For the ballroom competition:
Eight local “Stars” have been partnered with experienced dancers and each pair, over the course of 9-10 weeks, will learn a two-minute choreographed routine in one of several ballroom dance styles.
Alicia Rubin & Brett Alleman: Samba
Star: Alicia Rubin
Alicia Rubin was born and raised in Fredonia, Kansas; a town of 2,000 people near the state’s southern border. Alicia met her husband, Grant in her hometown of Fredonia and the two have been together since high school. They got married while still in college (and yes, they know that’s crazy). After just three years in college and a lot of hard work, Alicia graduated a year early from the University of Central Oklahoma with her bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism. Alicia was offered a position at NewsWatch 12 and so they made the move across the country. They have now called Southern Oregon home for two years and love every minute of it.
You’ll catch Alicia bright and early anchoring “NewsWatch 12 This Morning” every weekday morning. Her passion for storytelling introduced her to Sparrow Clubs. As a reporter, Alicia gets to tell Sparrows’ stories and witness the impact of this incredible organization. She is so incredibly honored to give back to such an impactful organization.
When Alicia isn’t telling stories she is hiking, running, biking or exploring the beauty of Southern Oregon with her husband Grant and their two fur-babies, Conan & Cora.
Partner: Brett Alleman
Brett Alleman was born and raised in the Rogue Valley, and works for Mercy Flights as a Paramedic. He first began dancing in 2005 and has been involved with, and used dance in every part of his life since he first started. He was trained by June Kranenburg the majority of his dance career and was inspired by his instructor to learn as many dances he could. Brett specializes in Latin dancing, but also has experience in eight other dances. Brett met his wife Kristen and introduced her to ballroom dancing, and the two have made being partners in dance an intricate part of being partners in life.
Brett has been involved with Dancing with the Rogue Valley Stars since the first year and has immensely enjoyed being part of benefiting those in need! Brett loves teaching dance to everyone and meeting new people, he is always encouraging people to try out and see what it is that is so amazing about the freedom of dance.
Charlie Simons & Kristen Alleman: Argentine Tango
Star: Charlie Simons
Charlie was raised in Grants Pass, attended Grants Pass High School and graduated from SOU. He currently serves as the Director of Business Development for PCSI, a pharmacy software company. Although he appreciates the challenges of running a small business, he finds his real joy in working with teens in the community through coaching and mentoring at South Middle School and Grants Pass High School.
Over the past four years, Charlie has also been a proud member of the Grants Pass Active Club, a volunteer group that donates thousands to youth programs in the community, including being a Sparrow sponsor. He has had the privilege of becoming friends with several Sparrows over the last few years as one of the Active Club’s liaisons to Sparrow. Experiencing the Sparrow process reinforces his belief in community, kindness, and the youth.
He’d like to thank his high school sweetheart and wife, Justine, his two sons, Jackson and Grayson, his family, his fellow Active Club members, and the community of Grants Pass for their continued support. He would also like to thank Matt and Kena Sampson for their work and impact in the thousands of lives they have touched through Sparrow.
Partner: Kristen Alleman
Kristen Alleman was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, but moved around frequently with her family until she moved to the Rogue Valley at age 11 with her family and never left. She is a graduate of Southern Oregon University and is currently working in Human Resources at Asante.
Kristen has been dancing since she was 6 years old. At 7, she started imitating hip-hop routines from music videos to perform at talent shows. When Kristen turned 13, she started choreographing her own hip-hop routines and performed these at various local events.
At nineteen, Kristen met Brett Alleman, now her husband, at the Evergreen Ballroom and started taking lessons from him. She first learned Latin dances such as Salsa, Cha Cha, Rumba and Argentine Tango, then variations of the Waltz, Foxtrot, East Coast and West Coast Swing thereafter. Kristen dances because it is the best way she knows how to be self-expressive! Kristen enjoys being involved in DWTRVS where she can use her passion for dance to raise awareness and money for an organization as amazing as the Sparrow Clubs organization.
Chloe Hedgepeth & Derrik Coghill: West Coast Swing
Star: Chloe Hedgepeth
Chloe is an 18 year old who was born and raised in the Rogue Valley. She lives in Central Point with her parents, younger brother and sister, two dogs, and her snake. Chloe enjoys dancing, sketching, volunteering, making others smile with her goofiness, and hanging out with her friends.
Chloe has been behind the scenes at DWTRVS since the beginning. The last few years, she has helped her mom backstage. Sparrow Clubs is very close to Chloe and her family! In the 2006-2007 school year, she was adopted as a sparrow by her school, Hoover Elementary.
Since DWTRVS started Chloe has always dreamed of getting the opportunity to be a star and help raise money for Sparrow Clubs. This year she is honored to be the first Sparrow to be a Star in DWTRVS! She is excited and humbled at the opportunity to give back to the organization that had such a huge impact on her life!
Chloe hopes to one day make the same inspiring impact in other people’s lives as Sparrow Club has made in hers and many others.
Partner: Derrik Coghill
Derrik started dancing over a decade ago learning ballroom at the studio and hip-hop on the streets. Through the years, he has trained in Latin and Smooth Ballroom, Ballet, Hip-hop, Argentine Tango, Zouk, Nightclub 2-step, and Swing. Derrik and his wife Maria specialize in Swing Dancing and love introducing their favorite dance to everyone.
Cody Ponder & Isabel Iboa: Cha Cha
Star: Cody Ponder
Cody was born and raised in Central Point, Oregon. He graduated from Crater High School in 2004. Soon after High School graduation, he met the love of his life and moved to Corvallis, Oregon. Cody wrestled for the Beavers from 2006-2009. He graduated from OSU in 2009 with a Bachelor of Science in sociology with an emphasis in criminal justice.
Cody and his wife recently moved back to the Rogue Valley to raise their active young children near family. The Ponder family enjoys the Rogue Valley and all that it has to offer.
Cody works for the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office as a Patrol Deputy. He is assigned to the traffic team and the DUII Enforcement Car. In addition, he is a Drug Recognition Expert.
Cody has been recognized in several area of law enforcement to include Most Outstanding Physical Fitness Award in 2011 and 2012 (will this translate to dance?), a Lifesaving Award from the City of Albany, Oregon and the Oregon Peace Officers Association (OPOA) in 2017. Additionally, he was awarded a Public Service Award in 2017 from the OPOA.
It is truly a blessing for Cody to be a part of this year’s event. Cody and his family believe in Sparrow Clubs and the impact on the community and those in need.
Partner: Isabel Iboa
Isabel Iboa was born and raised in the Rogue Valley, and she enjoys a variety of activities from dancing to hiking, as well as spending time with her family and friends. She also greatly enjoys playing music and sports.
At age five, Isabel began dancing with Ballet Folklorico, Mexican Folk dancing that tells stories about the history of Mexico though dance. Her love of dance grew when she took ballroom classes from Cori Grimm at the Evergreen Ballroom when she was 10 years old. Since then, she has participated in several Youth Ballroom Competitions, showcases, performance groups, and taken advantage of every opportunity she can to dance! She recently graduated from high school and is currently a student at RCC.
When she was invited to be a part of Dancing with the Rogue Valley Stars, she was thrilled to be able to participate in such a wonderful organization as Sparrow Clubs, which abundantly helps so many children in our community! She is thankful and elated to be able to do a small part to give back to others, and also to see what this adventure has in store!
Kate Empasis & Peter Kuhl: Viennese Waltz
Star: Kate Empasis
Kate Empasis moved to the Rogue Valley in 1998 after being recruited by Harry & David while finishing up her B.S. in Retail & Consumer Studies at the University of Arizona. She grew up in Arizona and took a leap of faith for a great job in Medford. She met her wonderful husband Mark at Harry & David on her first day of work…it was his first day as well! Kate and Mark have 3 beautiful children; Dylan (17), Ella (14) and Nick (12). They enjoy attending the kids’ sporting events and traveling as a family.
She has been a realtor in the Rogue Valley for 12 years at John L. Scott Real Estate. Kate loves being able to work in the community she lives in to bring buyers and sellers together, helping them achieve their dreams and making a home for their families.
Kate has always had a deep passion for dance. She grew up dancing and was on the University of Arizona Pomline, but she has never done ballroom or partner dancing. Kate is overjoyed to be dancing again and to take on the challenge of a new style of dance.
For years, Kate has been committed to local non- profits like the Junior League of Jackson County and Children’s Miracle Network. Currently Kate is a member of the Hillcrest Committee; a local non-profit that raises money for cancer research to find a cure for cancer and treatments. She is very happy to be partnering with Sparrow Clubs; as she has seen first hand at her childrens’ schools the magic that is possible when kids are helping kids.
Partner: Peter Kuhl
Peter Kuhl is twenty years old and has lived in the Rogue Valley his entire life. He lives in Medford with his parents, older sister, younger brother, and twin brother. Peter enjoys riding horses, dancing, going to church, and hanging out with friends. He works at Chipotle and volunteers with Walking Tall SO, and is a worship leader at his church. Some of his passions are singing and playing songs he has written on his guitar, and anything that involves being in the kitchen. He even enjoys washing dishes.
Peter has been associated with DWTRVS for four years, competing three of the four and is super excited to dance again this year. He has competed in several competitions (earning first place in three), performed in many groups as well as solo partner dances, and has even taught ballroom dance for over two years at North Medford High School as a youth member of USA Dance. He loves to dance and is very glad he has the opportunity to raise support for Sparrow Clubs doing something that he loves!
Matt Philbrick & Colette Kuhl: Jive
Star: Matt Philbrick
Matt Philbrick is a California native but has been living in Southern Oregon for over 11 years. Matt is a paramedic and currently works as the Medical Operations Manager of the non-profit Mercy Flights. Matt started his career as a paramedic over a decade ago with the desire to ‘help people in need’ and has continued that philosophy into his current position. He now, “takes care of the people that are taking care of our community” and finds great pleasure in helping responders have meaningful careers in Emergency Medical Services.
Matt was asked by a co-worker to participate in Dancing with the Rogue Valley Stars and very quickly said “YES!”. Over the course of his career as both a Paramedic and Flight Paramedic, Matt’s life has been affected by Sparrows that he has met along the way. Although he describes himself as a ‘pretty good’ dancer, he is excited to take his skills to the next level for the competition.
Matt enjoys CrossFit at his favorite gym, DenFitness, and participating in endurance events such as marathons and ultramarathons. Matt is married to the love of his life Michelle, and they have two great children ages five and three. Their family enjoys outdoor activities such as camping, hiking, and fishing. At least five nights a week, they have a ‘family dance party’.
Partner: Colette Kuhl
Colette fell in love with ballroom dancing when she got her first taste at her fifteenth birthday and has been on the floor ever since. Having lived in the Rogue Valley her whole life, she is so excited for this opportunity to support local youth through Sparrow Clubs and encourages every student to serve their community through this amazing organization.
Three years ago, Colette was invited to become a ballroom dance instructor teaching beginner and intermediate lessons at the vergreen Ballroom and North Medford High School, as well as coordinating a youth performance group, monthly dance parties and homeschool formals. She has also competed and placed in two intermediate youth ballroom competitions and performed in several showcases.
In addition to dancing, Colette enjoys music, horse riding, and playing anything from basketball to couch-wars with family and friends. Colette would like to thank her amazing partner for being such an enthusiastic learner (despite her unrelenting partiality towards difficult moves), Marilee Grimm for her invaluable instruction on styling and technique (at all hours of the day), her family for their love and support throughout her life, and Cori Grimm for being such a wonderful role model and providing her the opportunity to share her love of dance with others through teaching.
Mike Newmann & Sydney Smedley: Salsa
Star: Mike Newmann
Mike was born and raised right here in the Rogue Valley. After graduating from Eagle Point High School, he continued his education as a student athlete at Riverside Community College. Mike then finished out his student athlete career at the University of California at Davis graduating with highest honors from the highly accredited UC. He met his wife while away at school, one fateful night while country line dancing (fittingly). They are thrilled to be raising two boys at home and having raised a daughter who is expecting a baby girl in December!
Mike fell into the mortgage industry over 14 years ago and he couldn’t have chosen a better career path! He has been with Evergreen Home loans for almost his entire career!! Mike started The Newmann Group with the vision of helping as many people as possible achieve the American Dream of home ownership. Mike’s TEAM is comprised of an extremely special group of individuals who are ‘relentless in their pursuit of excellence’ and consistently deliver high quality customer service on levels in order to impact families’ lives beyond just the home loan process.
Mike is VERY passionate about his support of non-profit organizations and is proud to be a big supporter of local organizations such as The Pregnancy Center and David’s Chair. Mike has been coaching youth athletics for years and has always has a HUGE heart for kids in need.
Partner: Sydney Smedley
Sydney Smedley was born and raised in the Rogue Valley. Her love for dance began at age five when she took ballet and tap from Miss Louise in Central Point and later studied dance with Loni Strong and June Kranenburg. She graduated from South Medford High School and went on to study dance at Brigham Young University – Idaho where she learned to love all styles of dance including jazz, hip hop, clogging, contemporary, and anything ballroom!
There Sydney met her “smokin’ hot” husband, Skyler, and they have now been married nine years. They have three crazy boys: Greyson, the brunette, age seven; McKay, the blonde, age five; and Beckham, the strawberry blonde, age 2. They all love to travel together and have awesome dance parties as often as possible.
Sydney spends most of her extra time running Panache Dance Co., a studio she started six years ago in the valley. Sydney is super excited to be a part of such a wonderful and impactful event for the community and looks forward to another great year of Dancing with the Rogue Valley Stars!
Mirela Cvijanovic & John Ourant: Foxtrot
Star: Mirela Cvijanovic
All the way from a small, crescent-shaped country on the Adriatic, Mirela came six summers ago to make Rogue Valley her home. A Croatian native, re-inventing her medical career in the States once again, she has decided to enter the spotlight doing something she loves…dance.
Mirela finds her sense of purpose in aiding others towards complete health of the body, mind and spirit. Her work in the medical field dates back several decades: from graduating medical school in Zagreb, Croatia, completing internal medicine residency in the Midwest, running a busy private practice whilst teaching young doctors the healing arts, serving as the medical officer for the American embassy and school in Zagreb, starting a wellness clinic at Lithia, and, most recently, joining Southern Oregon Wellness clinic with a high degree of focus on integrative internal medicine.
It is as such, through experience and observation, that she has found dance to be a great pathway towards bettering one’s health and boosting happiness. By the Dancing with the Rogue Valley Stars event, by ballroom dance in particular, her intention is to not only dance herself and raise money for a wonderful cause, but also promote dance as an amazing and natural way to move and exercise.
In her own words, “What a world it would be if everyone danced.”
Partner: John Ourant
John is excited to help support Sparrow Clubs, an organization that makes a difference to families dealing with serious health problems while inspiring youth with the gift of service, two areas dear to his heart. John has a passion for the healing arts. He owns Elemental Homeopathy and has been practicing in the Rogue Valley since 2005. John is the Committee Chair and a past Scoutmaster of Ashland’s Scout Troop 112.
John met the love of his life, Cori, while dancing at the University of California, San Diego. John and Cori have two children; Calin is a junior at Reed College, Alexander is a senior at Ashland High. Ballroom dancing is a family affair, with wife Cori teaching and managing the Evergreen Ballroom owned by Bill and Marilee Grimm. John has DJ’d Friday night parties at the Evergreen for over a decade. He has had a supporting role in DWTRVS since its beginning and this will be John’s third year on the stage.