Dancing with the Stars of Darlington County: Meet the Dancers

Becky and Brian
Photo by Steve Roos

Shantella and Cliff Photo by Steve Roos

It’s almost time again to hit the dance floor. Dancing With the Stars of Darlington County, an annual charity event benefiting the Pee Dee Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Assault, will be staged once again at the Center Theater in Hartsville. The event will take place January 25, 2018.

To follow along with the training and get updates on the event, visit them on Facebook and on their website at www.darlingtoncountydancingwiththestars.com. The community can also vote for their favorite couple to win the People’s Choice Award.

Each week until the big night, we will introduce two couples in the News and Press.

This week’s couples are:
•Brian Forte (Professional) & Becky Askins-Weaver (Celebrity) Dance Style: Quickstep; Broadway Show: Jersey Boys (Choreographer: Burnadene Kelley-Newman)
• Shantella Harris (Pro) & Cliff Jones (Celebrity)
Dance Style: Rhumba; Broadway Show: West Side Story (Choreographer: Shantella Harris)

Professional Dancer Brian Mezzo Forte is a Hartsville native, writer, producer, director, comedian, and owner of MezzoForte Restaurant and Playhouse in downtown Hartsville. A love of theater, music, and the arts, along with a supportive community, led Brian to write, produce, cast and direct his own play at the Center Theater in Hartsville as early as 15 years old. After graduating HHS, Brian attended Coker College majoring in Musical Theater and there received extensive training in music, theater, and dance, as well as, writing and producing, all of which he is currently doing today. Last year Brian moved back to his hometown and teamed up with his mother on a joint venture that is one part upscale soul food and one part black box theater known as MezzoForte Restaurant and Playhouse. In addition to being an entertainer and business owner, as well as, social media “maverick” (see his Facebook live posts and podcast), Brian also serves as mentor/advisor of Living Out Loud Youth, a nonprofit youth group that mentors through the arts.

“DWTS of Darlington County and the Pee Dee Coalition are great partners that allow me the opportunity to put my talents to good use,” says Brian. Brian has also had the privilege of working with the Pee Dee Coalition as director of Escaped to Tell, an independent film chronicling the life of a sexual abuse and domestic violence victim.

Celebrity Dancer Becky Askins-Weaver is the VP of Sales and Operations at Integrated Systems, a robotic automation company in Darlington, having been with the company for 11 years. Prior to that, she worked at the Governor’s School for Science and Mathematics Foundation and has also owned her own construction company. She is a native of Hartsville and is active in her community, serving on numerous boards including the Community Foundation for a Better Hartsville, the GSSM Accelerate Corporate Advisory Board and the Black Creek Arts Council. She has previously served on the Darlington County Economic Development Board, Coker Cobra Club Board, Hartsville Country Club Board and the Building Committee at Wesley United Methodist Church. She is a past member of the Thursday Study Club, the Kiwanis Club and the Rotary Club, having served as its President. Becky has two children – Alexis, 23 and Mac, 17. She enjoys playing tennis, traveling, making jewelry and taking photos. Becky is passionate about the mission of the Pee Dee Coalition and urges everyone to contribute so that women and children who find themselves in unhealthy or dangerous relationships have the necessary support they need to break free.

Burnadene Kelley-Newman is the owner and director of KFA which is currently celebrating its 29th year. She began her dance education at the age of six. Her natural talent and passion for dance was discovered and continued through high school and college. She received a BA in Dance, as well as, a BA in Elementary Education from Columbia College. Her special training includes not only dance but cheerleading, runway, print and commercial modeling, theatre, and music (both instrumental and vocal). Burnadene is a certified member of Dance Masters of America. Since KFA’s beginning, some of her accomplishments and awards include: Business Women of the Year, Who’s Who Among Business Professionals, serving on the South Carolina Dance Colloquium, the I.V. League honor of distinction for Innerviews Magazine, TV 13’s Pee Dee Hero Award, and receiving the honor of a sponsorship for the first studio Chapter in South Carolina for the National Honor Society for Dance Arts. She is also the former director of the Phantom Dance Team and was the choreographer and director of the AIFA Championship halftime shows for 2007 and 2008. She has enjoyed choreographing with the Florence Little Theater in 2009 for their production of Peter Pan, in 2014 for the Wizard of Oz, and in 2015 for Mary Poppins. Mrs. Burnadene served as the 2010/2011 head cheer coach for the FMU Patriots cheerleaders and directed the “Vipettes”, the dance team for the PeeDee Vipers basketball team 2013-2015. She has served as a performer for Clarendon DWTS, Cheraw DWTS, and Florence DWTS. She has been the director of choreography for Florence DWTS since its beginning in 2011. She also has directed the Cheraw DWTS, Lee County DWTS and Kershaw County DWTS and is presently a choreographer for the Darlington DWTS. Mrs. Burnadene resides in Florence with her husband, Sid, and they are the proud parents of five children.

Professional Dancer Shantella Harris is a lifelong resident of Florence where she lives with her husband Herbert and their children, Miya (10), Sean (6), and Robyn (5). Shantella loves to travel, be outdoors, and is learning to ride a motorcycle. She is the Owner and Creative Director of Driven by Dance Studio in Quinby, SC. Shantella is a certified dance instructor with over 20 years of experience as both a dancer and dance instructor ranging from African, Ballet, Jazz, Modern, and Liturgical Dance. Shantella is honored to be a part of an event with such a meaningful cause.

Celebrity Dancer Cliff “Bones” Jones, a Hartsville native, is the Senior Vice President of Bullard Restaurant Group. He is also a member of Emmanuel Baptist Church. Cliff is married to Beth Jones, and they have two teenage children, Kira and Noah. Cliff is involved with the Hartsville Area Recreation Department sponsoring, coaching, and playing on teams each year. Cliff has served as a team captain with the Darlington County Relay for Life and is currently serving on the 2017-2018 Darlington County Relay for Life leadership team. He is active with the Florence Little Theatre and has been in six different shows since 2015 and won the Debut Award in the 2015-2016 season. Cliff currently plays in the Roy Hobbs adult baseball league in Myrtle Beach and was selected to the Myrtle Beach All Star Team in 2015. He finished with two first place awards in the Black Creek Arts Center Carolinas Photography competition in 2009 and his photography was on display at the Hartsville Memorial Library as the featured artist of the month. Cliff is honored to have been asked to participate in this event and hopes to inspire his children to take part in worthy causes such as this in the future.

Author: mrollins

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