After years of honing his go-go dancing skills, Shane Rooks walked into the 2016 Hunt for Mr Ruff with his eyes on the title he planned to win.
His hard work, coupled with the generous support of friends and followers, paid off.
“Here I am, a 47-year-old go-go dancer,” Rooks says, honoured if a bit bemused by his recent Mr Ruff victory.
“My whole attitude is like, if people want to pay me to get up in my underwear and dance mostly naked at my age, I’m going to do it.”
He wonders if his somewhat unusually advanced age (for a go-go dancer) gave him a competitive edge.
“I think one of the advantages of being older is I’m much more secure in myself,” he says, “and so I just have more skills in terms of managing a crowd, interacting with a crowd, being friendly and working the crowd better. I see a lot of young go-go dancers who get kind of nervous when guys approach them.”
Not a newcomer to the scene, Rooks has graced the stages of nightclubs in the US and Canada for almost a decade, and was second-runner-up at Mr Ruff 2013.
But dancing isn’t all about shaking-a-tail-feather for the American-born programmer-by-day. He sees dancing as an opportunity to connect with others.
“I like helping people have a good time at a party,” he says. “Very often, just getting up there and dancing, you’re just part of the scenery. But when you get to interact with someone, put a smile on someone’s face . . . Sometimes I will look for someone who’s being kind of quiet and shy in the corner and actually make a point of giving them a little extra attention, just knowing that that kind of brightened up their evening a little bit.”
Rooks and his team raised over $1,000 this year — a Mr Ruff record — in the fundraising contest, which sees contestants vie for donations through social media and other efforts. Together, the four competitors raised $3,349 for the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, plus Rooks donated an extra $350 of his prize money.
“I didn’t think it was going to be emotional,” he says. “When they talked about how much money we raised, I was totally dumbfounded.”
Asked how he felt when he won the title, Rooks says, “it’s a combination of relief and happiness, there are a lot of emotions that go into all of that, that kind of cascade down on to you.”
Rooks will make his official debut as Mr Ruff 2016 at the Victoria Mr Ruff party on April 23 and May 22 in Vancouver.