Whether it’s salsa or polka, Matt Hunhoff will shake a leg for a good cause — even partnering with his wife, Kelsey, while she was pregnant.
Matt Hunhoff has actually filled three roles — dancer, judge and master of ceremonies — for the annual “Dancing With The Stars” (DWTS) competition. This year’s gathering will be held Saturday, Jan. 18, at the NFAA Easton Yankton Archery Center. Proceeds will benefit the River City Domestic Violence Center (RCDVC).
DWTS typically raises about $20,000, which covers expenses — such as the 24-hour crisis line — not covered by federal and state grants, according to RCDVC executive director Desiree Johnson. In addition, the event raises awareness that violence remains a community as well as individual issue.
The event also promotes the “We Believe” culture that encourages any abuse survivors to come out of the shadows and find the courage to come forward. The shelter serves victims of domestic abuse, sexual assault, child abuse and human trafficking.
When he isn’t tripping the light fantastic, Matt Hunhoff has become the face and voice for the popular DWTS event. Returning this year as the MC, he gave the Press & Dakotan a look behind the scenes as the curtain is set to rise on this year’s competition.
How long have you been involved with “Dancing With the Stars,” and why did you become part of it?
This will be my fifth year taking part in “Dancing With the Stars.” A co-worker of mine at the time was also working at the River City Domestic Violence Center and nominated us to their board. I guess she figured that my wife Kelsey and I were both lighthearted enough to dance in front of a crowd and carefree enough to laugh at ourselves. She was absolutely correct.
Can you tell us about your years of dancing in the competition, such as time spent rehearsing, your partner and choosing your routine, and how you finished in the standings?
My amazing wife Kelsey was my partner for that first year. It was unique in that she was five months pregnant with our oldest child, Amelia, so we were actually the first trio to dance in the competition. I distinctly remember Kelsey saying her dress was getting a little tight because she had bought it a month previous and she was starting to show!
Kelsey wanted to do a salsa, so we asked our friend Rebecca McNamara — who happens to be a nationally-awarded dance instructor — if she would choreograph something for us. She took into account our limited skill level and designed a three-minute salsa to “Livin’ la Vida Loca” by Ricky Martin.
I believe we finished in second place, but we dominated our dance and were super proud of ourselves. Dave and Lynn Becker won, and they were awesome!
You have also hosted the event. What does it take to be a good host and to keep the crowd and the dancers going?
This will be my third year hosting the event, and I can only guess as to why they keep asking me back.
I don’t think I’m that overly funny or clever, but I guess whatever I do, works. I think it just takes an appreciation for the group that you’re helping out to have the energy or charisma to keep people engaged.
I feel that the job the River City Domestic Violence Center does is such a difficult, caring, patient, demanding, fulfilling job that, how could I not give it my all for three hours when they give it their all for 365 days a year?
If all else fails, a vodka cranberry or two raises my charm level tenfold and I become a regular Johnny Carson.
One year you stepped in as a dancer at the last minute. Can you tell us more about it and what the experience was like?
In 2017, they had asked me if I would be a judge at “Dancing With the Stars.” I had said “yes,” and that was going to be the plan.
The husband of one of the couples who were dancing sustained a concussion the week before the event. Doctors today, of course, say to take it easy for a week after a concussion, so he was out.
When I heard the news, I asked Kelsey if she would be up for dancing on short notice. She said no problem, and we decided to break out a polka, since we didn’t have enough time to learn a new dance. We are two-time champions of the Tabor Czech Days Polka Dance-Off and can polka in our sleep.
It was fun to do it again without worry of messing up the routine. I was a very fair judge of myself for the competition. I gave Kelsey a 10, and myself a 1.
What can people expect from this year’s show?
It is going to be such a blast. They get new couples every year that are always up for the challenge. People get out of their comfort zones and, when that happens, it’s usually hilarious!
I can tell you from experience that, when you finish your dance and the crowd applauds you, it is such a great feeling.
This fundraiser is for such a great cause, and it’s something that’s not necessarily easy to talk about. Statistics say most of us know someone who has been in an abusive relationship, whether it is out in the open or kept hidden.
It’s important for survivors to know that this is a community that will always support people who are seeking help. So if you’re reading this, come out to the NFAA Archery Center this Saturday night and I promise you’ll have a heck of a good time! I love you, Amelia and Caroline!
For more information, visit online at yanktondomesticviolencecenter.com. To purchase tickets, call (605) 665-4811.
This year’s “Heart To Heart” dance teams include: Dr. Jill Sternquist and Jason Nelson; Commander Jason Foote and Chloe Foote; Steve and Tracy Huff; Lisa Carson-Kneifl and Kelly Kneifl; Murray and Megan McGlone; and Erica and Cody Garvey.
This year’s major sponsors are Roger’s Pharmacy; Conkling Distributing ; Marlow, Woodward and Huff PLLC; Superior Sound and Lighting; Ben’s Brewing Company; Vision Real Estate; YMC Orthopedic Doctors; and First Dakota National Bank.
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