Photos and text by Allison Jarrell
Atop a modest string of shops tucked away in the Plaza Del Rio Shopping Center is a studio where students ages 3 to 78 are learning what some may have thought was a lost art—ballroom dancing.
Danny and Kayla Parker, owners of Bumpin Ballroom in San Juan Capistrano, have taught students over the last five years how to waltz, tango, foxtrot and quickstep. Dancers young and old can learn the salsa and rumba, or learn how to swing and two-step, or even a bit of hip-hop, if they’d prefer.
It was the hip-hop offering that first drew 19-year-old Alexis Perez, of Dana Point, to the studio three years ago. At the age of 8, Perez began learning a traditional Mexican dance called ballet folklorico, but he wanted to broaden his repertoire.
“I went to the plaza to pay my phone bill and saw the big letters, “Learn to dance” on the windows,” Perez recalled. “I saw that they had hip-hop, and I wanted to experience that.”
Since then, Perez has excelled and developed a love for Latin ballroom dancing, so much so, that his instructors encouraged him to think about entering competitions. Thus far, he’s competed in Las Vegas, Palm Springs and Los Angeles.
“If I have any stress or anger, dance helps me unleash that,” Perez said. “I feel like on the dance floor is where I’m most safe and comfortable.”
Perez practices four days a week, three hours a day at the studio. Right now, he’s working on cleaning up his technique and building his stamina in preparation for the 2017 Embassy Ballroom Championships in Irvine, which runs Aug. 30-Sept. 3.
Perez’s dream is to become a world champion. Eventually, he sees himself competing with a partner in the Blackpool Dance Festival in England, where he intends to become one of the top 10 Latin ballroom dancers in the world.
“Dancing means everything to me,” Perez smiled. “When I was little, that’s the first thing I learned how to do. Without it, I feel weird, like I’m not myself. I can’t imagine my life without it.”
With a planned expansion in the coming months, Danny and Kayla are hoping to draw even more local youth like Perez to their studio and encourage them to learn to dance.
The new studio, which will be located a couple lights down off of Calle Perfecto, will have a main ballroom that’s about twice the size of the current facility, as well as another smaller room and an office area.
It’s a big improvement from where the couple started five years ago. At the time, Kayla, an Orange County native, and Danny, who hails from Australia, had been recently married and knew they wanted to open a ballroom studio together. They decided to sell all of their belongings, except for one car, and used the money to lay the dance floor of Bumpin Ballroom.
Naming the studio was the easy part. Their space consisted of two conjoined units, and the ground wasn’t flat where they came together.
“We were on a limited budget when we opened, so we didn’t have the money to grind it flat,” Danny said. “So there was a bump in the ballroom.
“The new one obviously won’t have a bump in the floor, but we’ll keep the name,” he laughed.
While increased youth opportunities are a major focus for Kayla and Danny, they’re also looking at the bigger picture of promoting dance culture in San Juan, South Orange County and beyond. The couple said they’d like to have nighttime dance events for both adults and kids in the future, perhaps something on a Friday night that kids can go to and have fun in a safe environment.
Danny added that he’d like to see a revival of swing dancing to live big bands, in addition to being able to accommodate events like two-stepping to live country music.
“The artistry of two people moving as one is what people are attracted to,” he said.
“Humans crave human contact,” Kayla added. “It’s natural to be able to want to dance with somebody on the dance floor.”
While the lease will be signed in the coming days for their new space, Kayla and Danny are hoping to raise money to cover costs such as new equipment, dance floors, purchasing and installing mirrors and ballet bars, and more. To help cover those costs, the studio is hosting a fundraiser on Saturday, Aug. 12 at the current location, 32301 Camino Capistrano, at 6:30 p.m. The fundraiser will include refreshments, professional dance performances, raffles and silent auctions. Tickets are $20 per person before Aug. 9, or $25 at the door, and all proceeds will go toward outfitting the new space.
Kayla and Danny plan on having a grand opening in September.
For more information, call 949.481.7838 or visit www.bumpinballroom.com.
Bumpin Ballroom Fundraiser
When: Saturday, Aug. 12, 6:30 p.m.
Where: 32301 Camino Capistrano
Admission: $20 per person before Aug. 9, $25 at the door