The thought of getting up and dancing in front of 700 people in the middle of an airplane hangar would make most people want to run in the opposite direction.
But Patrick Scanlan isn’t most people. P-Dawg, as he was known during his days booting field goals for the Battle Mountain Huskies, was born to boogie.
Maybe you wouldn’t know it to look at him, but Scanlan says he’s always been a natural performer at heart. Which is why, when he was approached by reps from the Vail Valley Foundation’s YouthPower365 to be a participant in Tuesday night’s Star Dancing Gala at the Eagle Valley Jet Center, Scanlan couldn’t have said yes quicker.
“It’s a great organization that I believe a lot in, especially growing up in this valley,” said Scanlan, who did Teach for America after college and now mentors local youth at Berry Creek Middle School through YouthPower365. “Financially, no buildings are getting named after me, but giving time and some sweat, that’s the best way to give back.”
And, man, was Scanlan willing to give some sweat. He admits to maybe sending the most enthusiastic email in the history of the gala to Colin Meiring of the Vail Valley Dance Academy, who has coordinated the performances for the fundraiser since its inception.
“I went over to my neighbor’s house, Michael Holton, and told him I was doing it,” Scanlan said. “And we were just talking in the yard and he’s like, you know what, just looking at you, you’re not an amazing Flamenco dancer. You don’t know East Coast swing or anything like that. So you’ve really gotta do something fun … like fall off the stage into a table or do like a tribute to ‘Top Gun.’ I was like, OK. It kind of evolved from that.”
Meiring’s response to the “20,000-word email” that Scanlan said he sent? Dude, you only have three minutes.
“I was imagining an hour-and-a-half show with me up there with a 15-minute intermission. But that wasn’t the case.”
What gala attendees did see was a 3-minute dancing homage to “Top Gun” that would have made Iceman want to be Scanlan’s wingman.
Not that Scanlan was the only star Tuesday night. Hardly.
This Star Dancing Gala, now in its 11th year, more than lives up to its name. It has become the Vail Valley’s biggest party of the summer and raises planeloads of donations to power extended learning opportunities throughout Eagle County for kids of all ages and their families.
It’s one of those things that makes you realize just how special this place is, and how many talented, dedicated people call this valley home.
The stars of this dance party? An interior designer, a veterinarian, a dermatologist, a yoga instructor, a CEO of a lifestyle brand, a professional hockey player — and, well, Chris Lindley, who has enough degrees and jobs for maybe three people.
Lindley, the executive director of the newly-formed nonprofit, Eagle Valley Behavioral Health, just left his job as director of Eagle County Public Health and Environment. He’s also the founder of two successful fitness companies with 10 different locations, including Endorphin in Eagle Ranch; a former professional firefighter; and the former prevention services director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. Oh, yeah, he’s also a former unit commander for the US Army Medical Reserves who has received a presidential commendation and the Bronze Star Medal for saving multiple lives during a suicide bomber attack in Iraq.
And he’s got three — yes, three — masters degrees. When this guy sleeps, nobody knows.
But of all the things Lindley has done in his life, nothing compared to getting up on that stage.
“I’d like to consider myself somewhat athletic, but, man, dancing is a whole different skill set,” Lindley said.
Often, in the months leading up to the event, Lindley was certain that he was going to be “just awful.”
“Like, I would forget something, I would drop her, and I would be the ass of the entire show,” he said. “I couldn’t remember the steps, I couldn’t move my hips.”
Victoria Jones, the interior designer, said she had similar thoughts — and she trained as a dancer growing up and placed the winning bid at last year’s gala to secure a spot on stage this year.
“I was like, I can do that,” said Jones, who in her younger dancing days once performed a routine on stage at Red Rocks. “But when you’re practicing, you don’t know what everyone else is doing. I thought it would be like riding a bike, but after 10 years, it didn’t come back as quickly.”
Jean Urquhart, the dermatologist, said she lost two toenails during the more than 20 hours of rehearsing she did with her partner in the months leading up to the event.
Liz Logan Sterett, the CEO of her own lifestyle brand, BeSOUL, said her initial reaction when asked if she’d perform was: “Are you crazy? The only time I dance is with tequila and girlfriends.”
But it’s the kids, and the cause, that won out — and helped make all the grueling hours of practice worth it.
“Every year I tell myself I’m going to do one thing that pushes my limits, tests my strength and I can honestly say this was humbling,” Logan Sterett said. “But when I think about the impact my dancing shoes made, along with all my fellow dancers, I realize we are all here to do our part in making our community thrive.”
“I was reminded how fun it is to get out of my comfort zone,” said Rachel Nelson, the yoga instructor.
“Walking out in front of 700 leaders and influencers in this community and kind of just showing them who you are and being completely vulnerable, I think, is a good thing for all of us,” Lindley said. “That ties into our behavioral health efforts. We’re all human, and we may not be as thin as we want to be, or as athletic as we want to be, or as funny, or whatever, but just being out, and having fun, and being human — the more we can all be out doing that as a community, it’s just going to help us along that path better.”
Couldn’t agree more.
As for Scanlan, if you’re still interested in seeing his full hour-plus routine, just give him a call. He’s available to do weddings, birthdays and any other event this summer.
Email Vail Daily Editor Nate Peterson at email@example.com