Just over 30 years ago, Mari Radke searched Detroit Lakes for the perfect location for her new dance studio.
She and her husband, Armand, looked into renting space somewhere in town, including in the Greystone and what is now Godfather’s Pizza. Though she loved the space, she said, it was too expensive.
So the Radkes decided to add a dance studio onto their home on Summit Avenue, and thus Summit Dance was born 30 years ago.
“I taught at Holy Rosary a couple of months and by November, it was ready,” she said of utilizing space at the church until her studio was completed.
She said that though the studio was completed, it was still a work in progress for some time before the project was completed, too. For a while, there were no steps outside the studio and people had to enter through the garage.
But that all changed and the business began to grow.
The first year in business, she had about 38 kids. The next year it doubled. The following year, that numbered tripled. And through the years, though dances have changed, her teaching hasn’t necessarily.
She’s added dances like hip hop – which is a lot harder than it looks, she said – but she also stays true to the tried and true.
“I’m very traditional. I still do ballet, tap and jazz.”
She said she has always said that ballet is the “ABCs of dance. You need ballet to know dance.”
She said it shows when kids go to college and have to audition for college or other dance companies – people want those who know ballet. And a Broadway show, they first thing they do is ballet.
Though ballet may be the ABCs of dance, Radke said she really enjoys teaching lyrical dance because it’s not just about the music but also the lyrics to the songs.
When she started teaching dance in Detroit Lakes, she said there was one other dance teacher in town. That woman left town eventually, and for years, Radke was the only teacher in town.
“Then all of a sudden gymnastics came,” she said with a laugh.
Though she lost some students to gymnastics, she said the two actually complement each other well.
“Dance is so good for any sport – gymnastics, ice skating…” she said.
Then came soccer and hockey and she lost a few more students, and then Just for Kix studio opened in town. With so many options for kids to join, the trend in dance has decreased over the years, she said. Not to mention some parents can’t afford multiple sports and are making kids pick one to participate in.
“There were tons of kids in dance, and now there’s a few (strictly in dance).”
Over her 30 years of dance, Radke said she held off on competition for a long time because everything in life is a competition and she wanted kids to just enjoy dance. But over time, she has taken kids to competition as well.
Another fun event the kids have participated in is trips to perform at Disney World. She has taken three groups of kids and plans to take another in the next couple years.
Though it was built for dance, the studio has seen other uses over the years, as well – family uses, that is.
The Radkes used the nice hardwood floors for badminton and tennis matches with whiffle balls. Then a ping pong table showed up.
“I was like, ‘wait! It’s getting smaller and smaller,’” Radke said of her dance studio floor space. So the recreation table left and the dance space continued.
In the past couple years, Radke has cut back on her hours in the studio, going from three to four hours a day to two to three hours. Over the next couple years, she said she sees some other changes coming but nothing is concrete yet.