Our Story

Southern Star was the brainchild of Shari Huggett-Milton. For years, Shari had been suppressing ideas of opening a “community center” of sorts for the dance community. Dance being her first real love, Shari has been teaching Ballroom, Latin, Country and Swing styles for around 27 years. That career has blessed her beyond measure with so many wonderful friends, several successful businesses, skills, fur babies and let’s not forget the most recent love of her life, her husband, Matt Milton. While Shari, over many year’s, envisioned the idea of Southern Star, she knew it would be a lot of work and determined, she didn’t want to work that hard. So, she continued to suppress the idea, but God had a different plan.

Having come to her faith later than most, Shari began to see that God had placed a calling on her life and that calling has become Southern Star. Once she decided to embrace this calling, it was a simple thing to do… still a lot of work and VERY challenging, but simple just the same. It took us 2 years to find the money and then the location. After that, it was 6 months to build out and now we’ve been open for 5+ years… growing every year as we continue to follow God’s path for us.

Southern Star is a unique and welcoming place to all. Our culture and philosophy is simple… treat others as we would like to be treated, with honesty and integrity. To offer elegant and sophisticated space and services at an affordable rate and to encourage others to be there best version of themselves in whatever they do while enjoying the journey. We may not know where this journey will take us, but we know we are on the right path. May blessings and good wishes be with all who reads this message.

Heritage Classic 1998

Shari began studying tap, jazz, and ballet at the age of five, performing in many shows throughout her youth. Her teaching and competing in Ballroom & Latin Dancesport  started in September of 1992 at Fred Astaire Dance Studios in Durham, NC.

Shari stayed at the Durham FADS for roughly 2 years learning and honing her teaching, dancing and sales skills. In 1994, she transferred to Winston Salem, where she excelled in both dance and sales, winning a Freddy Award in 1995 for top female teacher in sales for the Southeastern Region of FADS.

In 1996, Shari moved to the New York City area to study and train with top coaches and dancers in the field. Since then, she has won numerous awards regionally and nationally in her professional career, including Regional and Professional Rising Star Finalist and Open Professional Semi-Finals in American Smooth and International Standard.

Some of Shari’s other accomplishments in the Manhattan area include appearances on the popular soap opera “All My Children” and appearances with Julio Iglesias on the “Today Show” and CNN to promote his “Tango” album.

In April 1998, Shari returned home, to North Carolina, to pursue the dream of opening her own studio: Carolina Dancesport, Inc. While owning and operating her successful dance studio, she was the primary female teacher, as well as trainer of her staff in both sales and teaching abilities. In her studio, Shari created an environment for students and staff that was welcoming and enjoyable. During that time, she created many successful specialty and holiday parties, coordinated huge productions and recitals and showcased her ability to bring the dance community together for many special events.

Shari also continued to excel in worldwide dance competition. Having competed exclusively in American 9 Dance (Rhythm and Smooth) and International Standard, she expanded her knowledge and competitive career in 2000 to include Country Western Couples. After winning countless Grand Champion Titles in the UCWDC Couples Division I, she went on to capture the 2003 UCWDC World Championship Title in that division. Shari continued to compete at the UCWDC Masters Level (the highest level possible), winning several titles. She is a certified UCWDC Judge at the Masters level, judging the highest levels in both Line Dance and Couples Divisions.

In 2002 she embraced a new career with Mary Kay Cosmetics. Having spent many years in the dance business doing make-up on students and colleagues for shows & competitions, it seemed a natural progression of her creativity. Shari once again excelled in this type of sales environment earning countless top sales awards. In December 2005, she earned one of her most notable awards, the use of a Mary Kay career car.  Just 6 months later, she progressed to Independent Sales Director, a leadership position in the Mary Kay Company; all this along side of her dance career.

After seven years of successful dance studio ownership, Shari simplified her life. In January 2005, Shari passed her dance studio on to her staff, Robertas Maleckis & Inga Sirkaite. It became Dance Plus, LLC, and now Elite Ballroom currently located in Morrisville and Shari is pleased to know that the legacy of good dancing she started in the Triangle Area, is still going.

In 2007, Shari started teaching and competing in West Coast Swing after friend and colleague, Darlene Long-Cree moved to China, and asked Shari to step in while she was gone. She had a great time dancing and teaching at Loafers Beach Club for the next 5 years. Shari achieved All-Star Status in WSDC Jack & Jills, which she did in just one year.

Her latest passion and focus has gone to opening and operating Southern Star Ballroom Center, an 8500+ square foot dance & event venue, in North Raleigh in January 2014. This is now her primary location for teaching classes and private lessons and enjoys collaborating with some of the Triangle Area’s most decorated and talented professionals.

Most recently as a result of Southern Star, Shari has sensed a pull toward working with more and more kids. This path has lead her to design and teach the Etiquette and Social Dance program at St. Thomas More Academy in Raleigh for the last several years. She is excited about potentially expanding this program online and to the general local market. Stay tuned for LEAD… An etiquette program designed to teach young people worthy skils; Leadership, Etiquette, Attitude & Dance.