A local professional dancer’s effort to bring his daughter here from Haiti attracted the attention of the producers of the popular TV show “Dancing with the Stars.”
Ricardo Sopin, a native of Haiti, and his ballroom dance partner, Iraida Volodina, will appear on the show tonight to raise awareness for the help still needed for survivors of the devastating January earthquake.
“They are one of the top professional ballroom couples,” said Leslie Valencia, who owns the Arthur Murray Dance studio, where both Sopin and Volodina teach. “They were in touch with a few of the other people who were involved in the earthquake as well.”
Several Haitian dancers will perform a mambo as a tribute to Haiti on the show, which airs live at 8 p.m. tonight on ABC.
“They basically just flew into [Los Angeles] yesterday after practicing for one day in New York City,” Valencia said.
Valencia said the Haitians were childhood friends who practiced dance in their country before coming separately to the U.S.
“Their talent and their opportunity brought them to the United States,” she said. “They are just so excited to kind of be reunited.”
The dancers have seen each other on and off since they left Haiti.
Sopin came home to Saratoga Springs briefly last week after being in Haiti for two months. He has been trying to get a visa for his 8-year-old daughter, Marsha, to return with him to the U.S.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is considering Marsha’s case.
“Now we’re just waiting to see what they’re going to do,” Valencia said.
In the meantime, Marsha is staying with Sopin’s mother, who was seriously injured in the quake, and friends of the family in a heavy-duty plastic tent with a tin roof. Sopin bought it with money from local fundraisers.
“They’ve kind of gathered together to try to protect each other and try to feed each other,” Valencia said. They also moved from Port-au-Prince to La Plaine, which is safer.
Sopin’s mother has a passport but is too elderly to travel to the U.S.
Sopin and the dance studio are collecting Beanie Babies toys to send to Haitian orphans.
Valencia said they aim to get 5,000 of the stuffed animals, and will collect them at the studio at 75 Woodlawn Ave. and hopefully at other sites, too. Call 691-0432 for more information to donate.