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Dancers rehearse to beat of workers getting dome ready

The neon-colored Lycra and Spandex _ and the people wearing it _ seemed out of place Saturday at the Florida Suncoast Dome amid the sounds of workers in hard hats and their machinery. But as the workers scrambled to finish the arena for the grand opening March 3, about 400 Jazzercisers ate the dust and kicked up a little bit of their own. They were making sure their part of the program is ready to go.

"We'll both be in good shape by March 3," said Chuck Corson, referring to the program and the dome. Corson, who co-produced the opening ceremonies for the Olympics, is the producer of the dome gala.

General manager Jerry Oliver said all the necessary work on the dome will not be completed by the grand opening date, but enough will be finished to accommodate the show.

He said the dome is versatile enough that when work is finished, it will accommodate crowds of 50,000 or 18,000, depending on what floor plan is used.

The 400 Jazzercisers are part of the 5,000 dancers who will take part in the opening show. They range in age from about 16 to 60-plus, said Sharon Dunphy, a Clearwater Jazzercise instructor.

Their abilities also covered a wide range as Los Angeles choreographer Roy Luthringer, whose credits include several Super Bowl halftime shows, battered them with instructions for a series of routines. The dancers were in their first full rehearsal Saturday, said Ms. Dunphy, but she and about 40 other instructors had been taught some of the routines early so they could pass them on to their classes.

Larry Joergens was one of about 25 men in the dance group. By late afternoon in the noon-to-7 p.m. practice, he was ready for the 30,000 fans organizers hope will fill the dome on opening night.

"I never danced a day in my life but it won't be any scarier than being the first man in the Brooksville Jazzercise class," he said. "It's almost like you're doing a movie or something. Plus you get to see Kenny Rogers for free."

The grand opening will feature Rogers and will include the dancers and a light show, producer Corson said. Ticket sales have lagged with more than half the 30,000 still available, Oliver said. He said he expects sales to pick up as the opening date nears.

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