Pioneer Public – Kenny Sickles

Written By Hannah Walden, Co-Features/A&E Editor

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Submitted by Kenny Sickles

The typical story of dance competitions for young kids starts with hard work and determination, followed by performing in front of a panel of judges, an award ceremony and everyone going home and preparing for the next competition without really learning and growing from the level that they are at that moment. A Point Park alum wants to change the way young kids go through competitions.

Kenny Sickles, 25, an early childhood education major who graduated from Point Park in May 2018 with a degree in instructional studies’ wants to help young dancers grow and learn while making connections with other dancers and instructors.

“Usually kids just come and compete and don’t get anything out of that [experience] except titles and trophies,” Sickles said in a phone interview. “I wanted to make it so the kids grow and learn things that they will use as they further [their] dance [careers.] I want to enforce that students know how to make connections. Everyone I know and work with I met through dance and they know the importance of making connections.”

Sickles has been dancing since he was two years old and has been dancing at the same studio from ages four to 18, Houck Dance Studio in Uniontown, Pa. where he grew up. During this time, he has also participated in a number of competitions himself. After moving to Pittsburgh, he began emceeing and judging dance competitions to learn the in’s and out’s of the opposite side of competitions.

“I learned a lot of things, things I did and didn’t like,” Sickles said. “I got annoyed by being on that end of it and [realized] that I could make something special on my own.”

That’s when Sickles came up with the idea to start his own dance competition. In August of 2018, he came up with the idea with his sister, Renee Watterson. As time went on, they decided to launch the LLC on July 26, 2019.

It was then this brother-sister duo started All Out Dance Competition and started the process of creating events for the upcoming dance season, which typically lasts from February to June. However, this isn’t the typical dance competition, as it will feature a convention before the rounds of judging. The kick off of the first competition is on Feb. 1, 2020 in Pittsburgh and is one of the many venues to already sell most of its tickets after being open to the public for roughly one month.

Setting up these events has been the most stressful part, as a lot of planning, networking, communication with venues and the staff hired to work the event, designing and ordering merchandise and more has taken the most amount of time. Once everything is in order for the convention and competition starts, Sickles is able to have some fun.

“When that weekend comes up, it’s a lot of fun,” he said. “I get to travel, I’m emceeing and [getting] involved with the crowd and the kids. Everything up to that part is stressful and anything can happen. I’ve learned a lot in the past year and in this month [especially]. It’s a daily learning experience.”

Until the event starts, Sickles and his faculty have a lot of work to do when it comes to setting up, which typically happens the night or morning before, with banners for pictures, a  merch table, a sound system and the technology for dancers to play music for their routines.

When it comes to the competition side of the event, Sickles wants judges to be more than just well-rounded and experienced dancers and judges, he wants them to be teachers.

“If they inspire the kids, someone that can come into a class and leave an impact,” he said. “When it comes to teaching, I want someone who knows what they’re talking about and has done it all before, so when they are giving these kids critiques, they can help them grow as dancers.”

Some long-term goals Sickles strives for is to have more conventions in different areas of the United States, specifically around Florida and Los Angeles, to hold more conventions that don’t necessarily have competitions following and to start double booking events.

“I have trust issues, it’s my business and it’s difficult to let those reins go,” Sickles said. “I need to build trust in other people in order to start double booking and have multiple events going on the same day.”

While also preparing for All Out Dance Competition’s first season, Sickles also works as a substitute teacher at least two to three days a week and teaches dance at least twice a week.

He is used to a busy day after participating in multiple activities during his time at Point Park. Sickles participated on the university’s basketball team from 2014 to 2017 and the cheer and dance teams from 2017 to 2018, and he received an NAIA All-American honor for dance in 2018. He also participated in Young Teachers of America from 2017 to 2018 and taught a number of local dance companies to meet the required number of teaching hours for his degree.

After careful planning, Sickles is excited for the season to start and more to follow and expand in size with each passing year.

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