The young dancers at Dollhouse Dance Factory in Sheboygan aren’t new to the national stage, but for them, that experience will never get old.
Founded by Kayla Pittner in 2013, Sheboygan’s Dollhouse Dance Factory has quickly taken center stage in the dance world. Most recently, one of its elite teams was filmed for an episode of NBC’s “World of Dance” (as of this writing, the team hasn’t yet appeared on air). Pittner’s dancers also won first place for their senior large hip-hop routine at The Dance Worlds competition in Orlando, Fla., in 2017, with all three routines finishing in the top 10. They’ve also filmed an episode for Lifetime’s “Dance Moms.”
Pittner started dancing at age 3 and danced professionally for the NBA with the Milwaukee Bucks before moving on to teach at dance studios and coach dance teams around the country. That experience showed her what was lacking in most dance studios: a balance between the incredible hard work needed to reach the elite level and a sense of fun.
“I felt if I could create that balance, it would be a really enticing idea for dancers, especially in Sheboygan,” Pittner says. “It’s a very wholesome Midwestern city, and I think that everybody there is very smart and they want to get their money’s worth. I thought that this was a great product to offer them.”
It has been. In just five years, Pittner’s studio has drawn 500 clients, who can start competing as early as 5 years old. Elite competitors range in age from 8 to 25, and her teams have won national and world competitions for the past four years. In general, teams practice a routine twice a week for eight months, bringing it to competition about three months into the process and perfecting it along the way.
It’s not just about perfection. Pittner instills the dancers with a mission of creating something special — even if another team is better, they want to leave the audience with a sense that something exciting just happened.
“Their fire to be great is contagious, and it catches on from teammate to teammate,” Pittner says. “They just fuel each other up, and their work ethic is unlike those of most adults I know. They’re incredibly dedicated to what they do.”