Kandee Allen always knew she wanted service to be a major focus of her career. She had many opportunities to help others through dance in her youth, and the sentiment stuck with her. At 19 years old she and her mother opened Dance Impressions in Bountiful, Utah, home studio of "So You Think You Can Dance" Season 3 winner Sabra Johnson, and former Billy Elliot star Tade Biesinger.
In 2002, while sitting in the audience of a competition, the idea for how to incorporate charity into the fabric of her school was born. Allen and fellow Utah studio owner Penny Broussard (then owner of The Winner School) noticed that they were basically the only two studios in attendance that day. "Every other performance was either Dance Impressions or Winner School—it was almost comical," Allen says. Finally, Broussard turned to Allen and asked her how much her entry fees cost. Realizing that together they had paid roughly $68,000 dollars to essentially put on a recital for each other, they decided they could do something better with their money. Broussard reached out to a third Utah studio owner, Sheryl Dowling of The Dance Club, and together they created Art With Heart, a benefit concert for Shriners Hospital. As of today, the concert put on by these studios for the past 15 years has raised more than $673,000 dollars for children in need.
While Art With Heart has been successful, Allen says, it's also been a huge labor of love. "It takes an incredible amount of hard work and energy to make it happen," she says. "We couldn't do this without each studio and their faculty giving their full support to it." Planning begins a year in advance with reserving theater space. From there, Allen works closely with Shriners Hospital to produce the event.
"Early on we had to convince Shriners that this performance would be profitable, and that they wouldn't be held liable if it wasn't," she says. "Ever since the success of that first year, Shriners has been onboard right away." All funds raised go directly to the hospital. This past year the total was nearly $60,000 dollars.
The show includes 11 numbers from each studio, plus a graduating senior piece and a finale that everyone performs together. After the final number, children from Shriners Hospital come onstage and are presented with paper hearts from the dancers.
"There is nothing like the feeling in the theater when those kids come out—it's incredible," Allen says. "Dance is an art and not about competition and winning awards. It provides a venue to perform and share. Dance to create something beautiful; dance to be happy; dance to leave an impression on someone's heart. Just always keep dancing."
GO-TO TEACHING ATTIRE "I layer up with a lot of Jo+Jax. I like to wear layers because teaching temperatures can vary from room to room and moment to moment. I also wear Adidas running shoes when I teach. I don't want to have my legs ache all night!"
FAVORITE SNACK Fit Crunch Bars
GUILTY PLEASURES "Frozen custard, Chinese food and 'The Bachelor'!"
POST-TEACHING WIND-DOWN "A long, hot bath! I also love to have my feet zoned, or if I have any pain, I'll do some Ortho-Bionomy after teaching."