For the past 19 years, Kandee Allen and her mother, Vivian Colobella, co-owners of Dance Impressions in Bountiful, UT, have been taking dancers as young as 4 years old to competition. The studio is known for its successful preschool and kindergarten teams. “It’s pretty low-key,” Allen says of the program. “They only go to two local competitions a year.” Though the dancers rehearse for a structured hour and a half a week, the emphasis is on keeping competition fun.
What are you looking for in the young dancers who audition for your team?
The preschool and kindergarten programs are really just a step above a recreational dance program. For these young dancers, competition is a chance to perform. It’s like having an extra recital, and it introduces the parents to the competitive atmosphere.
What do you do differently with your very young competition dancers than with your mini and junior dancers?
You have to make sure they really enjoy what they’re doing. We make sure the atmosphere in class is very positive and the
classes are structured. At the end of each class, we give awards for the day and do a fun activity before it’s time to go, like dancing with beanbags or animal action activities.
What’s on your mind when you’re putting together routines for your preschool and kindergarten companies?
Everything has to be age appropriate. We would never put our kids in a two-piece outfit or anything that’s remotely suggestive. We’re focused on teaching discipline, not tricks. We teach them basic skills and correct technique early on, rather than teaching them how to shake their butts and do high kicks.
Do you ever worry that dancers who start competing at such a young age will burn out before they even reach high school?
We do, which is why we start so minimally and don’t push the competition aspect until they’re older. By the time the dancers are 7 to 10, they’re ready to do more, but even then we take them to Nationals only every four years. They have to have something to work toward and be excited about.
What is your advice for teachers taking their dancers to competition for the first time?
Make sure you’re doing it for the right reason: to give your kids a wonderful experience. Don’t go because you’re trying to win. Go because you want to expose them to new things and have fun.
Photo of Dance Impressions' youngest dancers by ProPix, courtesy of Dance Impressions.