Sheena Guzzo and pro Alex Loch paired for a sassy story dance filled with big oopsy-faces, hip checks and a butt pinch to win the people's choice award Thursday during the Minnesota Ballet's Celebrity Dance Challenge.

Guzzo, a senior buyer at Maurices by day, was full-on comedy for 2 minutes of choreography. The duo played rivals at a dance-off: Guzzo wore a twirl-ready skirt, Loch - shirt open to here - peeked out from beneath the folds. She shimmied, he did an aerial, and they got in each other's faces. Back and forth they went.

In the defining moment, Loch went from a handstand to a horizontal plank pose, his feet in Guzzo's hands. She flung them upward and the gymnastic-aerialist-contemporary dancer forward flipped his way out of it.

"You sold that," judge Andrea Kuzel said afterward. "It was sassy, hot, inappropriate at times - but that's why I loved it."

The Minnesota Ballet's annual fundraiser paired 11 familiar faces from the community - with varying levels of skill - with professionals who are mostly from the company. Thursday night's show at Fregeau Auditorium had a local chef shimmying to Christina Aguilera, a newspaper reporter perform lift after lift after lift, a community-relations worker from Kern and Kompany who brought her kiddos on stage.

And there was a parting gift: glow sticks.

Jonathan Reznick and Dominique Jenssen perform a hip hop/cha-cha. Clint Austin / DNT
Jonathan Reznick and Dominique Jenssen perform a hip hop/cha-cha. Clint Austin / DNT
Jonathan Reznick, maybe best known for the teriyaki pulled pork he serves out of his food truck, the Rambler, and his partner Dominique Jenssen performed a hip-hop/cha-cha dressed in matching yellow jumpsuits with dust masks. The performance, set to Missy Elliott's "Pass the Dutch," was straight out of the early years of MTV and took top prize from the judges.

"Well, wow," judge Jayme Hartman said afterward. "Every doggone beat was fabulous."

When asked where it was harder to breath: in a food truck or on stage, a winded Reznick answered: "I can breathe a lot easier in a food truck. Oof. What was the question?"

Reznick's choreographer, Darren Franco, won for best choreography - a shared award with Dan Westfield, who created a contemporary piece for Joe Gregorich and Brigid Duffin.

Jimmy Lovrien, a reporter at the News Tribune, mastered lifts and spotted partner Sarah White as she flipped and spun around his body during their swing dance choreographed by White.

Lindsay Kern's boppy and expressive jive with Tyler Piwowarczyk included a cameo from Kern's daughters Reagan, 11, and Paisley, 7 - who claim to be comfortable on stage.

"You got the cuteness factor," judge Mary Gummerson said. "Your daughters were awesome. Jive is hard and fast and this was the cutest thing I've ever seen."

Nyanyika Banda of Martha's Daughter performed jazz/funk alongside Branson Bice and cut loose like she was alone in her own kitchen.

Charlie Deville took a page out of Oprah Winfrey's playbook. The president of Lincoln Park Business Group bought enough glow sticks to tape one to the bottom of each seat in the auditorium. The rave effect played well with the silver-on-silver disco flavor he - silver tank top, silver pants, sunglasses - and partner Emma Stratton - silver dress, sunglasses - found at Ragstock. Multicolored wands glowed during the ballet-ballroom fusion set to an epic moon-landing instrumental.

 

  • Judges' choice: Jonathan Reznick and Dominique Jenssen
  • Best choreography: Dan Westfield and Darren Franco
  • Best authenticity: Charlie Deville and Emma Stratton
  • Best partnering: Jimmy Lovrien and Sarah White
  • Best stage presence: Nyanyika Banda and Branson Bice
  • Best use of rhythm: Kristen Vake and Sam Neale
  • Highest level of difficulty: Reznick and Jenssen
  • Most comedic: Sheena Guzzo and Alex Loch
  • Most elegant: Kim Bailey and Charles Clark
  • Most entertaining: Marcia Doty and Brennan Benson
  • Most enthusiastic: Lindsay Kern and Tyler Piwowarczyk
  • Most interpretive: Anne Stephen and Eric Pagnano
  • Most romantic: Joe Gregorich and Brigid Duffin