Photo by Eric Boyd/Fall River County Herald-Star
Abby Thomsen, owner/director of The Dance Studio in Hot Springs, speaks to the audience during a recital rehearsal at the Mueller Civic Center last Thursday. The following night, on May 14, the studions fifth annual recital was held where more than two dozen young dancers performed a variety of styles for family and friends.
By Brett Nachtigall
HOT SPRINGS – For parents wanting to involve their children in physical activity and fun, as well as a place to meet new friends and artistically express their emotions, The Dance Studio in downtown Hot Springs might just be that place.
For the past five years, Owner/Director Abby Thomsen has been offering those very things to dozens of families each year, through dance classes that begin in the fall and crescendo into a spring recital, which took place this past weekend at the Mueller Center Theater. At that event, about 30 young dancers performed on stage in front of family and friends through a wide range of dance disciplines offered at the studio, including ballet, tap, jazz, modern, clogging, lyrical and hip-hop.
Thomsen, 27, who lives in Hot Springs with her husband Tayler and their 10-month old daughter Kinslee, has been dancing nearly her entire life. First growing up in Lander, Wyo., she began taking dance classes then and continued to do so after moving to Rapid City, where she began dancing at Prima School of Dancing in middle school and then eventually graduated from Rapid City Stevens.
After earning a degree from Black Hills State University in Exercise Science, while also studying Business Administration and Athletic Coaching, Thomsen said she had aspirations of some day going to medical school. However, her love of dancing kept calling, which prompted her to do an internship back at Prima School of Dancing. It was during this time that she realized operating her own business and coaching young girls and boys about her passion for dancing was her true calling.
Thomsen said her uncle, Presston Gabel, who is the Business Manager of The Mammoth Site, convinced her to come to Hot Springs and take the plunge into owning her own dance studio. Thanks to the assistance of her parents, who purchased the building at 209 N. River, next door to the Hot Springs Police Station, she began renting space from them in June 2016 and has been in business ever since.
Running a dance studio business in a smaller community like Hot Springs – which up until five years ago offered limited access to dance classes – has been both a “blessing and curse,” Thomsen said.
A blessing, in that her nearest business competition is an hour away in Rapid City, but also somewhat of a curse because she is drawing from a smaller population of potential customers. In addition, because there had not previously been much in the way of dance classes offered previously in town, most all of her young dancers were starting at the same beginner level, so there was not a lot of variety being offered in her classes when she first began.
Now, having been here for five years, Thomsen says the most rewarding aspect of her job is seeing some of her studio’s first kids – who started with her five years ago – blossoming into true dancers with the skills that she has worked so hard to instill in them.
Classes begin each year in the fall and basically run with the school year, from early September to mid-May. Tuition is a monthly fee based on weekly hours of class, which according to her website www.thedancestudio-hs.com, ranges from $40 to $195.
Since first opening her studio in 2016, Thomsen has steadily grown her enrollment each year – that is until COVID hit in 2020. She went from 11 students in her first full 2017-18 season, to about 30 in 2018-19 and then peaking at 50 in 2019-20. Since reopening after the 2020 COVID shutdown, Thomsen said about 30 of her students returned, but many were still very hesitant to resume in-person dance classes again due to the pandemic.
While she did offer a few online Zoom classes, Thomsen said she understood why families would choose to eliminate their child’s dance lesson fees over more important bills that needed paid instead.
Also during this same time, Abby said she and her husband Tayler also welcomed into the world their first child, so the lack of dance classes during 2020 allowed her the ability to stay home more as well.
Currently, her youngest student is 4 years old with her oldest at 14. She has classes available from pre-school to high school, and despite the fact that her 2020-21 season just wrapped up, she will be offering a pair of summer camps in anticipation for next year’s start of fall classes, which will begin Sept. 7, 2021.
A “Sample Camp” will be held June 7-10 which will allow potential students to get a taste of the various classes that will be offered next fall. Camps will be held based on age, including one day pre-school camp and then three-day camps for K-2nd grade and then another for 4th grade and older.
An Open House is also set for June 12 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m..
From July 12-15, a “Passport Camp” is being held, where each day students will “travel” to a new location and learn about the culture and dances there. Participants will then do a craft related to the area and eat a snack from the country.
For more information about any of the camps, or enrolling for Fall Classes, check out her website at www.dancestudio-hs.com or call 745-3870.