Darren’s Ballroom members excel in competition


By Chris Bavender

It’s been an amazing past few months for dancers from Darren’s Ballroom in Carmel, who traveled to Los Angeles in late October to compete in the Hollywood Dancesport Championships.  Several dancers were named top in their divisions, while owner Darren Cupp won Top Instructor. The studio was also named Top Studio out of more than 150 competing studios.

Cupp said this year’s competition was special after it was canceled in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The competitors and performers at my studio do it for a reason,” Cupp said. “When that is taken away from us, you start to find yourself looking for and missing that creative and challenging output that dance provided for you. We were all very anxious to get back out on that competition floor and prove we still had it. That’s exactly what they did. “

Priscilla Turner, Julie Phillips, Darren Lee Cupp, Kelly Miller-Crider and Stephanie Jackson pause at the Hollywood Dancesport Championships (Photo courtesy of Darren’s Ballroom)

Dancers competing this year were Priscilla Turner, who has been dancing at the studio for 12 years; Julie Phillips, who has been with the studio seven years; Kelly Miller-Crider, who has been with the ballroom for four years; and Stephanie Jackson, who has danced with the studio for about 18 months. All four are from Carmel.

“After being cooped up for so long, it felt awesome to be in the midst of such beauty and talent,” Turner said. “The thrill of competing is, indeed, exciting. The team is cohesive and supportive of one another, so we have fun on and off the dance floor.”

Phillips said it was exhilarating to be back on the dance floor.

“One of the best things about Darren’s Ballroom that is different from a lot of studios is that we spend time together outside of the ballroom, too,” Phillips said. “The friendships we have formed and continue to make are rewarding.”

Cupp lauded the performance of all the dancers..

“Having two veterans there to look up to and ask questions to for the newbies really helped them shine,” Cupp said. “I think it was nice for the veterans who have done the Hollywood Dancesport Championships before to relive their first times and find that same passion all over again.”

Miller-Crider agrees.

“(It was) one of the best times I’ve had in years. Despite the early mornings and long days, it was such an amazing, fun and rewarding experience,” Miller-Crider said. “I feel part of the dancing community now.”

Jackson also enjoyed the experience.

“Traveling to LA with Darren’s Ballroom was everything I dreamed it would be and more,” Jackson said. “I got to bond with our Darren’s Ballroom Dance Studio family, improve my dance skills and be inspired by all of the jaw-dropping talent and beauty that exists at a ballroom comp.”

Cupp said the competition now has the newer dancers hooked.

“Getting to see the dances performed at such high levels really tends to light a fire in someone who wants to improve,” he said. “We also just have so much fun together. Anytime that we go away and compete as a team, we build such amazing memories and bonds with each other. To be part of the competition team is very special.”