Ballroom BRA: Dancing with a Twist

Story by Carrie Beth Catron
Photos by Sam Stockard

Unfortunately, breast cancer has become a common phrase in our day to day conversations. Women and men are being diagnosed hourly in our country, and even though medical technology has come a long way, the process is still imperfect.  There are many more obstacles to face when treating breast cancer in addition to treatment of the disease.  Many have to under go major surgeries in an attempt to remove tumors, and even have a need to rebuild their body in addition.  Reconstruction of the breast requires another surgery, and often presents financial and other difficulties that create a roadblock to the procedure.

BRA Day was launched in 2011 by Dr. Mitchell Brown, a plastic surgeon with a practice in Toronto. It was created to “Close the Loop on Breast Cancer”. The goal of BRA Day is to promote education, awareness and access for women who may wish to consider post-mastectomy breast reconstruction. Locally, we are VERY fortunate to have Dr. Nick and Adrienne Tarola as members of our community who have invested themselves into making sure these difficulties are few and far between for local residents.

As a part of their efforts, they have created a local initiative, Ballroom BRA, as a way to help raise funds to aid in the education, awareness, and access.  Recently, they have taken that a step further and even developed their own philanthropy, Reconstructing Hope, a nonprofit agency working solely for the purpose of assisting those in need of any reconstructive surgery.

Ballroom BRA, an event where 10 local “celebrities” work with instructors from National Dance Clubs to master a dance and perform it for the public who wish to contribute by voting (every dollar donated equals one vote for your dancer choice) to this worthy cause, will occur on October 19 at 7PM at Stones River Country Club.  Mark your calendars, and while you’re waiting, enjoy getting to know the dancers in the competition over the next few pages!

Susan and Josh

Susan Gritton, Vice President/General Counsel of Ascend Federal Credit Union, moved to Murfreesboro in 1999 from South Carolina. She has two sons, age 10 and 12, who keep her young with all of their energy.  She has been an attorney for over 20 years and has had the good fortune of really enjoying her work, especially where she is now.  She has a special place for Ballroom BRA in her heart, as breast cancer has affected her personally, and she was helped immensely through the reconstruction by Dr. Tarola himself. “Unless you’ve been through it, the reconstruction process is something you don’t necessarily think about as being part of the cancer healing process.  It’s a huge part though. If I can help raise awareness for it and show women who are going through it now (or who will go through it) that there is a very bright light at the end of the tunnel, then I’ve done some good.” Even though she claims to have two left feet, she’ll do anything to support such a worthy cause!

Susan’s partner, Josh Plaza, has been dancing since he was 16. His family moved to New York from Puerto Rico in 2013, then recently moved to Murfreesboro where he has found a love for dance instruction at NDC. His favorite dance is the waltz, which makes it perfectly suited for him as he has landed in Tennessee!

Jamie and John

Jamie Jackson is a licensed occupational therapist who is utilizing her skills now as a full time mom to three daughters.  She grew up in the heart of “Cajun country” in Broussard, Louisiana.   Jamie attended Louisiana State University and loves cheering on the tigers during football season. She moved to Murfreesboro 10 years ago for her husband Chad to join a medical practice.  Jamie has several years of dance experience and a couple of years of ballroom dance experience. She can still be found in ballet class in Murfreesboro and in Nashville from time to time!  

Jamie’s counterpart, John Winters, has been teaching with NDC two years, enjoys all types of dance and throroughly enjoys being a part of the Murfreesboro community and the kindness of its residents.  Surprisingly, Josh was a competitive swimmer before starting to dance.  He was on his way to the Olympic trials for swimming before his life was changed by dance.

Sarah and Vince

Sarah Eli, an operating nurse with the Middle Tennessee Ambulatory Surgery Center, who moved to Murfreesboro in 1995, has enjoyed receiving her college degree at MTSU, as well as rearing her family here.  Again, Dr. Tarola has played an important role in her decision to support Ballroom BRA.  She had the pleasure of working closely in the operating room with him, as he performed breast reconstructive surgery. In most cases, she has met brave courageous women who have battled breast cancer. “I believe that providing these women with reconstructive surgery options, restores dignity, femininity, and positive self-perception.” This is her first dancing experience, but she’s ready to learn!

Vince S. will be joining Sarah on the dance floor. He has been with NDC for four years, loving every minute of sharing his love for dance with others in this town that he loves for its fast rate of growth. He loves to dance “because it is the ultimate expression of an emotion for me.  When nobody understands me, dance does!”

Carrie Beth and Riley

Carrie Beth Catron, Editor of VIP Murfreesboro magazine, is a 19-year resident of Murfreesboro.  She and her husband Kirk met at MTSU when attending there and, even though they both made treks to law school outside the area, knew that when they claimed home, it would be Murfreesboro.  Carrie Beth has recently changed careers from a long term commitment to the students of Rutherford County at Barfield Elementary, where she loved to dance daily in her classroom to keep the children engaged.  “My new and exciting life venture working with VIP has opened so many doors to be helpful in our community on a greater scale.  If that means dancing a new dance, then I’m ready!”

Riley Wingate will lead Carrie Beth as they dance in the Ballroom BRA.  He has a passion for music, especially the rhythm created by his drumming hobby. Although he was born in Detroit, he’s become quite fond of his home in Murfreesboro, where he loves the great number of creative people in town. Riley feels that dance is the best form of communication.

Tony and Ashlea

Tony Woodall, currently a leadership development consultant, spent the majority of his working career as a pastor. He retired from pastoring after 25 years in 2001. He last church served at Stones River Church here in Murfreesboro. Tony is marking off bucket list items this year, from being in his first play earlier in this year to going to India in March. He is also taking ballroom dance lessons and can’t wait to put those skills to work at the Ballroom BRA!

Tony will be dancing with Ashlea, who has been teaching dance since she was 15.  She traveled from Arkansas for the opportunity to work with NDC, and hasn’t left Murfreesboro since.  Although she studied science and community health in college, she came back to her true love of dance as she also earned an Associate of Dance degree. 

Brad and Chelsea

Brad Allen, CEO, Venture Express, Inc., was born and raised in Murfreesboro.  He graduated from Riverdale High School and MTSU, and proudly raises his children with his wife Elizabeth here in town.  Brad is ready to contribute to any community cause, so he jumped at the opportunity to support Ballroom BRA.  Brad has some past dance experience at college parties, but most importantly his rhythm is represented well as he was named the Toot’s Kids Hula Hoop Champ.  His hips are made for dancing, for sure.

Chelsea Knuston joins Brad for their dance routine.  Chelsea moved from upstate New York after high school to go to college in Arizona.  Soon after, she came to Manchester, TN to be near family. She wanted to give others the gift of dance because it is her greatest passion and joy. Therefore, she obtained a position as a Ballroom Dance Instructor and Competitor at National Dance Clubs. Something unique about Chelsea is that she has lived in over 15 different countries throughout her life!

Jeffrey and Cara

Jeffrey Bell comes to Murfreesboro by way of the University of TN Memphis Dental School.  He serves our community as an Endodontist, with a specialty in root canals.  Hopefully his dancing won’t require sedation, as he claims to be an expert in ‘dorky guy groove’ at nightclubs, wedding receptions, etc. Jeffrey is honored to be a participant in the Ballroom BRA, as he likes to challenge himself with new experiences a bit outside of his comfort zone.  He loves being a part of his family in Murfreesboro, with its “small town” feel and its many outdoor activities and events.

Cara Hermes will partner with Jeffrey during their October performance.  She is a native of Colombia, home of salsa dancing!  She has been dancing since a very early age, but is quite well rounded, as she participated in both rugby and wrestling in high school!   As a graduate of the Art Institute of Nashville with a degree in film and cinematography, she loves being in Middle Tennessee among so many art festivals and great music influences.

Scott and Rebecca

Scott Zeller is a realtor/property manager at Coldwell Banker Snow & Wall. He has lived in Murfreesboro since 1999, attending MTSU where he received his business degree and fell in love with the history of the place he now calls home. His closest encounters with dance experience are the Electric Slide and Cuban Shuffle at wedding receptions. However, he is “passionate about supporting a good cause, very competitive, and loves dancing! The Ballroom BRA is the perfect trifecta!”

Scott will be dancing with Rebecca, who began dancing at age three. She studies classical ballet at the Nashville School of Ballet and the Vanderbilt Dance Program.  Rebecca was given a contract with the professional company Dance Theater of Tennessee at age 18.  After suffering an injury, she retired and began to dance at MTSU where she received her collegiate education in Mass Communications.  Shortly after, Rebecca began her career at National Dance Clubs of Murfreesboro.

Matt and Tania

Matt Millican has been the General Manager of City Auto in Murfreesboro since its inception almost five years ago. He has enjoyed becoming a part of the Murfreesboro community, as have his wife and children. You can see them on weekends at various soccer, cheer, and high school events, and on warm summer afternoons, having cannonball contests in their backyard pool! He hopes his Cannonball Champion title will help him succeed in this, his first ballroom dancing experience.

Tania Perez, a native of Indiana, completes the dance partnership with Matt.  She has been inspired to dance since the age of five, after hearing Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean.” Although she has her cosmetology license, her love for dance and a Craigslist ad led her to the amazing opportunity to work with NDC. Tania hopes to incorporate her passion for Michael Jackson’s music in she and Matt’s performance.

Kristan and Vincent

Born and raised in Murfreesboro, Kristan Roberts is a Certified Manager of Community Associations at R Property Management, Inc. and has dedicated the last eight years to preserving Murfreesboro’s community and condo associations. She loves being a lifelong resident of Murfreesboro and is excited about this opportunity to give back. Although she attended Siegel Middle and Siegel High School and was on the dance team, she says about her decision to dance as a part of Ballroom BRA, “that was ages ago and I’m sure this will feel brand new”.

Vincent will lead Kristan as her partner, and is also a lifelong resident of Murfreesboro, although he attended a rival high school in Blackman.  He has a passion for dance that stemmed from watching Marie and Donnie Osmond perform.  He became a part of National Dance Clubs of Murfreesboro through his friendship since childhood with the owner, who encouraged him to become involved from the moment it opened.  Vincent is the reigning champion of the Ballroom BRA, and he looks forward to competing for the title again this year!