The Chandler dance community has come together to support one of its teachers – an Ahwatukee man who fell victim to a carjacker.
Michael McBain, a long-time professional dancer and Air Force veteran, has been teaching aspiring dancers for years and recently found himself in a troubling predicament.
The 73-year-old was driving near McDowell Road and 51st Avenue when a limping man approached his vehicle.
The man asked McBain for $11 so he could rent out a hotel room for his family, so he gave him some cash and offered to give him a ride.
They drove to an American Inn and the man asked McBain to go inside and check on room rates, claiming he had twisted his ankle and it was too painful for him to walk.
McBain parked the car and as he walked toward the lobby, the man sped off in McBain’s vehicle.
“I was shocked,” McBain recalled. “It was certainly unexpected. I was trying to do the guy a favor.”
McBain had to take a taxi 25 miles back to his Ahwatukee home.
Once he returned, McBain realized his dance bag with his tap shoes and music had been inside the car.
McBain teaches weekly classes for Classic Image Dance Studio in Chandler and would have had to find a way to replace his materials before his next class.
He notified studio owner Shannon Wilson.
“My heart broke for him,” Wilson recalled.
She knew McBain had already been having a difficult time before the carjacking and worried how this latest misfortune would impact him.
McBain drives for Lyft, the ride-sharing company, in his spare time and had been earning up to $700 per week.
But then COVID-19 pandemic hit and Lyft customers were suddenly staying home, no longer requesting rides.
During the first week of March, McBain only made about $40 from his Lyft rides. It didn’t make sense to keep driving, he said, since he was spending more money on gasoline than what he was earning.
So McBain has had to forgo that supplemental income.
Wilson got to work figuring out how her dance community could help McBain.
He’s brought so much talent and expertise to Classic Image Dance, Wilson figured, so it seemed fitting that the studio should help in in a perilous time.
“We just wanted to see what we could do to help given that he didn’t really have any income coming in and was just a little bit down on his luck,” she said.
Wilson started circulating McBain’s story among the studio’s dancers and parents. Within a few days, she had collected more than $5,000 from nearly 80 donors.
Even some of McBain’s former students – some taught by him back in the 1970s –contributed to the fundraiser.
“I’m grateful that the community came together at this time for someone who has touched so many lives,” Wilson said.
The fundraiser came as a surprise to McBain, who was unaware of it.
“I was completely caught off guard,” he said.
McBain, who worked on television shows in Hollywood before relocating to Arizona, said he hasn’t missed a dance lesson since the car theft and plans to continue teaching for the foreseeable future.
“I hope to die and still be teaching,” he joked.
On May 6, McBain was notified his stolen car had been recovered and was sitting in an impound lot. The car sustained some damage and the license plate was missing, McBain said, so he’s still not able to drive it yet.
The car’s trunk had some stolen stereo equipment, which McBain handed over to authorities. Phoenix Police said the case is still open and no arrests have been made.
Though the incident brought McBain some temporary misery, he said he’s not trying to let the theft bring down his spirits.
“It hasn’t changed my outlook or changed my willingness to help others,” he said. “I still will do that. I’m just going to be more cautious.”