Neither Lori Fox nor Keith Ritchie have any dancing experience, yet they are powering across the dance floor with gusto.
The couple, paired up by Piedmont Arts to dance in the museum’s fundraising Dancing for the Arts competition, is working hard enough at their dances “to make it worthwhile,” Ritchie said.
They will be dancing a salsa dance and a Broadway jazz-style dance during Piedmont Arts’ event on April 4, where they will compete against seven other couples.
Ritchie said he was honored to be asked to compete in DFTA, and “I thought this chance would not come again, so I should say ‘yes’ to it.”
Ritchie said he has hit the dance floor at wedding receptions and holiday balls, but when it comes to particular styles and choreography, “I was wondering how coachable I would be,” he said.
Fox said she was surprised to be asked to participate in the DFTA. She said she didn’t immediately think she could do it, but she asked someone she figured would be a solid judge of that: her daughter, Liza, a freshman at James Madison University.
“She is a dancer,” Lori Fox said. “I knew that she would be brutally honest. She said, ‘Yes, Mom, go!’”
The couple drew salsa as their assigned dance style. “It’s challenging but fun,” Fox said.
Salsa songs usually are sung in Spanish, with music brought by piano, horns and a rhythm section, punctuated by the sounds of a cowbell or claves (pieces of wood).
Salsa dancing is a popular partner dance featuring a forward/backward step and cross-body lead and can have complex, tightly woven patterns.
The couple is guided by choreographer Shannon Hornsby, who said her only experience with salsa was taking Edgar Ornelas’s 6-week class through Patrick Henry Community College, so she has relied on information from the internet to help create the choreography.
The couple will dance salsa to “I Know You Want Me” by Pitbull.
Their dance of choice is Broadway jazz-style, which incorporates jazz, modern and ballet styles adapted to the needs of theater.
They will dance that to “Hey Big Spender” by Bette Midler.
They chose their freestyle and the songs after sitting around discussing possibilities, Hornsby said.
“We wanted to incorporate Keith and Lori’s styles with the music and choreography,” she said. “They both like the Broadway style. That’s fun, something the audience really likes. You play with the music a little more.”
Hornsby had the final say in their music. “I didn’t want them dancing to something they don’t like,” she said.
Fox and her husband, Burr Fox, have three children. L.B. Fox and his wife, Hannah, live in Roanoke; Luke Fox of Roanoke is engaged to Samantha Tate; and Liza Fox is a freshman at James Madison University.
Lori Fox is a customs broker for American Global Logistics, which is located in the Clocktower. That’s where the pair practice their choreography, in a cavernous room with brick walls and hardwood floors.
Ritchie is the pastor of First United Methodist Church. He and his wife, Paula Ritchie, have two daughters, Becky Ritchie of Richmond and Liz Ritchie of Roanoke.
Hornsby is a retired dance instructor from North Myrtle Beach, S.C. She and her husband, Roger, met while they were students at Coker University. Their dog, named Coker, is a Boykin spaniel, South Carolina’s state dog.
“I have been very fortunate to coach Lori and Keith,” she said. Although she said she she had known them slightly before, through the dancing practices the three have “become very close friends.”
“We have different conversations [now] than we did before Dancing for the Arts,” she said.
They also have found they have a lot in common.
For one thing, all list going to the beach as one of their favorite things to do, and they also like to read. Ritchie also is a baseball fan and does a lot of gardening, he said.
They’ve all been doing what they’re doing for eight years, Fox pointed out — she working at American Global Logistics, Ritchie as pastor of FUMC and Hornsby living in Martinsville.
Dancing for the Piedmont Arts competition “is fun — challenging, but it’s fun,” Fox said. “The first several practices, I was very scared. I was excited to reach the point of ‘this is fun. I’m enjoying it.’”
The dancing is strenuous, Fox said, and she is tired when she leaves practice, but it’s worth it.
“It is demanding physically,” and remembering the choreography “requires a lot of memorization,” Ritchie said. “I think physically we can do this, no doubt. I think we’re doing very well.”
“They both work very hard and give me 110% every time we meet for class,” Hornsby said. “Both Lori and Keith are willing to do anything I ask.”
“It is trying, but I find it rewarding,” Ritchie said. “Sharon ... is very passionate and corrects us in a gracious way. Lori and I are both ambitious.”
“They complement each other,” Hornsby said. “Both of them are rhythmically inclined.”
Holly Kozelsky is a writer for the Martinsville Bulletin; contact her at 276-638-8801 ext. 243.