Friday, May 25, 2018
Parenting & Relationships

From This Day: Dancers in step from the start

TAMPA — As if wedding planning isn't crazy enough, imagine buying and restoring the 88-year-old Rialto Theater just six months before the big day.

Hope Donnelly and George Carter II saw professional dance competitions, photography exhibitions and charity fundraisers among the endless possibilities for the aging building they bought in October on the northern end of Franklin Street in downtown Tampa.

At one time or another since opening in 1926, the Rialto has been a performance hall, movie theater, auto repair shop and equipment garage.

"Everyone's mouth drops open when they see the original proscenium arch and the old brick stage wall," said Hope, 33. An art teacher at Jefferson High School in Tampa, she searched for four years for a place to capitalize her artistic abilities. The Eckerd College grad devoted 10 years to cheerleading and dancing for the Tampa Bay Lightning, Tampa Bay Storm, Orlando Magic and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. She was the entertainment manager at the Tampa Bay Times Forum from 2005 to 2009.

The search party doubled after she met George, 31, a professional dancer and information technologist who shares her creative ambitions, on Match.com in April 2012. Together they bought the Rialto for $515,000 to launch a dance studio, art gallery and event venue.

"Our plan is to live in the mezzanine someday," George said.

The Gaither High grad joined the U.S. Navy at age 17 and studied IT and network security, when he wasn't picking up new dance styles "in every port, from funk to hip hop and jazz ... from Chicago to Malta," he said. After his discharge, he trained to be a certified ballroom dance instructor in Panama City, coincidently where Hope grew up and learned to dance.

Hope didn't hold high expectations for Internet dating, but George's "very energetic way of writing got my attention," she said. She let him know that she wasn't ignoring him when he responded to her profile.

"I told him I was leaving for the Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, D.C." That weekend, he texted all sorts of tourist tips, having lived in nearby Maryland until moving to Tampa in 1995.

Hope flew home so eager for their first date that she asked him out for a drink the night before.

"When I met him, I was in flip-flops, no makeup. I just figured if he liked me like this, the real me, we might have a shot," she said.

Talking for hours and discovering they knew many of the same dancers made the blind date easy. The next day they drove to a "dance battle" in Orlando, where George surprised her with a freestyle "popping and tutting" performance between rounds.

"I had never been exposed to that," Hope said. "I was enthralled."

Her focused creativity and George's outgoing groove jibed on and off the dance floor. Within a month, they were living in her Temple Terrace home. He proposed a year later at a sendoff for friends driving cross-country in a Volkswagen bus.

"We were all arranging ourselves so he could take a photo, and I kept getting pushed out of the picture," Hope said. "All of a sudden George was on one knee and everyone whipped out a cellphone to capture the moment."

Between engagement and vows, the Rialto got a new roof, new drywall, fresh paint and 10 new bathroom stalls.

On April 12, wedding guests might not have guessed that weeks earlier, there was no working plumbing, few lights and no front door.

The wedding party dressed a few blocks away at the Floridan Hotel, another design by the Rialto's architect, F.J. Kennard. Hope made fabric and paper cherry blossoms for her bouquet and veil and the table centerpieces. George's uncle, head chef at Saint Leo University, catered the dinner buffet. The wedding cake was red velvet, the groom's cake an edible Darth Vader.

Then they danced — a waltz, a rumba and funk style — at home on their very own stage.

Amy Scherzer can be reached at [email protected] or call (813) 226-3332

Comments
With makeover, ZooTampa at Lowry Park takes a page from the theme parks

With makeover, ZooTampa at Lowry Park takes a page from the theme parks

TAMPA — Behind the construction walls near the carousel at ZooTampa at Lowry Park, hammers, saws and power drills made a racket in the blazing Friday heat. A raft full of 100-pound water jugs took test trips on the new Roaring Springs ride set ...
Updated: 7 hours ago

Tell Me About It: Half sister worries about wedding drama

Half sister worries about wedding drama"target="_blank">Half sister worries about wedding dramaQ: I really want to go to my half-sisterís wedding, but I donít want to start trouble with her dad, who hates me. He might cause a scene if I go.My mom ch...
Published: 05/25/18
An all-ages playlist of the summer songs of 2018? It can be done

An all-ages playlist of the summer songs of 2018? It can be done

Recently I was asked to create a playlist for a summer beach party. An opportunity to procrastinate and mess around on Spotify for a few hours? Yeah, totally, when can I start?I like playlists that are diverse, not just in terms of genre (pop, hip-ho...
Published: 05/24/18
9 things to do indoors on this rainy Memorial Day weekend

9 things to do indoors on this rainy Memorial Day weekend

We've got you covered. Get it?
Published: 05/24/18

Tell Me About It: Busy mom wants to check her priorities

Q: As a mother of three young kids holding a full-time job and with a husband who frequently works late evenings and some weekends, I feel my priorities change according to what is in front of me at the time, then Iím reconsidering my choices later.H...
Published: 05/24/18
Top things to do for Memorial Day weekend in Tampa Bay: Concerts, festivals and memorials

Top things to do for Memorial Day weekend in Tampa Bay: Concerts, festivals and memorials

Our editors' picks for things to do this weekend.
Published: 05/25/18
Top things to do this weekend: Margarita Festival, Rays’ Kiermaier as Star Wars figure, Nintinder

Top things to do this weekend: Margarita Festival, Rays’ Kiermaier as Star Wars figure, Nintinder

LIME TIME: Tampa Bay Margarita Festival This year, there are twice the bartenders and a new RFID wristband system for less waiting at the two-day Tampa Bay Margarita Festival with a margarita flavor for every taste. Music headliners are the Wallflow...
Published: 05/23/18
John Fogerty, coming to Clearwater, isn’t backing down on protest songs, Parkland and #MeToo

John Fogerty, coming to Clearwater, isn’t backing down on protest songs, Parkland and #MeToo

It’s been 50 years since John Fogerty wrote Fortunate Son, one of the most scathing protest songs from the Vietnam War era. Writing another one with that kind of impact has been a challenge ever since. "Back in the ’80s, I had a couple o...
Published: 05/23/18
What's in theaters this week: 'Solo: A Star Wars Story,' Art and Short Film Mini-Fest

What's in theaters this week: 'Solo: A Star Wars Story,' Art and Short Film Mini-Fest

OPENING FRIDAY: SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY Alden Ehrenreich stars as a young Han Solo navigating the underworld and meeting his forever wingman Chewbacca and his scoundrel buddy Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover). With Emilia Clarke, Thandie Newton, Woo...
Published: 05/23/18
A weekend of festivals: Sunset Music Fest, 97X Barbecue, WMNFís US Festival tribute

A weekend of festivals: Sunset Music Fest, 97X Barbecue, WMNFís US Festival tribute

THE BEATS GO ON: Sunset Music FestivalAt last yearís Sunset Music Festival, the focus was all on crowd safety. After two fans died from drug overdoses at Tampaís largest annual rave in 2016, organizers heightened security across the board, yielding a...
Published: 05/23/18