Prominent UA faculty dance for scholarships

Ashley Chaffin

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By day, the stars of the UA Arty Party Fundraiser event “Dancing with the Bama Stars” are a dean, a vice chancellor of the UA System and a prominent alumnus. By night — or at least the night of March 31 — they will be dance stars.

Kellee Reinhart, vice chancellor for system relations for the UA system, Robert Olin, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, and Pat Whetstone, a past director of the University of Alabama Alumni Association, will each take the stage with a dance major from the University.

“The thing that I’m most excited about for this event is being able to perform for some of the people that run the University of Alabama,” said JJ Butler, a junior majoring in dance who will perform with Reinhart.

The Arty Party started eight years ago when the College of Arts and Sciences Leadership Board decided to create an event that would raise money for the five art departments at UA, and also expose alumni to the talent currently on campus. This year, the department being showcased is the Department of Dance.

Individual tickets for the event start at $150 and go all the way up to $5,000 for underwriter sponsorships. In the past, the event has primarily been for alumni and prominent members of the Tuscaloosa community. Rebecca Florence, director of public relations for the College of Arts and Sciences, said the event has been well-received each year and raises anywhere from $25,000 to $50,000 for scholarships.

“People keep coming back every year,” she said. “We get calls from people asking when their invitations are coming.”

Reinhart has attended and enjoyed the event in previous years. This year, she is looking forward to dancing the foxtrot with Butler.

“My goal going into this was to see if I was capable of learning something brand new,” Reinhart said. “Now, I wouldn’t give myself an ‘A’ and I’m not expecting a mirror ball trophy, but I’ve come along way.”

During the performance, she’ll wear a vintage costume dress she borrowed from the theatre department. The dress even has the name of the original owner, Mrs. Sam Wiesel of a prominent Tuscaloosa family, sewn into it.

She said her husband, who has come to every rehearsal and has been a great practice partner at home, joked that this would be an opportunity for her to learn how to follow while they dance.

“Dancing with Kellee [Reinhart] has been a blast,” Butler said. “We got along well, making it much easier to learn the steps and overall made it an enjoyable experience. Dancing the foxtrot has been a challenge for her, but she caught on quickly, and the more we practiced the more comfortable it came to her.”

Both Reinhart and Butler said the performance is what they are most looking forward to at Saturday’s event. They agree that the chance for students to showcase their talents to UA’s prominent alumni is a great opportunity.

Cornelius Carter, director of the dance program, is happy to have the department of dance showcased in a year of such hard times for many families.

“It has always been a special event, but I think it’s even more meaningful this year,” he said. “It’s more important than ever because we are facing really challenging times, and to assist a parent in getting their student to the University is an exciting thing. It gives us hope and the community hope while things are so difficult.”

Besides the price of the tickets, the event uses a silent auction to raise even more money for the department. In the past, some of the most popular items have been a football autographed by Nick Saban, which went for $1,200, and a road trip with the Million Dollar Band, which went for $1,800. Both of these items will be auctioned off again this year.

Among the other items are a pair of hand-cast silver elephant earrings, a tour of Bryant-Denny Stadium guided by Mal Moore and various vacations. The invitation for the Arty Party also promises another dancer for the event only named as a “Crimson Tide star.”