Darren & Lilia
Darren Bennett and Lilia Kopylova are currently the most successful male and female professionals in the history of BBC`s Strictly Come Dancing, having won 7 Trophies between them!
Darren Bennett started dancing at the young age of 6 at his parents dance studio and he soon knew dance was the career he wanted to follow. As a young competitive dancer Darren represented Great Britain at World and European championships quickly rising through the ranks of juvenile, junior and youth being a champion in each level.
Lilia Kopylova stared dancing at the age of 4, firstly as an ice dancer competing throughout Russia (then USSR) becoming Moscow state champion. Later after discovering Ballroom and Latin American dancing at the age of 9, Lilia competed at all levels becoming Russian Champion in all grades.
In July 1997 Darren and Lilia were introduced to each other to see if they could work together as dancers. As competitive dancers they had competed against each other at junior and youth levels in all of the major championships throughout the world but did not actually know each other personally.
It took just 15 minutes for them to realize how good they were together. Competing in their first competitive competition together after just 5 weeks! Just five months later, they won the International and British Youth Championships, winning every dance. They continued to have a fantastic amateur career winning 4 British amateur championships, 3 UK championships and represented Great Britain at World and European championships until they turned professional.
Turning Professional in 2003 they won the British Rising Star Professional Championships at their first attempt beating 250 couples to this prestigious title. They continued their success making the final of the Italian & Dutch Opens and World Masters. Within their first year of being professional they achieved a ranking in the top 6 of the World Series.
In 2004 they made the final of the World Championships and became members of the British Team.
In July of 2004 their careers changed forever when they were asked if they would like to take part in the BBC Strictly Come Dancing, having been unavailable for the first series they took up the offer and never looked back.
The show has continued to be one of BBC's biggest success stories and at its peak attracts approx. 11 million viewers. At his first attempt Darren dancing together with Jill Halfpenny from Eastenders won the show and then went on to win the Champion of Champions dance off. Lilia dancing with Aled Jones were the fan's favourites winning the phone vote for 6 weeks but were knocked out at the semi final. Darren went on to present at the Royal Variety Show that year meeting Prince Charles and performing with Michael Buble on stage.
2005 was another amazing year, Darren and Lilia continued with their competitive careers which saw them becoming British National Champions after being placed first in all 5 dances as well as Uk professional Latin Champions, European Professional finalists and member of the British team. A return to Strictly Come Dancing soon followed, this time not to be outdone, Lilia waltzed off with the title while partnering cricketing star Darren Gough, after which they also went on to win the International Christmas special.
In 2006 they retained their British National title and their third participation in Strictly saw them achieve astounding success with both Darren and Lilia battling it out in the semi-finals Darren with spice girl Emma Bunton and Lilia with Rugby legend Matt Dawson making it again to the final where they were narrowly defeated by Mark Ramprakash and Karen Hardy.
In 2007 Darren and Lilia decided to concentrate on their show Career which was now in full swing and made the hard choice to no longer compete at world level. Returning to Strictly for a 4th time Darren was paired with another Eastender's star Letitia Dean and after a disastrous start they recovered and Darren took Letitia to the quarter final. Lilia didn't have the best series after being partnered with Dom Littlewood, they were eliminated week 5, but not to be outdone Lilia returned with Darren Gough and won that years Christmas special.
In January 2008 together with their fellow strictly stars they embarked on the first Strictly Come Dancing Live UK tour, Darren partnering Letitia and Lilia partnering Darren Gough it proved an amazing success. Darren undertook the task of being Assistant Director and choreographer for the tour.
Darren and Lilia also continued to gain a reputation as amazing cabaret artists performing in such fabulous places in the UK, USA, Japan, Taiwan, Shanghai, Dubai, Canada, South Korea and in the Kremlin, Moscow to name a few! They have had the pleasure of performing with many international stars including Michael Buble, Kylie, Cliff Richard, Westlife and the Spice Girls. They have also performed on The Royal Variety Show and Elton Johns 50th Birthday. It was later in 2008 that they were asked by Derek Dean on behalf of the English National Ballet to be guest artists on a new production "strictly Gershwin" at the Royal Albert Hall. it was an amazing experience that left them wanting to direct and choreograph their very own show.
Returning for a 5th series of Strictly Darren partnered Jessie Wallace and Lilia partnering Don Warrington. The Christmas special that year saw Darren reunited with Jill Halfpenny winning yet again a Christmas special making Darren and Lilia the most successful Male and female professionals in strictly history! Another Strictly Live tour followed with Darren once again taking assistant director responsibilities partnering Jill and Lilia partnering Julian Clary declaring that he was "one of my favourite partners ever"!
Also in 2009 Darren and Lilia embarked on two very different projects both close to their hearts. The first "Latinfever" their very own West End show! Running for 5 weeks in the heart of the west end, it thrilled audiences throughout it's run giving Darren and Lilia the opportunity to direct and choreograph was a dream come true , it later went on to tour all over the country.
The second project being "Essentially Dance" a schools project giving every child the opportunity to learn the skill of dance in primary and secondary education. At this point Essentially dance has been delivered to over 125,000 school children in England.
Returning for a 6th series of Strictly saw Darren partnering Linda Bellingham and Lilia with Jockey Richard Dunwoody. Behind the scenes Darren and Lilia provided many of the group dances and choreography. In early 2010 the 3rd Strictly Live tour kicked off in Manchester with Darren as Assistant Director on the tour once again. Darren partnered Natalie Cassidy whilst Lilia came out as tour winner with Austin Healy winning yet another Glitter Ball!
2010 continued to be an amazing year with Darren and Lilia taking "Latinfever" on a national tour and Essentially Dance going from strength to strength. The autumn of 2010 saw a departure from Strictly Come Dancing for Lilia whilst Darren stayed on the series to do shows and group choreography.
Taking a completely new direction, Lilia and Darren were asked to be the consultants on the 1st series of "Yok Boyle Dans" the Turkish version of Dancing with the Stars. Lilia also took up the exciting invitation to be head judge on the panel for the duration of the 14 week run. Having an open remit to produce all on screen content was an amazing opportunity, plus working behind the scenes bringing together a professional cast, and consulting on all aspects of the show. Darren has also consulted on "Danse Avec la Stars" the 1st series of the French version of Dancing with the Stars.
As well as being successful competitors and performers they have built up an International reputation as coaches, choreographers and first class trainers in both the Dance and Corporate arenas. When time allows, they train many of the top Junior, Youth and Amateur couples, including the British Junior champions and No. 1 Youth couple in the UK.