The "fun" quotient was high at Friday's first night of competition at the 2nd Annual "Dancing With the Stars at The Raven."
"This was my first time," said Sue Witter of Healdsburg. "I was very impressed with the professionalism of the dancers.
"It was a lot of fun," added Witter, who said she was voting for longtime friend Hallie Beacham, who did a Charleston/Lindy Hop routine with professional partner Jason Taylor. "It's a happy feeling."
Witter was one of about 400 audience members in the nearly sold out Friday performance at the Raven Performing Arts Theater in Healdsburg. Saturday's show is completely sold out, as is an earlier "star party" Saturday at Costeaux French Bakery.
Three winners out of the nine couples will be chosen by: The highest total of votes from the public @$1 each per vote; the highest total of votes from the three-judge panel; and a third prize for the highest total of a combination of both popular vote and judges' votes.
The three winning pairs will be announced at the end of Saturday night's show. Proceeds from the ticket sales and votes all go to maintain operations at the Raven Theater.
"We've just come through a very long, derisive election," quipped contestant Richard Fourzon, a Santa Rosa chiropractor, after his performance of an East Coast Swing routine with professional partner Brina Cimino. "If your life is a little bit better than it was three minutes ago, here's your second chance to vote."
Banter and quips ruled the evening, especially involving celebrity judge nicknamed the "King of Swing" and well-known in dance circles in both Northern and Southern California and on the ABC-TV show "Dancing With the Stars."
"I started dancing with Buddy Schwimmer," said professional dancer Griffin Wayne, after his Country 2-Step routine with Jennifer LeBrett of the Healdsburg Chamber of Commerce. "He taught me everything he knows in 15 minutes."
"It was five minutes not 15," Schwimmer retorted.
Schwimmer also bantered with fellow judge Stephen Nordquist, of Nordquist Dance in Santa Rosa -- especially about the Nightclub 2-Step, a dance style Schwimmer actually created and introduced to hundreds of dancers on the West Coast.
"I learned Nightclub 2-Step from my father," Nordquist quipped, deliberately avoiding any credit to Schwimmer. "He's 105 years old."
Emcees Matthew Proschold and Ginger Beavers kept up a steady repartee, asking John and Zeke's owner Neil Cronin, for example, what was the hardest part of the performance?
"Everything," answered Cronin, who provided a strong -- if slightly stiff -- structure for the riveting cha-cha moves by professional partner Lauralie Staley. "Lauralie told me that she's the picture and I'm the frame."
The dancing couples will do a completely different dance routine Saturday night.
Votes may be cast in person at the shows, online or with a Smart Phone using a QR code on the front of the program.
"I'm going to reverse what I usually say and tell you, 'keep your cell phones turned on,'" Beavers said at the beginning of the show. "You can vote with your cell phone whenever you like."
For more information on voting, the performers or the show, see www.raventheater.org.