NBC Connecticut traffic reporter Heidi Voight keeps you updated on traffic while you're on the move to work weekday mornings and on Saturday night she showed off her moves on the dance floor as she and dance partner Todd Russell tied for first at CRIS Radio's Dancing with the Stars competition in Hartford.
"It was a lifelong dream come true. I have always wanted to learn to dance, but growing up in a single parent family of five kids, we couldn't afford lessons or dance shoes -- we were just trying to make ends meet and keep food on the table," Voight said. "It wasn't possible in my reality then. So to have this opportunity all these years later... it's very emotional for me. My childhood dream came true, even if for just one night."
The friendly ballroom dancing competition was part of CRIS Radio's fifth annual Dining & Dancing in the Dark event at The Bond Ballroom on Asylum Street in Hartford. The event raised money for the radio station, which is Connecticut's only radio reading service for the disabled and visually-impaired.
Voight and Russell scored a perfect 10 from all the judges to tie for first place and earn the Mirror Ball trophy.
"Learning to dance was a challenge that took me outside my comfort zone. It was harder than I thought it would be, but for the same reason, even more rewarding. And every time I felt nervous or overwhelmed I would think about what those who are blind have to deal with on a daily basis, navigating a world that assumes everyone can see," Voight said. "I am friends with several veterans who lost their eyesight to IED blasts in Afghanistan and Iraq. They have had to relearn how to do everything without sight - from tiny things we take for granted like putting toothpaste on a toothbrush, to learning how to use a white cane or guide dog to be able to travel independently again. Dancing seems easy in comparison."
Voight competed against WFSB reporters Jill Konopka and Evan White, WFSB news anchor Mark Zinni, Hartford Deputy Treasurer Carmen Sierra and Marilyn Alverio, founding producer of Latinas & Power Symposium and vice president of marketing for Camelo Communication before judges Mary Ellen Fillo, the Java columnist for the Hartford Courant, Floyd Green, vice president and head of community relations and urban marketing at Aetna, Fox CT and CBS Radio Hartford chief meteorologist Joe Furey and Heather Leydon, a professional ballroom dancer and instructor, according to the event flyer. WFSB meteorologist and Better Connecticut co-host Scot Haney emceed the event.
Voight and Russell tied with Alverio.
"My partner Todd Russell (owner of Arthur Murray Vernon) was absolutely brilliant - so patient, kind and easy to learn from," Voight said. "And I discovered for myself why so many people fall in love with ballroom dance. It's a throwback to another time when men were gentle men and women were ladies. And it's an incredible stress release. There were plenty of days I would come into the dance studio carrying stress, and by the end of the lesson I'd be laughing and smiling and feeling refreshed. When you're dancing, you forget all your troubles. It forces you to be truly and completely in the present, and that something that's rare in our busy lives."
Eight to the Bar also played music and New Britain Arthur Murray studio professional ballroom dancers performed, according to the event flyer.
Guests were encouraged to wear "groovy" 1970s outfits and were asked to donate $100 to the radio station, according to the event notice. They were served a three-course dinner as they watched the dancing.