Dancing to Benefit Cancer
Carolina traditions and a good cause come together the second weekend of February when the East Coast Shag Classic returns to Wrightsville Beach.
The "Be My Valentine Weekend Getaway" is scheduled for Feb. 8-11 at the Holiday Inn Resort. Partici-pants enjoy the Carolina's signature dance -- the shag is believed to have originated somewhere between Wilmington and Myrtle Beach -- to live beach music from local and regional bands. The weekend includes lessons to teach basic steps to newbies and help veterans hone their skills, and a silent auction.
This is the eighth annual shag classic at the beach, organized by Hope Abounds, a Wilmington-based organization that provides support services for women, children and teens facing a cancer diagnosis.
"People come from all over North Carolina, South Carolina, Maryland, Virginia, Georgia," says Penny Millis, director of development for Hope Abounds. "The cool thing I love about the East Coast Shag Classic is a lot of times you can go and hear the bands but you can't dance to it. Shaggers, we want to dance. And the shag lessons and line dance lessons are huge. People love that."
Millis, the organizer since the first event, expects about 250 people each night, 75 percent of them from out of town.
Performing with the Symphony
Longtime Wrightsville United Methodist music director and pianist Julia Walker Jewell will be the featured soloist with the Wilmington Symphony at the Wilson Center on Feb. 3, performing her original composition "Dance of the Coin."
"It's a multimedia piece with a film that will show in the background and dancers choreographed by Lesa Rogers Broadhead," Jewell says. "The piece stands on its own without anything else, but I envisioned it with these things and it works really nicely as a film score and a dance."
The inspiration comes from the Nazis' treatment of the Jewish people during World War II. Jewell wrote it in 2010 after reading a book of poetry about the Holocaust.
"I had a very emotional reaction to the material," she says. "I heard lots of music when I was reading the poems."
The composition tells the story of a coin passing from hand to hand in 1942 Germany.
"We see several vignettes, whether in our minds listening to the piece or the dancers or watching the film," she says. "We see how people treat each other. Jewish people, Germans, Nazis. Amidst the strife in the topic we see hope throughout. I don't want it to be a downer. I want people to have inspiration and hope to keep something like that from happening again."
Volunteers working with the Cape Fear Audubon Society scattered around the Wilmington area Dec. 30 to participate in the Christmas Bird Count, an annual effort to measure the health of the bird population.
From Wrightsville Beach to Landfall, from Monkey Junction to Brunswick County, more than 30 bird watchers, or birders, spread out across a 15-mile circle to count the number of birds seen or heard that day.
"The average number of species for Wilmington is close to 160," Wilmington compiler Sam Cooper says. "This year we will end up in the low 160s; a good year in part due to the presence of more birds and good weather on count day. Waterfowl species and numbers were up this year. The most unusual species found were whippoorwill (near Orton Pond), American white pelican (one in the Cape Fear River, three flying south over Masonboro Island), eared grebe (Masonboro Inlet); Pacific loon (Wrightsville Beach), tundra swan (Cape Fear River), and parasitic jaeger (Masonboro)."
Local birders joined counterparts from across the United States, Canada and Latin America to participate in what Audubon.org refers to as "the nation's longest running community bird project."