Let’s Talk with ... Cleve Johnson

Local celebrities cut a rug to raise money for schools

April 21, 2013 

  • If you go

    The Lexington 1 Educational Foundation’s inaugural Dancing with the Stars Lexington begins at 7 tonight at the Koger Center for the Arts. Tickets are $50 per person and can be purchased at the Koger Center Box Office during regular business hours, by phone at (803) 251-2222 or online at www.capitoltickets.com.

Cleve Johnson will be putting his best foot forward tonight.

Make that both feet.

The business unit leader at the Michelin North America site in Lexington is one of 12 local celebrities participating in The Lexington 1 Educational Foundation’s inaugural Dancing with the Stars Lexington. The event begins at 7 p.m. at the Koger Center for the Arts. Proceeds will support the foundation’s efforts to equip the district’s STEM Labs, redesign media centers and support professional development for teachers.

Other performers include Rutu Bhonsle, fashion designer and owner of Zebra Cleaners; Jennifer Corliss Trinkner, network marketing professional and professional swimsuit model; Beth Dinndorf, president of Columbia College; Dr. Amy Epps, cardiologist with Lexington Cardiology; Randy Halfacre, mayor of Lexington and president and CEO of the Greater Lexington Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Center.

Rounding out the group are Lisa Herndon of Herndon Chevrolet; Mary King, reporter at WIS-TV 10; Beth Moore, Lexington High teacher and former Lexington 1 Teacher of the Year; Otis Rawl, president and CEO of the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce; Donna Shevchik, co-owner of Lexington Life Magazine and Lake Murray Life Magazine; and Kim Williams, director of Human Resources for Lexington 1.

Tonight’s participants, paired with professional dancers from Columbia’s Ballroom Company, have been training since mid-February. Johnson spoke recently about the experience, his performance anxieties and his excitement about supporting the district.

Have you had any previous formal dancing training?

Johnson: “No. Many of us think we can dance but until a professional really evaluates our ability and tells us the correct way to move and how to get there, it is difficult to understand how difficult it truly is. Many people tell me they would love to try ballroom dancing but just haven’t stepped out and actually tried it. It is a great experience, lots of fun and really good exercise.

How has the training been going?

Johnson: “My training is going well. My dance instructor (Jamie Barrett) has been great. We get along well and she has a great sense of humor. There are times when we are serious and times when we laugh. Laughing definitely reduces the pressure and allows you to refocus and push a little further. I think I am prepared, confident and ready to perform.”

Has this been easier or more difficult than you anticipated?

Johnson: “It has been harder than I expected. Being an athlete in high school and continuing to coach and play sports competitively for many years, I thought this would be pretty easy. I quickly learned about the physical demands of dancing, how you need to control your body, move certain ways and how strength is just as important in dance as any other activity. My wife (Sheila) works out seven days a week and I work out five days a week. Dancing twice a week for an hour each session has taken away weight and inches. I am glad that I found this form of exercise that will continue to improve my health.”

What type dance performance will you be presenting?

Johnson: “I will be performing the Cha Cha. It is a fast paced Latin dance with a lot of expression and energy. It fits my personality and my desire to master difficult tasks.”

So will you be bringing your own group of fans?

Johnson: “I will have a fan base, starting with my wife Sheila and our children Madeline and Neil. Other fans will include my neighbors, co-workers and supporters of Lexington School District 1.”

What are you most nervous about?

Johnson: “I am most nervous about representing the people who have supported me in this endeavor.”

How do you feel about being able to help out with the Educational Foundation’s efforts to raise money for STEM labs and media centers?

Johnson: “I am very excited to support the Lexington District 1 School system. We have a great group of individuals working constantly to continually improve the education our students receive. The group has great passion concerning delivering the best opportunities for students to grow. I am also thrilled that so many jobs are coming to the state. South Carolina is becoming a major player in manufacturing and we need to prepare the students in our state to be ready to do those jobs. The Lexington School District 1 is making that happen with STEM Labs, media centers and partnerships with corporations and communities.”

So have you watched Dancing with the Stars on television, and what do you think about the show?

Johnson: “Yes, I really like the show and when watching on TV it seems so easy. After having gone through the same experience, I have much more understanding and respect for what they are doing. It is amazing how this experience is so much like what you really see on television. Learning the routines, dealing with the pressure, accomplishing a goal with a deadline but having fun while doing it is something I will definitely cherish.”

Reach Rantin at (803) 771-8306.

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