Dance studio owner Amberlee Prosser can’t believe what happened in Las Vegas: She took a small troupe of modestly clad teen dancers to a national competition in Sin City and came back to Citrus Heights with the contest’s overall top prize.
“We’re a conservative studio,” Prosser said of KM Dance Arts. “We feel that children should be free and love dancing, but we don’t believe in the sexualization of children. Minuscule clothing is not acceptable. They should be admired for their dance and their technique and their abilities, not for the outfit that they’re wearing.”
Prosser classified this issue as a huge challenge right now in an era when tween girls are seen in bikini tops, booty shorts and no tights on Lifetime television’s “Dance Moms” show. Indeed, Prosser said, she has had parents pull some talented children out of her program because they felt the dress code was too restrictive.
“How do you get that parent to let you train their child, not just gluing glitter on them, throwing them on stage and letting them shake it,” Prosser said. “Everyone you talk to says, ‘Oh, my gosh, that’s not right. it’s just not right.’ Then why is it still happening? If we all agree, then where does the buck stop. I believe it stops with me.”
Prosser said she looks for competitions where children are rewarded based upon their technique and professionalism, as well as the routine’s choreography, because those are the elements that will ultimately allow students to earn spots in college programs and dance companies.
That’s why Prosser has chosen to compete for several years now in Sheer Talent’s Las Vegas nationals, she said. Her students have always won trophies, but this was the first year that dancers brought home the overall prize.
Prosser’s studio took only 20 dancers to the competition, she said, whereas many other teams from as far away as Mexico, Guatemala and Panama had 50 or 60 students. Each of those team members pays an entry fee of $50 or $60, and they also are probably competing in solo contests with entry fees of $100. That’s why Prosser was especially surprised that her small team won.
“You would always hope that everything is fair,” she said, “but if you have a group of 60 kids, each paying $60 and traveling so far, well, every competition is a business. … You don’t know what goes on behind closed doors. You don’t know how things get calculated.”
No winners are announced at the competition until banquet night on Saturday, Prosser said, so the students are competing all week without a clue of how they’ve done. Prosser, also a dance teacher for San Juan Unified School District, got a clue that they might have done pretty well by Friday, when contest organizers asked whether two of her dance teams would perform at the banquet.
Few teams get selected for this honor, Prosser said, and KM Dance Arts had never been asked. Still, she said, the invitation didn’t necessarily mean her team had gotten the overall Sheer Brilliance Award for their “Vogue” routine, which blended some moves made famous by choreographer Bob Fosse with modern and traditional dance. The studio also took division awards for solo, duet and trio performances.
For Prosser, it was a moment to treasure: “When you’re on the baseball team, you get a game every weekend, and you have all these people watching. These kids put in 12 to 15 hours of work every week for months and months and months to just go and do these competitions a few times a year. A lot of times, their friends never see them perform.”