Temple Emanu-El's

A Starry Night Dinner Dance

May 5, 2018   6:00pm
Chelsearose Ballroom at Holiday Inn Norwich
$75 per individual

Join us for an evening of dinner & dancing.

Let's celebrate our community while enjoying appetizers, a silent auction, dinner, dancing and dessert.  See some of our Temple friends ballroom dance and maybe even try a dance lesson or two from professional instructors at the dance.  There will also be an open dancing part of the evening.

Proceeds benefit Temple Emanu-El's Essential Services Fund.

Temple Emanu-El

Social Hall 2:30-4:00 pm

Sunday, April 29

Help us spread the word about this event and bring friends to help support this important fundraiser.  Please share.

Dancing Inspiration


Temple Emanu-El's Renée Kohanski has an inspiring dance story for you!

During two seasons of Temple Emanu-El's Cabaret Night show, we were treated to the ballroom dance stylings of member Renée Kohanski and her dance instructor Johnny Gonzales of Arthur Murray Dance Studios in Niantic.  What a fantastic and artistic energy that she brought to our stage, amidst the mix of singers, musicians and other performers on those evenings.


"I love this dance because of this lead-follow intensity requiring both a skilled lead and follow," read Renée's entry in this year's event program.  "Some of the figures you will see (but not even notice) in this choreography are the basic salida, back and forward ochos, ganchos, ficks, mordida, corte, salida and elavacion (lift)."

Click corner for 

full screen view

Renée Kohanski and her dance instructor Johnny Gonzales of Arthur Murray Dance Studio in Niantic, CT.

Spoken like a true aficionado.  None of us dancing laymen in the audience noticed that the music was more contemporary and while not strictly Argentine Tango, could best be classified as electro-tango.  We anticipated and were given exactly what Renée hoped to perform on stage, a feast for the eyes and ears, as she dramatically glided, twirled and at one point, appeared to fly on her partner's shoulders.  Her passion and skill for ballroom dancing was evident.  So was her investment in time and energy.

"I have loved dancing my entire life," said Renée.


Renée's inspiration for dance was sparked by her Aunt Lynne Vernick (Bowin, at the time), who danced professionally on Broadway in the first production of West Side Story.  Aunt Lynne was also cast in the original Bye Bye Birdie Broadway production.  Renée was 13 years old when she had the rare opportunity to hang out with the cast and crew of her mother’s critically acclaimed rock opera, The Lieutenants, that was also produced on Broadway.

Professional casting head shot of Renee Kohanski's Aunt Lynne (Bowin) Vernick.

Renée's own dance trajectory began with jazz classes in fourth grade.  Later, in her twenties, she received professional dance training at the Phil Black Dance Studio, after finishing with her day job as a financial analyst at accounting firm Coopers & Lybrand.  The dance studio's wide windows overlooked the looming Broadway marquee for the show CATS.  After work, she joined 7 other non-professional dancers with 6 professional dancers in her advanced beginning class, diving right into the choreographer's combinations.


A chemistry major and math minor, Renée had always wanted to become a medical doctor.  So after briefly contemplating a professional dance career like her Aunt Lynne, she decide she was too old and that it was too late to pursue it.   Instead, as a full-time college student and part-time cocktail waitress at a Long Island nightclub, she settled for casual dancing opportunities like "The Hustle" on the dance floor. 

Lynne (Bowin) Vernick was cast in the original Broadway production of West Side Story.

"I would have loved serious dance training, but academics became my focus," she said.  "I didn't really put the time into dancing as a real discipline until now."


This past year, Renée has been developing her ballroom dancing technique.  She has been actively taking ballroom dance classes at Arthur Murray Dance Studios and performing in showcases.


"You have to listen with your body," said Renée, offering some tips to aspiring dancers. "With one tap the (Argentine) lead shifts and eventually you learn the patterns and how to be an active follow."


Renée's next performance will take place at the Dancerama at Foxwoods, where she will compete in a variety of ballroom dancing styles, including the Cha Cha, East Coast Swing, Rhumba, Waltz, Fox Tango, Argentine Tango, West Coast Swing and Hustle.


"I've always wanted to do this," said Renée, reflecting on the three to four hours per week she spends honing her ballroom dancing skills. "Now I'm really doing it, complete with the grown-up ball gown."

Salsa Date Nights


Temple Emanu-El's Erica & Rich McCaffrey have a short and spicy ballroom dancing story for you!

Some people can be counted upon to be the life of the party.  At their three daughters' b'nai mitzvot and at many simchot with friends, Erica and Rich McCaffrey have been known to maximize usage of the dance floor.  In fact, if you were a member of the family or close friend, you better have been spotted on the dance floor with them.

It was no surprise to discover that when given the opportunity, Erica and Rich were willing to take up Salsa dancing lessons to support a fundraiser benefiting after school programs at ISAAC Middle School (Interdistrict School for Arts & Communication in New London).  School staff and parents paid a fee to take Friday night Salsa dancing lessons for six weeks.  The dance instructor, who also happened to be a teacher at New London High School, enjoyed teaching salsa dancing for fun.  He gave instructions in English and Spanish.

On the last Friday night of the course, all the students went salsa dancing at Mambo, a lively New London bar & eatery featuring a variety of Spanish & Latin dishes, plus weekend dancing & karaoke.

When asked how she convinced Rich to take part in the dance lessons with her, she said, "He's very easy going.  Very rarely will he say no.  He likes to dance and we had a lot of fun."

Join us with Erica and Rich, as they show us their newfound salsa dancing moves and learn some other ballroom dancing styles like the swing and the rhumba at Temple Emanu-El's

A Starry Night Dinner Dance on May 5th. 


Erica & Rich McCaffrey dancing

together at a recent wedding

A Couple's Dancing Destiny

Joel & Sarah Straus at a recent U.S. Navy Ball.


Temple Emanu-El's Sarah and Joel Straus have a truly heartwarming ballroom dancing story for you!

While attending community college, Sarah was first intro-duced to swing dancing by a friend in Santa Cruz, CA.  She enjoyed it and found that going to dances was a fun way
for her to get some exercise and meet new people.  After transferring to Humboldt State University (HSU) nestled in the California Redwoods, swing and lindy hop dancing became a more regular part of her routine.  Sarah took swing dancing classes at school and quickly mastered her technique.  Soon she was helping the instructor teach other students.  An out-going art major in college, she enjoyed being part of the larger swing dance community in Northern CA.  During her final year at HSU she signed up for a Latin Ballroom class to learn the salsa, rhumba and Argentinian-tango.

Joel was also a student at HSU.  A shy and focused environmental engineering major, Joel liked to try different things. 


"He was kind of a Renaissance guy," said Sarah. "He was a well-traveled vegan engineering student who also wanted to learn to play the piano and do woodworking.”


That same semester he took Latin Ballroom. In class, Sarah noticed Joel because he was tall and handsome, and because he was the only guy who took the time to change into dance shoes before class.

Joel finally asked Sarah out on a date on the last day of dance class.  As the couple started dating, they often found themselves at local com-munity dances. It was on their second date that Joel told Sarah he was planning on interviewing for the Civil Engineering Corps in the Navy. While Sarah couldn’t imagine herself as a Navy wife, she fell in love
with Joel.


“How could I not fall in love with this intelligent and kind young man who would take me dancing!" she said. "Once he drove me all the way to Berkeley to attend a 2-day Lindy Hop workshop taught by Frankie Manning, one of the original Lindy-Hoppers from the 1940’s.”

After a year of dating, the day came for Joel to leave for Officers Training. At this time Sarah moved to Berkeley where she would work on campus at UCB, dance the Lindy Hop four nights per week, and help teach swing at a local night club. Sarah and Joel continued to date long distance over the next 2½ years.

In the fall of 2000, Joel and Sarah got married.  Dancing was the most important part of their reception which started with a waltz to the song Sunrise, Sunset; followed by line dancing to the music of a live Klezmer band. After the cake was cut, the bride and groom both changed into dance shoes for a night of swing dancing. Now that is truly a couple's dancing destiny fulfilled!


Come watch Joel and Sarah ballroom dance at Temple Emanu-El's A Starry Night Dinner Dance on May 5th.  To help us get warmed up for the big event, Sarah is graciously offering free Swing and Charleston tutorials in Temple Emanu-El's social hall on Sunday afternoons from 2:30-4:00 pm on April 22 and 29.  See you there!

Sarah and Joel during their first year of dating at a community sponsored dance.

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