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Dance contest benefits The Arc of Jackson County

Ask Joshua Hansen if he's having fun learning how to dance the tango and his face breaks into a big smile.

Oh, yeah!" he exclaims, and demonstrates his dance moves.

Hansen has teamed with Medford police Patrol Officer Ericka Doran for the Live to Dance with the Arc Stars dance competition that kicks off at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 4, at the Cascade Christian High School Cascade Pavilion, 855 Chevy Way, Medford. Tickets cost $15 and are available at www.thearcjackson.org or at The Arc's Thrift Store, 121 N. Central Ave.

Even if people don't attend the competition they can vote online for their favorite dance team at www.thearcjackson.org through Saturday. Each vote costs $5, and donors will receive a Human Bean gift card for one beverage with each vote.

More than 30 dancers will perform routines featuring a variety of dance forms, including ballroom, hip-hop, reggae, pop and tango. The event raises money for The Arc of Jackson County, which provides services for people with developmental and intellectual disabilities.

People with disabilities, called The Arc Stars, are teamed with others from the community, who are called the celebrities. Law enforcement has fielded an especially large contingent of competitors as they continue their friendly battle to win the dance contest's Civil Servants Braggin' Rights Roving Trophy Award.

The Medford Police Department won the trophy in 2014 and 2015, but the Jackson County Sheriff's Office stole it away in 2016. The agencies are competing again this year, with the Jackson County District Attorney's Office also vying for the award.

Hansen's dance partner may be a patrol officer, drug-recognition expert and training officer by day, but he sees a different side of Doran when they put on their dancing shoes.

"She's sweet," says Joshua Hansen, 32, who is fresh off gold and silver medal wins in cross-country skiing at a Special Olympics competition in Bend.

His mom, Debbie Hansen, says the event is a fun opportunity for people with developmental disabilities to demonstrate their skills.

"He's getting endless joy from this. He really enjoys it. It gives him an opportunity to show people what he's capable of," she says. "He really gets a lot out of seeing smiles on people's faces. I was surprised myself how quickly he learned all the steps. It's really hard for anyone to remember all those steps. He's a little bit of a ham anyway. He gets to show that."

While Hansen took to the stage with gusto, Jackson County Sheriff Nathan Sickler had more trepidation.

Last year, Sickler was absent from a staff meeting — so his kindhearted co-workers took advantage of the opportunity and nominated him for the dance contest.

"I'm not a dancing kind of guy, not that I have anything against dancing," Sickler says. "It's just not me. But I said, 'I can't back out on this.' It turned out to be one of the more rewarding experiences I've had."

Sickler teamed with Luis Valtrierra and Junior Kahaloa. He says Valtrierra was shy at first, but his personality blossomed during the two months they spent together in dance practice.

The trio won the People's Choice Award, the Best Performance Award and the Civil Servants Braggin' Rights Roving Trophy Award.

"It was a big deal for us, and especially for Luis," Sickler says.

Although the three aren't competing this year, they will reprise their performance Saturday night to entertain the crowd during the final voting.

"They said, 'Do you want to come back?' I can't say no to Luis," Sickler says.

During the dance competition, Arc Star Eston Lindsay will interview the dancers after they complete their routines. A grand finale will bring all the performers back on stage for a tribute dance featuring the songs of Prince and George Michael.

The event is The Arc's major fundraising event of the year. Proceeds help fund semi-independent and independent housing, respite services for families, social and recreational programs, emergency financial assistance, health and wellness education, and information and referral services.

Taylor Ireland, left, volunteer Lance Reyes and Kylee Ruvalcaba compete in 2016's Live to Dance With the Arc Stars. [Bryan Mikota Photography]