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The case of the dancing lawyer

Max Curran steps up for Alzheimer’s research

Attorney J. Joseph “Max” Curran III, known for his handling of high-profile energy matters, may be adding a new skill to his resume: competitive dancer.

The Saul Ewing LLP partner will perform a version of the Latin Hustle, a dance he calls a “tribute to 1970s disco,” at Saturday’s Memory Ball in an effort to raise money for Alzheimer’s research and services.

Max Curran

J. Joseph ‘Max’ Curran III practices his Latin Hustle routine with competitive ballroom dancer Teresa Martin at Towson Dance Studio, in advance of Saturday’s Memory Ball. (Josh Cooper/The Daily Record)

“I don’t have any natural dance skills,” said Curran, 47. In fact, he admitted that his dance experience is limited to his senior prom and wedding.

But drawing on his legal experience — and twice-weekly practices with his dance partner, competitive ballroom dancer Teresa Martin at Towson Dance Studio — he hopes to have a good showing against the eight other couples in the “Dancing Stars” competition at the Alzheimer’s Association Greater Maryland Chapter’s seventh annual gala.

“I’m an energy lawyer, so you have to be good on your feet,” he said.

Curran, who chaired the Public Service Commission from 1999 to 2005 and later represented Constellation Energy Group and Exelon Corp. in an $8 billion merger, is a newcomer to the competition that last year featured his sister, Maryland District Court Judge and first lady Katherine Curran O’Malley as a judge.

After attending last year’s gala, Curran said, he soon felt the nudging of his sister as well as Joyce A. Kuhns, a fellow partner at Saul Ewing who serves as the development committee chair for the Alzheimer’s Association’s Greater Maryland chapter.

“So, I succumbed to their pressure and encouragement, and I decided to bite the bullet and take part for this important cause,” Curran said.

Kuhns said Curran’s light nature makes him an ideal participant.

“He has such a great sense of fun and humor,” she said. “He has the right personality.

And it doesn’t hurt that Curran bears one of the most visible and politically influential names in Maryland.

“He comes from a family that has always been dedicated to public service,” Kuhns said.

Curran is the grandson of the late J. Joseph Curran, a former Baltimore City Council member, the son of former Maryland Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr. and, of course, the brother-in-law of Gov. Martin O’Malley.

“This may be a first for the Curran family,” he said. “We danced our way through a few campaigns, but never ballroom dancing.”

The competition features two prizes: one for the best technical score and the other for the event’s top fundraiser.

The nine groups of participants set their own fundraising goals. Curran initially set his at $7,500 but quickly blew by that number. As of April 10, he had a new goal of $30,000 and pledges totaling more than $27,500, good for third place among the dancers — behind Jay Jenkins, president of Jenkins Baer Associates ($35,750) and Baltimore philanthropist Sue Levi ($32,490).

Most of Curran’s financial backing has come from family, friends, colleagues and clients who are eager to see him dance. According to his donations page, Curran even received a $250 contribution from one Martin O’Malley.

Come Saturday, Judge O’Malley will recuse herself from evaluating Curran’s performance and leave the job to the Memory Ball’s other judges: Tony Foreman, CEO and president of Foreman Wolf and the 2012 Memory Ball champion; Dr. Benjamin Carson, co-director of the Johns Hopkins Craniofacial Center; former Baltimore Colt Bruce Laird, president of the Baltimore Football Club; and Miss Maryland USA 2013, Kasey M. Staniszewski.

With Curran’s unique blend of personality, profile and connections, Kuhns expects a top-notch performance from her friend on all levels.

“He’s a solid competitor,” she said. “I think he has a shot at one or both prizes.”

Curran, on the other hand, just hopes the dance goes smoothly in front of the nearly 800 expected guests at the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront hotel on Saturday.

“I’ve got to make sure I don’t fall on my face or, more importantly, drop my partner on the floor,” he said.

Memory Ball: By the Numbers

Proceeds from the Memory Ball will fund research and a variety of services the Alzheimer’s Association offers to patients and families, including a 24-hour helpline, support groups and direct care workers.

2012 Event: More than $350,000 raised ($219,000 from dancers’ pledges)

2013 Event: Dancers’ combined goals: $234,000

Total posted to website as of 5 p.m. Wednesday: $179,123