• The Reluctant Dance Mom

Inspiration Corner: Young Dancers

Updated: Apr 3

One of my favorite pasttimes is watching competitive dance shows on TV. While the drama is often played up, the bottom line is that the dancing is where it’s at. Watching my six-year-old, Alessandra, get started on a competitive dance team has been, in a word, amazing. I’m so inspired by these little dancers! It’s incredible to watch them gain confidence and courage as they work hard in the studio to give it their all on stage.

Getting Started at a Young Age

Alessandra began dancing at two years old, although I literally watched her dance for the first time when she was a mere four months old! I’ll never forget watching her lay on her back on the floor and moving her body to her favorite song, “Stompy the Bear” by Caspar Babypants (seriously, do not Google it -- it will be stuck in your head forever!). When she was three, she started ballet, then we moved on to hip hop, jazz, and tap. Only last year, she was asked to join her dance studio’s competition team. The coach said she loved Alessandra’s personality, wacky facial expressions, and kindness; she thought that the would make a great addition to the competition team. I was nervous about becoming a full-fledged Dance Mom, but Alessandra’s love of dance encouraged me to support her in a more competitive endeavor.

Competitive Teams - The Ins and Outs

At this age, the goal of competition is to have fun, explore dance styles, and learn to love the art of dance. The little girls get to know about the options available to them as they get older and really begin to study dance techniques. I’m letting Alessandra decide if she wants to become more competitive, or if she simply wants to be recreational in her dance. There are so many career and college opportunities for dancers that I had no idea existed before I started my journey as a reluctant dance mom! The short-term goal is to give young dancers the benefits of learning how to compete, traveling with family, bonding with friends, and solidifying their love of dance.

But, It’s Really About the Hotel

Our dance studio, Core Dance Company in San Luis Obispo, is pretty casual and relaxed when it comes to competitions. At the 6-year-old level, we dance in one big competition each year: Dupree. This is a weekend-long event designed to give the girls the experience of dancing in a competitive environment, but also building camaraderie among the girls and their families. Dupree offers unique and fun dance classes for the dancers during the day; Alessandra learned to love Bollywood-style dancing! When they aren’t dancing, the girls swim in the hotel pool, play in the rooms while the parents hang out, and we all enjoy sharing meals together.

We were so excited when the girls won first place in the Novelty category! But, while that big win was so exciting and rewarding, the girls didn’t care too much about winning. For them, the competition weekend was more about hanging out with their friends. Alessandra made great friendships that weekend; it’s hard for little ones to truly make emotional connections during dance class. This weekend was all about bonding, which I believe will make them grow together to be a true force of strength as they age.

I would encourage anyone seeking to learn more about competitive dance to speak with your dance teacher. Don’t shy away from it because of what you’ve seen on “reality” TV. Real-life competitive dancers and their families are supportive and want all girls to shine in the ways that they can!

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