By Robert Blood
[Editor’s note: The following interview was culled from conversations between the reporter and Summer Hinton and Russ Hausske, co-owners of Summer’s DanceWorks, who are celebrating 10 years of dance with a recital at 5:45 p.m. June 1 & 2 at Yavapai College Performing Arts Center, 1100 E. Sheldon St. Visit Summer’s DanceWorks at 805 Miller Valley Road and SummersDanceWorks.Com.]
How did Summer’s DanceWorks get to where it is today?
Hinton: Aug. 4, 2008 is when we officially opened our doors and started classes in a little one-room studio up the street from where we are today. I had been teaching in Prescott for 10 years before that.
Hausske: It was maybe 600 square feet of floor. We also had a viewing room, but it was half the size of the one we’re sitting in today.
Hinton: I taught all the classes then and Mr. Russ taught all the partner dancing.
Hausske: We met on Sept. 8, 2007. I was a private investigator — actually, I’m still licensed in Arizona and California — and met her when she was looking for someone to do a master class in West Coast Swing.
Hinton: For years, people had been telling me I should open a studio. Even though my dad didn’t get to see it — he passed away — he always wanted me to open my own studio. It seemed like the time was never right.
Hausske: After we met, it all just fell into place.
Hinton: We opened our new studio in a small room, and within six months of opening we needed more space. The space upstairs, above us, became vacant and we built a dance floor. It was fortunate that no one else was above us; it would have been too loud for any other business to occupy that space. Then, within six months of having two rooms, we found ourselves in need of even more space. It wasn’t only because of an increase in enrollment, but also because our dancers were getting older and more advanced and they needed more room to leap and do more technical moves.
Hausske: We started looking for a new building in 2009. It wasn’t until 2015, when I happened to see a for-sale sign here at 805. The short story is that we made an offer on the property and closed 28 days later.
What are your backgrounds in dance?
Hausske: I’d been a private investigator for 20 years, then, in 2001, I learned West Coast Swing dance and it turned out I had an aptitude for it. I took some lessons from an instructor and discovered I had an aptitude for WCS dance, then I started taking private lessons. After that I began taking WCS lessons three times a week for three hours a day. Three months later, I won my first West Coast Swing Championship in Monterey, Calif. I went on to win four additional national West Coast swing championships in three different divisions.
Hinton: Actually, Russ just won the Masters’ Division in WCS at Desert City Swing in Phoenix. I got my training in Scottsdale. Two weeks after graduating high school, I danced for 10 years in Las Vegas and Reno in big shows. I was also involved in three different USO tours, and those took me to Korea, Japan, the Philippines, Okinawa, Diego Garcia, and Alaska. I always knew I wanted to be a dance teacher. I was always the one in the parking lot after class going over combinations or having dancers back to my house to practice more. … If you can’t tell, we’re not just partners in business but partners in life. Some people don’t know this, but I used to be a colorist for Disney comic books. My father, the late Bruce Hamilton, started Gladstone Publishing, which had a contract with Disney High End Collectibles.
Hausske: In fact, Summer’s dad started the first Comicon in Phoenix in the early 1970s.
How would you characterize the students you teach here?
Hinton: We have students from 2 to 18 years of age. Also, we have a large number of adults who take several classes in different styles of dance. We have state champion dancers, and we have national winners. We just went to the JUMP Dance Convention in February, which allows us to keep up-to-date with current trends and techniques. About three quarters of our students are here just for fun. We train about a quarter of our dancers who want to compete. Additionally, our competitive dancers perform at Disneyland every two years and have the opportunity to take a master class with the Disney Dance Instructors. A few weeks ago, we performed at the Northern Arizona Suns halftime show. Every year we dance for the people at adult living centers. The residents truly enjoy our dancers and we are grateful for the opportunity to give back to the community. Today, we have seven instructors: Nicole Romine, Dusty Savage, Ali Baker, Jaime Hershman, Julie Strike, Mr. Russ, and myself. Michele Roche is our indispensable office manager. With three different studio floors, we offer several options for the beginner and the more advanced dancers. Other girls are just starting and only want one class a week. We always try to find the best class that suits the individual dancer.
Hausske: Summer encourages our students to help one another; Summer’s teaching style focuses not only on technique, but also on being respectful and courteous. If you watch our dancers, they support one another, and if we’re at a competition, our dancers always try to mix with dancers from other studios.
Hinton: We have a great support staff here, it’s not only me. All of our staff are enthusiastic; we’re always open to listening to our students about what’s going on in their life outside the studio. We always promote the idea that family and school are their main priority; dance comes after. … When we went into business together, we had to decide what to call the new studio. I always liked DanceWorks. It’s not an original name, but I thought it was a good, strong name. Russ agreed, but thought the name should include the word “Summer.” I thought it was too egotistical, but after several friends agreed with Russ, the studio had its name — Summer’s DanceWorks: “Walk in … Dance out!”
What can you tell us about the June 1 & 2 recital, “A Decade of Dance”?
Hausske: Our recital is more like a professional production. We’ve had people, professional producers, ask us who produces our shows. They’re sometimes surprised that we do everything ourselves. We want to create an experience unlike anything they’ve ever seen in a dance studio recital. We try to set ourselves to the highest standards.
Hinton: This year, to celebrate the 10th year of our recitals, we reviewed all the songs we’d done in our previous shows. Approximately 95 percent of the numbers in the show this year are refashioned. Some of the dances are the same, for example, “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” from the 2011 recital, is a large tap production that this year will be performed by different dancers.
What’s in store for Summer’s DanceWorks moving forward?
Hausske: We’re working on booking our first dance cruise. It’s something we’ve talked about for a while and it’s time to make that happen. Our dancers will have the opportunity to perform on the main stage of the ship.
What other services does Summer’s DanceWorks provide?
Hinton: Mr. Russ provides adult partner dancing and DJ services. Additionally, we offer wedding dances for the bride and groom, mother/groom, father/bride, and wedding party group dances. We also offer dance lessons for theme parties, private and group dance lessons.
What does it feel like when the recital is done?
Hinton: For me, it’s never done; I am already working on ideas for the 2019 recital and beyond. It’s very satisfying when a student starts with a single class and, in a short period of time, asks to take additional classes. I know we’ve done a great job with the kids when parents tell me that their child gets so excited and asks them every day, “Is it dance day?”
Summer’s DanceWorks celebrates 10 years of dance with a recital at 5:45 p.m. June 1 & 2 at Yavapai College Performing Arts Center, 1100 E. Sheldon St. Visit Summer’s DanceWorks at 805 Miller Valley Road and SummersDanceWorks.Com.
Robert Blood is a Mayer-ish-based freelance writer and ne’er-do-well who’s working on his last book, which, incidentally, will be his first. Contact him at BloodyBobby5@Gmail.Com.