Watching your kid on the dance floor is a priceless experience. You have been there every step of the way; helping them to prepare for the big day; showing up to practice; calming the butterflies; and chauffeuring your dancer from one end of the state to the other. As a kid, being a part of a competition team gives you a sense of purpose that everyone wants to feel at least once in their lives. Even at a young age, you understand how hard you and your team worked to get to that dance floor. It took dedication from you and your family, time and commitment.
Lights and music on — ready, set dance! This is your kids’ one shot to show off what they have worked so hard for the past few months. As a kid, knowing that no matter the outcome, your family is sitting somewhere out in the crowded audience cheering you on and believing in you. That right there makes it all worth it.
Competition dance could be the foundation to a great future ahead. If you and your tiny dancer are curious about entering the world of dance competitions, it takes some small steps, and some big ones, too.
Competition Dance for All Kids
“Dance is so wonderful for kids as it builds not only a foundation of strength physically, but it also gives them a sense of community and teamwork,” says Ms. Jennifer, competition coordinator at West Chester Academy. “It also provides life skills that they will take with them to use in the future.”
As we all know, kids pick up on everything quickly. It’s amazing how they just absorb information and not only memorize it, but learn it instantaneously. The same goes for dance.
“Their young, and their minds can absorb a lot of different dance moves and pick up a lot of different things,” says Richie Mckeever, dance instructor and studio owner at Quest Dance Center in Beavercreek, Ohio. “Also it builds their confidence and it builds their character around students and around [new] friends.”
If you are wondering if competition dance is for your kid, ask yourself: Do they love to go to dance class? Are they excited to talk to you about what they learned? Do they enjoy performing in front of strangers? If you answered, “Yes,” then competition dance may be worth a shot.
Studio vs. Competitive Dance
Studio dance is a fantastic way to gain dance skills and build a foundation for something bigger. So what is the difference between studio and competitive dance?
“Competition is more of a bond with the kids. They have to bond at an early age and go and work with other kids to compete for competition,” says Mckeever.
You can expect your kiddo to grace the stage and practice more in competition dance than with studio. As both will give them stage presence, competition allows for a greater amount of stage performance and movement, and they can choose and focus on a dance style they are interested in ranging from jazz, ballet, hip-hop, contemporary, break dancing and more. Studio dance is available for kids as early as 2 years old, no matter their skill set, and it mostly consists of on-stage recitals to make memories for the dance kids, moms and dads.
“Competition dance uses the foundation learned from instructional dance and takes it to the next level,” says Ms. Jennifer. “Time in the classroom and skill sets increase as they move through the competition program. Here again, the sense of teamwork and community grows as they support each other both on and off the stage.”
Is Your Kid Ready to Compete?
The average age for boys and girls to join competitive dance is right around age 5 and it goes through age 18. However, some studios do offer a pre-team phase where they have shorter class times but work with various routines and teams, learn what they need for tryouts and from there, parents and directors can decide if they are competition-ready. So how do you know they are competition ready? Mckeever says his motto is to first make sure they are having fun.
“First and foremost, have fun and if they enjoy it, that’s a good sign,” he says.
Next, think about if your family and kid are both ready for the commitment. The commitment is higher when you’re in competition and on a pre-team, and once you decide you are prepared for it, the next step is to enjoy it.
“Especially during those first few years, it is very important,” he continues.
Trying to decide on the style of dance your kid loves? There are plenty to choose from. Some genres of dance are more appealing to kids these days, gauging their interest in wanting to learn more moves and take it to the next level.
“Jazz and hip-hop, with their fast pace and upbeat music, are some of the favorites,” says Ms. Jennifer. “Contemporary dance is starting to become a very popular genre of dance; with its movement and style combining both classical modern and jazz.”
Your Kid is Ready to Compete — Are You on The Right Track?
Let’s dance! But first, here is a great track to follow as you begin your competition dance journey:
Begin with Ballet: Be sure your kiddo is familiar with the basic fundamentals, usually beginning with studio ballet classes. Ballet is a dance form that helps with core strength and technique work which will prepare your kid for competition.
“It [ballet] is the foundation to which all other forms of dance stem,” explains Ms. Jennifer. “Ballet also improves flexibility, movement and gracefulness. As kids start to incorporate other styles of dance, ballet should always be a part of their class repertoire.”
Enroll in Instructional Classes: This includes ballet, tap, jazz, lyrical and hip-hop. Once their skill set has reached a certain level, they can then be considered for the competition team, Ms. Jennifer continues.
Choose a Dance Style: A dance style your kid loves is essential to their happiness, success and confidence.
Register For Technique Classes: Technique classes and pre-competition classes will prepare them for tryouts; every kid will need to try out in order to be on a team.
“Precompetition and technique classes give kids the awareness and dancing, and they are going to be dancing a lot more,” says Mckeever.
Also when they enter tryouts, they don’t have to try out for everything, only the dance that interests them. Encourage your kids to not only have fun but also to try out-of-the-box techniques which will help them to be well-rounded dancers.
Choose an Academy, Ask Questions: During this process, the parents are getting prepared, too.
“Dedication and commitment is also a very important factor when looking to join a competitive program,” says Ms. Jennifer. “The level of commitment (both time and financial) depends on the academy you choose,” she adds.
Speak with the studio and competition directors to learn what they are all about: Does the competition studio offer year-round classes? Do they keep the competition within driving distance for busy families and working parents? Do they offer group routines or mostly solo? These are all important details to consider, and according to Ms. Jennifer; group routines are the most economical.
Give Gymnastics a Try: Gymnastics classes can build a great foundation for dance — strength, conditioning, flexibility and more can improve your dancer’s skills. Think about adding this into your kids’ dance competition journey.
Your Kid’s Future in Dance
Dance plays a role in your kids’ future beyond the skills and trophies: it builds their sense of self, teamwork and strengthens their dedication/ commitment responsibilities and increases their self confidence, says Ms. Jennifer.
“It also allows kids to learn some of life’s harder lessons while being supported by their dance ‘family,’” she continues.
All in all, competition for kids can help your kids grow as dancers and as young people, too.
Sign ‘Em Up!
Here are select local dance studios in Ohio and NKY to get you and your dancer started.
Arabesque Dance Academy
1500 Goodman Ave., Cincinnati, Oh
513-401-5361 | adancecincy.com
Cincy Dance Studio, LLC
8143 Camargo Road, STE B, Cincinnati, Oh
513-846-4835 | cincydance.com
5985 Meijer Drive #2191, Milford, Oh
513-576-1400 | dance-etc.com
Empire Premiere Academy
4800 Interstate Drive, West Chester, Oh
513-795-6955 | epaallstars.com
Encore Performing Arts
3320 Tylersville Road, Fairfield Township, Oh
513-892-2609 | encoreperformingarts.net
Mason Dance Center
600 Reading Road, Mason, Oh
513-398-0353 | masondance.com
7398 Liberty One Drive, Liberty Township, Oh
513-779-0135 | sda-studios.com
2230 Gilbert Ave., Cincinnati, Oh
513-505-6340 | planetdancecincinnati.com
Quest Dance Center
3820 Kemp Road, Beaercreek, Oh
937-306-8733 | questdancecenter.com
West Chester Academy
8107 Market Place Drive, West Chester, Oh
513-829-2345 | westchesteracademy.com
Dance Express NKY
725 Alexandria Pike, Ft. Thomas, Ky
859-581-4062 | danceexpressnky.com
Expressions Dance Theatre
2434 High St., Crescent Springs, Ky
859-344-8489 | nkydance.com
Moss Performing Arts Academy
1671 Park Road, STE 2, Fort Wright, Ky
859-344-6362 | mossdanceperformingartsacademy.com