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Five questions with Andrea Kuzel

Superior Ballroom Dance Studio in Duluth recently was named a “top large studio” at the Snow Ball DanceSport Competition in Minneapolis. Owner Andrea Kunzel is in the middle of her dancers and instructors, holding her 4-year-old inside the winning cup. (Photo courtesy Andrea Kuzel)

Andrea Kuzel is the owner of the Superior Ballroom Dance Studio in Duluth, which opened in 2014. The studio recently won awards for “top large studio” and “top male instructor” at the Snow Ball DanceSport Competition in Minneapolis, an annual national competition for ballroom dance enthusiasts. The studio also boasts the only professional couple competing on the national circuit. Kuzel, who wants to make the Twin Ports the “ballroom capital of the world,” was asked Five Questions about her studio and passion for dancing.

Q: Why did you decide to open up a studio, and why in Duluth?

A: My husband and I had to move here for his job, so I told him I’d stay for three years maximum. I was a St. Paul girl. I had planned to live there. I convinced my dance partner to move here as well and help me teach a few lessons here and there. Within four months, we had so many students I decided to open our own place so our students would have a nice place to call home. Superior Street seemed most fitting since we are the Superior Ballroom Dance Studio. 

Q: Where are we today in the popularity of ballroom dancing? How has the studio grown in the past year?

A: Ballroom dancing interest is at an all-time high. The television show “Dancing with the Stars” has helped the world realize that anyone can dance. It doesn’t matter what size, shape, age or ability you are —  if you have the desire, you can dance.  Also, “America’s Dance Challenge” on PBS was funded again this year, so we’ll be able to watch the Ohio Star Ball (nationals) on TV again.

The popularity has definitely helped the studio grow, but I like to think that it’s our fantastic instructors, positive energy, family environment and can-do attitude that has helped the studio grow to from one to 150 students in the past two years. One of our students, Ted Bjork, was just commenting on how paying for private lessons is also like paying for a social membership to an incredibly fun club. Two to three times a month we hold practice parties for our students and we’re always bringing big groups of students to events around town. People are finding out that where Superior Ballroom goes, fun follows. 

Q: How did you first become interested in dancing?

A: When I was in my 20s I was a paralegal with all my applications into law school. I was miserable. I took a ballroom dance class because I grew up thinking I couldn’t dance and I wanted to try something new. I had an older sister who was a ballerina with the Milwaukee Ballet, and she always told me I moved my hips “funny.” After one class I was hooked. I wasn’t good, but I was having fun. I was never quick at picking things up, but I worked hard and eventually turned professional.

Dancing changed my life. It cheered me up when I was down, it helped me lose weight, grow taller (seriously … from my teacher always telling me to stand tall), find my self-confidence and ultimately find something that I loved so much I knew I had to make it my career. Now, I get to change people’s lives through dance.

Q: Darren Franco and Tiffany Crystal are Duluth’s first ballroom dancers on the national circuit. What is it like on that tour, and what does this couple bring to the competitions?

A: Darren and I were the first, but they are the first to compete out of state. They are following the Dancer’s Cup Circuit, which is one of two circuits that leads to nationals. They will be traveling once or twice a month to competitions throughout the country and making a name for themselves in the professional world and someday go for a national championship.  

They are incredibly fun to watch on the dance floor. They are such good friends, they have a connection and a playfulness on the floor that just draws you into their dancing. They are one of two couples in our ballroom that are sponsored by Randall Designs, the company that has made costumes for “Dancing with the Stars.” So they look spectacular in their costumes.

Q: You are having a dinner party for four. Which three people — alive or dead, famous or not — would you invite and why?

A: Fred Astaire would be the first one simply because he helped start the Fred Astaire Dance Studios. They taught me how to be an amazing teacher and how to teach people so they are guaranteed to learn how to dance and have fun at the same time.

Mariusz Olszewski is our main coach in the studio, works with the show “So You Think You Can Dance” and is a world-renowned choreographer and ballroom artist. Even though I get to see him at least once a month, I am always amazed with his knowledge and wisdom about dance and life.

Don Ness has been such a great mayor, I figure he would be a great person to talk to about anything else I can do to help make the Twin Ports the ballroom dance capital of the world. Because it’s going to happen some day. Mark my words.

My husband gets to come with as well, right? Because he is my support system and allows me to run this crazy studio. He always said that he is going to be known someday as the ballroom dancer’s husband. I think that day has come.

Compiled and edited by Mike Creger. Do you have a candidate in mind for Five Questions? Call (218) 723-5218 or email features@duluthnews.com.

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