2017 Stars Dance for the Arts Dancer Teenell White, right, performs with SmART Kinston Executive Director Ty Johnson last year. Doors open Saturday at 6:30 p.m. (Photo by Martha Peoples Photography)

Online voting closes at midnight Friday for the fifth annual Stars Dance for the Arts competition, which pairs dancers with local Stars in an event that annually draws hundreds to the Community Council for the Arts in Downtown Kinston.


Votes cost $10, with all proceeds going to the Arts Council to fund operations, arts programs and events like Soup and a Bowl on Jan. 29.

Raising money for the arts is part of what attracted R.J. Smith to participate when he was invited after another participant cancelled earlier this winter.

“I knew that all the money we raised would go to the arts,” he said. “Also, I thought it would be a lot of fun to do it.”

R.J. is no stranger to performing downtown. When he’s not giving tours at Mother Earth, he plays percussion for The Vanilla Gorillas.

“It helps that I’m a drummer,” he said. “I can keep a beat. I’ve got a little bit of rhythm.”


Star R.J. Smith

R.J. said while he has won a few freestyle dance competitions on his own, working with Ashley Fillippeli Stucker on their hip-hop dance to “A Hard Knock Life” has rounded out his dancing experience.

“She really is a dancer. She choreographed the whole dance,” he said. “I’m learning a lot from her. I learned a lot of new moves.”

Teenell White, an aerobics and Zumba instructor, returns to Stars Dance after her first experience last year partnered with SmART Kinston Director Ty Johnson.

Teenell said choosing a Bruno Mars song, 24K Magic, for her freestyle dance with Michael Martin was all about creating a showstopper late in the competition.

“Our song is so fun and exciting,” she said. “It’s going to get everybody hyped. I really want to give it everything. I gave it everything last year: I’ve got to bring it for the second time around.

Dancer Teenell White

“We’re going to have lots of fun with the song.”

Teenell is conducting her dance practices before and after instructing Zumba classes multiple days a week for the second straight year, but she said the double workouts were worth the rush of adrenaline she felt on stage last year, not to mention the new friends she’s made.

“I’m just so honored to be back,” she said. “You really form a bond with your partner because you’re there dancing and you’ve got to get on that level where you’re both wanting the same thing and that’s do a great performance and get out there and give it your all.

“I just want to go out there and do a great performance and everybody to fall in love with me and Mike.”