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South Jordan Journal

Youth dancers compete to benefit hungry children

Mar 28, 2017 11:32AM ● By Tori La Rue

Three teen dancers perform their trio routine at the Will Dance for Food Competition at Taylorsville High School on March 3. (Tori La Rue/City Journals)

By Tori La Rue | [email protected]

The Will Dance For Food Competition at Taylorsville High School on March 3 united 1,256 dance contenders ages 4 through 18 in a common goal: raising money for the Utah Food Bank.

“It’s a whole different feel from most competitions because the dancers and the kids and the parents all really understand why they are here; we are all here to help feed hungry kids,” said Penny Broussard, founder and director of the Will Dance For Kids project. “It’s not such a competitive atmosphere. It’s more of an atmosphere of everyone working together for a bigger cause.”

Between ticket admission sales, community and business donations, competition fees paid by studios and individual dancers and auction proceeds, the Will Dance For Food Competition raised $60,000 for the Utah Food Bank’s Kids Cafe and BackPack programs.

The Kids Cafe program provides 1,900 meals to low-income students at after-school sites on weekdays. The BackPack program provides backpacks full of food to students who might not otherwise have meals over the weekend.

“Once I heard this competition would go to help kids who were less advantaged than me, I thought this would be really amazing to participate,” said 12-year-old hip-hop dancer Alexus Lewis from South Jordan. “I love these competitions, but I feel like if I could help someone, that would be really, really awesome.”

Alexus’ solo hip-hop routine was one of the 600 routines adjudicated during the Will Dance for Food Competition. Although Alexus said she wanted to win the competition, she said she also realized that just participating meant giving back to the community.

Before Olivia Yates, a 12-year-old from Salt Lake City’s The Dance Project, entered the auditorium stage to perform her Broadway-style duo-dance called “Set Myself Free,” she stretched while reflecting on what the competition meant for her.

“I like being on stage, but even more it’s cool to be doing my favorite thing while helping someone out,” she said.

The 2017 competition was Olivia’s sixth time participating in the Will Dance for Food Competition, which means she was one of the original participants.

In the six years that the Will Dance for Kids Program and its Will Dance for Food Competition have been around, the Utah dance community has raised more than $250,000 for the Utah Food Bank. Because the Utah Food Bank can stretch its dollars, providing $7.81 cents of goods and services for every dollar of donations, Will Dance for Kids’ donations have generated nearly $2 million of goods and services to local, hungry children.

Broussard, a Dance America Dance Hall of Famer and former owner of a Salt Lake City dance studio, said she chose the Utah Food Bank as the recipient charity of her Will Dance For Kids Project because of its efficiency with money.

“I interviewed several different charities to decide, and the Utah Food Bank was the best,” Broussard said. “At the Utah Food Bank, 90 cents of every dollar goes to food, so the admin costs are miniscule. To me, there wasn’t another charity that even came close to helping kids, like the food bank did.”

Broussard, who created Will Dance For Kids as a retirement project, said she’s continually amazed by the community support she sees for the project each year. It takes the coordination of dance teachers, Taylorsville High School representatives, parents, dancers and business sponsors to put the event together.

“It really takes an army to do this, and we have great soldiers in every way,” Brouddard said. “Truly everyone just joins together in such a beautiful way to make this happen, and it’s a great feeling. I really get to see, at this point in my life with this project, the best part of everybody.”