Desty Darlings claim National Championship
Published 4:38 pm Wednesday, February 23, 2022
LAPLACE — “Road to White Jackets” was the motto for the Desty Darlings as they danced their way to the top in Small Varsity Game Day during the 2022 UDA National Championship in Orlando.
The UDA National Championship win was the first in school history, a culmination of a dream that was 11 years in the making. The white jackets also symbolize a journey of resilience in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida.
Surveying the devastation left in the storm’s wake, Desty Darlings director Micque Voges didn’t think nationals would be a possibility. Destrehan High School’s campus was severely damaged, and many of the dancers on the team were displaced from their homes.
Months later, much of the team is still sleeping in trailers or half-gutted homes. But no one would ever be able to tell the hardship they have endured by the way they shined on stage at Nationals.
In addition to the first place finish in Small Varsity Game Day, the Desty Darlings also made history by placing fourth in the nation in hip-hop and advancing straight from prelims to finals in jazz.
“UDA’s national championship is the most prestigious dance team championship there is. The honor behind the white jacket is something every girl on a dance team dreams of,” Voges said. “I feel their desire and resilience from Ida helped push them more this year than in the past. They took all the challenges and obstacles they were facing in their personal lives. This became an outlet for them, and I feel that really helped to get them to the next level.”
The Destrehan High School football field served as a makeshift practice stage at the beginning of the season until the Lafon Performing Arts Center was up and running across the river. While the girls eventually returned to their normal practice space, their schedule was far from normal, with Destrehan’s campus remaining shuttered until January 18.
The Desty Darlings also volunteered in the community in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida. According to Voges, helping United Way and St. Charles Driving Academy distribute storm relief supplies cultivated a strong team spirit that factored into the national championship win.
“Game Day is based on your spirit for your team, your school and your community,” Voges said. “It starts with a fight song, then a side line that you would do on a football field or at a pep rally to encourage school spirit. It ends with a performance in a genre of dance that you feel your team is particularly strong at. We also had to submit a video of certain things we do in the stands and for community service, which goes into your overall score.”
This year’s Jazz routine was also a nod to Hurricane Ida recovery. Set to the song “Louisiana,” the fluid, water-like choreography helped the Desty Darlings share their story with the nation.
Voges is also proud of this year’s hip-hop routine, which combined technique with skill.
“This year was different because we incorporated much harder tricks. It was scary to learn and took time to perfect, but the girls were determined to get them. A lot of them met outside of our typical practices in order to perfect those skills,” Voges said.
She added, “To be in top five for hip-hop is such a tremendous honor. When you get into finals for that, you are tenths or hundredths of a point from one another. We were very close to medaling, so that will be a goal of ours moving forward.”
This year’s National Championship competition team includes Kailie Carrigee, Jaleia Powell, Lauren Dugas, Maria Lockwood, Marilyn Glore, Brianne Robichaux, Carly Johnson, Abigail Punch, Bailey Wehrlin, Miladi Benedict, Jai Powell, Jordyn Posey, Jakya Sanchez, Kaylee Keller, Aubry Picou, Madison Eugene and Kamryn Agurcia.
While the UDA Nationals take place at Walt Disney World, it was more of a business trip than a vacation for the hardworking Desty Darlings who only got about two hours of sleep per night between practices.
Team captain Kailie Carrigee said it was all worth it to earn that long-awaited first place title.
“This year, we knew we had a really good chance of taking it all after coming in second place last year with Small Varsity Game Day. We really wanted to make sure this season that we worked as hard as we could and pushed ourselves to our limits so we could achieve the top spot. We knew we had it in us,” Carrigee said.
The Destys stood out not only in stellar choreography, but in their devotion to one another.
“It didn’t matter where we had to practice, what time, or what we had going on at home. We knew we wanted to dance together,” Carrigee said. “We’re such a close-knit family, and I think after all the obstacles that we’ve been through, it’s really allowed us to get closer as a team. We really are like sisters. We love each other so much, and I think having that trust and respect for one another sets us apart from other teams.”
The Desty Darlings had overwhelming support from St. Charles Parish as they claimed their white jackets. From facetiming the superintendent to being welcomed home with a fight song from the marching band, they felt the love of the community every step of the way. Last week, their National Championship win was recognized at the District’s School Board meeting.
“We’re so proud to represent St. Charles Parish, especially after everything the community has been through. We’re so thankful for our community’s love and support. We could not have done it without them,” Carrigee said.