Dancin’ for a livin’
De Soto’s Tina Twidwell teaches tots, adults to have fun and get into the groove
In the basement of Tina Twidwell's De Soto home, music booming from the stereo bounces off the linoleum floor and echoes from each wall. In the center of the room, Twidwell leads a group of knee-high tall dancers through warm-ups as they get ready for a night of dance lessons.
Each of the young dancers is wearing tap shoes, and -- to Twidwell's satisfaction -- a smile.
"I'm not a disciplinarian," she said. "Probably the first thing I teach is fun. If they're not having fun, they're not going to learn anything."
Twidwell has owned and operated TK's Dance Studio in De Soto since 1988. Her youngest students start at 3, but she teaches people of any age. For the youngest of her students, Twidwell has only one qualification.
"My biggie is they be potty-trained before you bring them," she said. "I've had some moms tell me the way they've potty-trained their child was by saying, 'OK, you can't go to Miss Tina's until you learn to potty.'"
For those with the essentials, Twidwell's classes begin in September and run through May, ending with a recital, which is usually scheduled for Mother's Day. Her styles include tap dancing and jazz dancing, the latter incorporating choreographed moves with different musical styles.
"I do not teach ballet," Twidwell said. "I don't care for it -- never did."
Twidwell got her start taking classes as a child from Emma Lou Williams of Eudora. Williams traveled to area cities, conducting classes in community buildings and city halls. As Williams neared retirement, Twidwell offered to help ease Williams' burden of teaching so kids could keep dancing with the teacher she loved.
"I danced with her through four pregnancies," she said. "I thought she was just amazing."
Eventually, Williams retired and Twidwell took over her classes in Eudora, which catered to older women looking for fun and exercise. After three years, Twidwell decided to move her classes to De Soto, where she and her husband built a new home.
Twidwell's students come from Eudora, Tonganoxie, Bonner Springs, Lenexa, Overland Park and De Soto. When she started working out of her house with 35 students, her goal was to increase her enrollment to 50. Today, she has 75 students. Her success led her to recruit the help of one of her daughters, Tara Forrester of Gardner, who teaches the 3-year-old students.
"I really couldn't do it without her," Twidwell said. "If you have more than 10 3-year olds in a room, you'll need someone to help take care of them. Three-year-olds have a mind of their own."
Twidwell said she found satisfaction from watching her students learn and grow. She has also enjoyed becoming close with her students' families through the years.
"They can stay forever," she said. "The sad thing is, the longer I stay, the less I want them to leave. I've watched them lose their teeth, and the ones who come back year after year, I really don't want them to go. They're a lot like family."
At times, she thinks of retirement, but she said those thoughts disappeared when she realized how much she'd miss teaching others to dance.
"I think all the kids would tell you, 'We go to Miss Tina's and we have fun,'" Twidwell said. "I don't think any of the kids would come here and tell you it's hard and that they're not having fun. To watch the kids -- to watch them learn and have them do the stuff that I taught them -- it's just been a terrific experience for me."