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Uncovering the World of Dance Competitions

The benefits of enrolling your child in dance classes are many: while they are being physically active, they are also making friendships, learning important life skills, and establishing routines in their young lives. If your child loves these dance classes, you may want to consider enrolling them in a competitive dance team. Competitive dancing is a big, yet rewarding, commitment for dancers looking to take their passion to the next level. You may even find it rewarding as the dancer’s parent. Amy Foreman, our publisher, discusses what it means to be a “dance mom” and what it takes to be a competitive dancer.

A Day in the Life of a Dance Competition
“Kylee has been dancing since she was two-and-a-half years old, and she’s been competitive dancing for the past two years,” Amy says of her daughter, who competes with her local dance company. Her competitions range from local to across the South, from Biloxi to Texas or Florida. No matter where they take place, they are an all-day affair.

“We typically go to four competitions per season…which can last from Thursday after school until Sunday night,” says Lauren Giangregorio, owner of Mile High Dance Center. “We had 74 routines last year. As a studio owner, I get there whenever it starts, and we pretty much live there three to four days straight.”

Kylee has four to five competitions per year. On top of that, she has two conventions where she learns different dances. The competitions require about three days of practice per week, but for a national competition, they are practicing for two weeks straight, four hours per night.

For the Mile High Dance Center team, dance competitions are more like a competition against yourself because you are competing to get a high score, but you are not competing against someone else. Dance competitions are undoubtedly an exhausting sport, but the hard work pays off when your team is awarded a trophy, medal, or even a scholarship. Even if you don’t win, there are still plenty of benefits to being a competitive dancer.

Understanding the Benefits of Competing in Dance Competitions
Speaking of winning, your dancer will learn all about how to handle life’s wins and losses as a competitive dancer. They’ll learn how to take turns, build tenacity, and develop empathy for those who aren’t on their team. An even greater development takes place within the team.

“They learn teamwork and how to work out conflicts,” Amy notes. “They are constantly critiquing each other and building each other up.”

Competitive dancing will also help your child develop social skills by interacting with other children and becoming friends with them.      

This camaraderie will in turn give your child a confidence boost as they develop a support system that will extend beyond the studio. Plus, your child will be prepared to take on
life’s challenges.

“There is something to be said about going up onstage because it gives the dancers a level of confidence that translates into the classrooms,” says Giangregorio. “It also helps with things like public speaking, job interviews, essentially any time you have to perform in front of other people. Kids find something they are good at and use that to help with everything else they do.”

The cons, however, should be considered as well. Dance competitions are a big financial and time commitment. So, if you have the funds for your child to enroll in a competitive dance team, keep in mind that your child will be spending more time away from home and in the studio or at a competition, which can take place over the course of multiple days and require them to
miss classes.

Debunking Stereotypes and Myths in the World of Dance Competitions
The biggest stereotype of parenting a child who dances competitively is that you are a “dance mom,” which refers to the TV show, Dance Moms, in which moms are notoriously too demanding of their daughters, who participate in dance competitions across the world. However, this doesn’t make the reality TV show, well, a reality.

“It is not this Abby Lee situation,” Amy laughs. “I have only encountered one group of crazy ‘dance moms’ in the last two years, and nobody liked it. We did our changes and got out as fast as we could. Otherwise, I’ve made a lot of friends with these moms. We are there to support our girls, even if we are on different teams.”

“Some myths are that it is very pageant-y, but it’s definitely not. In Colorado, it’s definitely an art form,” says Giangregorio. “The dancers are required to have stage makeup, but not spray tans or fake hair. We use makeup as a way to elevant natural beauty under stage lights. Even our costumes aren’t thousands of dollars; they can be a hundred dollars at most.”

Mental Effects & Combatting These Issues
Being a dancer requires a lot of work on your self-esteem; you have to build yourself up and accept lists of critiques of your craft. These critiques will ultimately make your child a better dancer and learn that nobody is perfect, but it can be detrimental to a young person’s mental health if you are not careful.

“One challenge is, even though you are competing against yourself, you do compare yourself to other dancers up there, so we’ve been making sure every child knows they have different strengths they can bring to perfection,” Giangregorio notes. “Some kids excel in showmanship, some in flexibility or acrobatic tricks; just because you don’t have all the same skills doesn’t mean you can’t win or can’t do a good job. We try to highlight what they are good at instead of focusing on their challenges or weaknesses.”

Giangregorio has experienced competitive dance atmospheres that felt less-than-comfortable for the dancers, which has a direct influence on how she runs Mile High
Dance Center.

“By keeping it level and not trying to make them some Disney star, we have been able to avoid mental health issues,” she adds. “Dance should be a safe place where they can get away from mental issues; they can find a release here. I’ve seen what happens when you have weigh-ins and costumes that expose a ton of skin, so we try our best to not do any of that. We find costumes that make everyone feel like a million bucks.”

Most of all, it’s important to understand that winning isn’t everything because dancers grow in technique, strength, and confidence whether they win or lose.

If your child is ready for the commitment, dance competitions can be a rewarding experience for both of you, even if you don’t bring home a trophy at the end of the day.

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