There’s no dancing around the severity of Seattle’s homelessness crisis. But a group of notable figures in town, including Amazon Web Services CEO Adam Selipsky, will do their best to use the dance to raise money to help tackle the problem.
Selipsky participates in “Seattle Dances,” an annual event hosted by Plymouth Housing, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing permanent, supportive housing for chronically homeless adults in Washington State.
The AWS chief, who joined the tech giant’s cloud division in May 2021 after five years at the helm of Tableau Software, is one of seven dancers competing on Saturday night in a “Dancing With the Stars” at Fremont Studios.
“I want to give back to the city where I grew up and where I raised my children,” Selipsky told GeekWire. “I’m committed to making the community a little better every day with whatever it takes – dancing feet and all!”
Each celebrity dancer is paired with a professional who guides them through the steps of a particular routine. Selipsky swing dances with Lauren Smith, a competitive dancer who has taught around the world.
Selipsky called Smith a fantastic guide and trainer and said the two logged many hours of training.
“I needed every single one of them,” he said. “For me, the hardest part was memorizing all the different body/dance moves, which is a new skill for me. There are a lot of complex moves in the swing and you need to be in sync with your partner.
In a video interview (below), Smith said Selipsky worked hard and learned a lot of moves in a short time.
“We’re going to have lots of fun lifts and jumps for everyone,” she said.
Selipsky said he loves to dance but hardly considers himself an expert, and joining “Seattle Dances” was a “new horizon”. He rates the competition, which he describes as “spectacular”.
Other dancers include: Seattle Seahawks ambassador Jordan Babineaux (dancing the West Coast Swing with Anna Wallace); Russell Benaroya, owner of Stride Services (dancing Bhangra/Bollywood with Eshita Jayaswal); life coach and author Shari Leid (dancing West Coast Swing with Za Thomaier); Lulu Chou Collet, owner of Lulu’s Hattitudes (dancing Waacking with Tracey Wong); Elaina Morris, President and CEO of Ascend Hospitality Group (dancing Latin with Andy Howe); and Plymouth Board Chair Lainey Sickinger (dancing hip-hop with Keyes).
While physical competition will take place on Saturday evening, voting began months ago. Teams can win in two categories related to fundraising for Plymouth Housing.
- Best Promoter: Awarded to the dance team with the highest number of individual donors.
- Housing First Hero: Awarded to the team that raises the most money.
- Dynamite Dancer: Awarded to the team with the most creative and passionate performance of the evening.
Now in its 14th year, “Seattle Dances” is a signature fundraising event for Plymouth and has raised nearly $9 million from previous events.
Amazon, alongside Microsoft, is a presenting sponsor of the event. The tech giant has used its $2 billion Amazon Housing Equity Fund to support increased construction of affordable housing in the Seattle area and other areas where it has a prominent office presence. The fund is an attempt by Amazon to leverage its extraordinary financial assets to address disparities in communities where its rapid growth risks deepening the economic divide.
The company provided $150 million to build and preserve 1,700 affordable homes in Seattle and surrounding cities in December, $23 million to build 568 homes last June, $42.5 million to build 318 affordable apartments in last March.
Amazon gave Plymouth $5 million in 2019.
“Data has shown that when someone has a home, their chances of leading a healthy life increase,” Selipsky said. “I want to do everything I can to raise awareness and build support to address homelessness in the community.”
Saturday’s program will be streamed live on YouTube.
GeekWire is a digital media sponsor for “Seattle Dances.“