The Transylvania Times -

Pisgah Thunder Dance To Benefit Boys & Girls Club

 

September 30, 2019

Thunder dancers showed their style at a Halloweenfest performance in downtown Brevard soon after they formed. Before each appearance, the men practice weekly up to eight times to perfect their home-choreographed moves. (Photo by Seyl Park)

They twist and turn and shake and shout!

Sometimes they stumble and sweat a bit, too.

But that's to be expected of this troop of amateur terpsichoreans because they're regular guys who dance in irregular ways. They're the Pisgah Thunder, men whose goal is to have fun while raising funds to benefit the Cindy Platt Boys & Girls Club of Transylvania County.

"We call our style 'semi synchronized man dancing,'" said organizer J.J. Shepherd, a local real estate broker who formed the Thunder four years ago at the behest of the club's then-resource development director, Jackie Witherspoon.

"She sought me out as the founding father, the godfather of it," he said with a chuckle. "I said why not, and here we are!"

He describes the Thunder as "a diverse group of men who have a common love of dance, wearing tacky outfits."

Then, with tongue firmly in cheek, he adds, "a fraternity who like to think of themselves as among the most elite dancers in the world."

The group was inspired by New Orleans's famous 610 Stompers, a similar but larger group of "regular guys" who have gained national attention by unabashedly performing intricate dance moves somewhat imprecisely in front of large crowds, right up to and including the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York.

"Radio City Rockettes they are not," laughed Shepherd, "and certainly neither are we!"

Now Thunder is planning their next fundraiser for the Boys & Girls Club, a Saturday night event called "Thunderween" during the county's Halloween season. It's set for 7:30 on Oct. 26 at the Brevard Lumberyard on King Street. They'll ask for a $30 donation at the door, or $25 advance tickets are available on the internet at http://weblink.donorperfect.com/2019Thunderween.

Though Thunder will highlight the night, the audience can practice their own moves in the DJ dance party, with music Shepherd says will range from "classic James Brown funk to modern top 20-type hits." And then there'll be a costume contest and a silent auction. Oskar Blues Brewery, an event sponsor, along with a food truck will be on the scene, too.

Welcome Support

Kathleen De La Torre, the Boys & Girls Club's current resource development leader, says the Thunder is an important contributor to the club, which, with average daily attendance running more than 250 children, is the largest youth organization in the county.

"Since they first exploded onto the scene in October 2015, they've raised over $45,000 for us," she said. "It shows you what a group of guys can accomplish when they have goodness in their hearts and rhythm in their feet!"

Thunder started with about a dozen men recruited by Shepherd.

Since then, dancers have come and gone, but mostly come, with the group's numbers now reaching up to 30.

They come from all walks of life, from an architect to an orthopedic surgeon to a salesman and a paramedic.

They range in age from 22 to their 60s.

Part of the act is their apparel. Each man wears a red jacket with the Thunder's lightening bolt logo on the back. Ragged cut-off jeans, a red head band, white calf-high socks and athletic shoes fill out the ensemble.

J.J. Shepherd Thunder's Godfather

And to top that off, most of the men sport some kind of facial hair, usually a mustache.

Shepherd devises most of the choreography, with help from a former male cheerleader.

He says the term "semi-synchronized man dancing" means lots of air punches, pelvic thrusts and leg kicks. Needless to say, there are grunts and groans accompanying.

"We do five or 10 minutes in a set," said Shepherd. "That's about all our cardio can handle. That's why we have an attorney, an orthopedic doctor and a paramedic in the group."

They may push the envelope, said the Boys & Girls Club's De La Torre, "But when you watch them perform, you know they are having a great time. And they are also entertaining for a purpose. And we are just happy that their purpose is to help our kids."

 
 

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