like you inspire women like me, it doesn't matter what life throws at us we just smile and charge ahead and "survive". In all sincerity one of the highlights of this experiences was meeting you and experiencing it with you. From the second practice when you brought me the tie dye pink bandana with cold water on it because it was unbearably hot in the Gym (by the way I am keeping it as a momento, I hope you don't mind), to the delicious treats you brought me when Matt and I needed a little sugar. Its been a pleasure dancing with you. Lets do it again another time and another place.

  28. Avatar Joan Macrusky says:

    Doni, thanks so much for supplying the video for those of us no longer in the area. It was clear that you had the WHOLE audience rockin', and that you are one heck of a hoofer! Congrats on another job well done.

  29. Avatar Les Baugh says:

    Hey there 'Dancing Doni"!

    You were terrific. I like the way you poured your heart into the evening. Yes, we were all tired from three weeks of practice, yet in the end… worth every moment. I especially like the results; money raised for the Refuge and for our youth. I enjoyed spending time with you, Don, Tracy, Kurt and Chita as well as the talented dancers that were so patient with all of us. Amazing people who gave selflessly for the benefit of our community. My personal thanks to all involved. God bless you!

  30. Avatar Donna Ross says:


    My husband Greg and I danced in the exhibition portion of the show, and despite all the nerves of performing (our first time, as well) we felt like the privelidged ones to be part of such a great event. We had an awesome time and commend you on stepping out of your comfort zone and doing it with style!


  31. Avatar jessica says:

    I wish they had something like that down here in Southern CA. What a blast that must have been. Great job.