Fluid movements: Summit School of Dance changes ownership, not mission
Much like what happened almost 30 years ago, a choreographed change of ownership has the outgoing owner and her handpicked successor both saying Summit School of Dance won’t miss a beat.
With two large white binders in the school’s lobby, each scrapbook overflowing with the recital programs, news articles and photos piled up throughout the years, it might be time to start another one. That’s because come June 1, Melanie Frey will step aside as the new dance queen, Kelly Threlkeld, taps in.
“My body is breaking down,” Frey said of her reasons for selling the studio. “It’s a lot of years of wear and tear. I grew up in the ’70s and we did a lot of head swinging, throwing and stuff, and it hurt on a daily basis; so now is like a really good time, before I’m too old to enjoy it.”
The longtime owner wouldn’t reveal her age, but she did say that when she purchased the studio in the late ’80s she was about as old as Threlkeld is now. After all those years, she added, she didn’t want to see the studio diminished in any way.
“I put too much blood, sweat and tears into this place making it a good, solid business just to turn it over,” Frey said — “to just anyone,” Threlkeld added — “and watch it crumble,” Frey concluded.
The two sometimes finish each other’s sentences, and Frey said she can’t imagine anyone better to carry the torch she shouldered for three decades. Both women are excited to see what the future holds.
“I have faith Kelly can, you know, revitalize it even,” Frey said of the school. “I’ve gotten old. My ideas have gotten old. The new generation of dancers coming in expects more than what we gave them way back in the beginning.”
Often a fixture in a child’s life, dance instructors can spend up to 15 or 16 years working with a student, who at the highest level could be at the studio for as many as 10 to 12 hours a week.
Others might take one class for a single season. Regardless, with 250 to 300 students a year, the studio has played a role, however small or significant it may be, in the lives of tens of thousands of young dancers over the decades.
Some have gone on to do great things. An alumna of Summit School of Dance, Mandy Moore served as choreographer for “La La Land,” as well as “So You Think You Can Dance.” However, more important than how far they go in the dance industry are the kinds of people the studio helps to create.
“What I always want to see is someone who continues to love dance, even if they’re not out there performing all the time,” Frey said, adding that dance instructors also teach their students about health, self-respect and other lifelong lessons, not just the dance moves.
The studio opened in the early 1980s with Kim Delgrosso at the helm. Five years after its founding, however, Delgrosso would move to Utah to start a new life with her husband, John, who had recently landed a job as a manager for a steel company there.
The now-defunct Summit Sentinel newspaper detailed the transfer in 1988, and the story noted how Delgrosso was looking for just the right person to take over when she called Frey, a former instructor at the studio who was living in California at the time and working on her master’s degree at UCLA.
The call was to see if Frey might be interested in buying. As luck would have it, she deeply wanted to return to Colorado and was indeed interested.
“When Kim decided to sell the studio, she didn’t want to sell it to just anybody,” Frey was quoted by the Summit Daily News in an article published Dec. 19, 1989. “She thought I would be the right person… Kim wanted someone who would give of themselves to the children.”
And give Frey has. She said she can’t remember how much she paid for the business when she bought it, but asked to reflect on the last 30 years there, she paused for a second before deciding it has to be her interactions with her youngest students, who can start taking classes as early as six months after their second birthday.
“The peewees, all the hugs, the silliness,” Frey said of what she’ll miss most. “I get to play daily, not many adults can say that. That’s been my job, to play, to come in and be goofy, to talk in an accent, pretend I’m the queen, whatever — we play.”
Threlkeld comes with a master’s degree in organizational communication from Denver University and a minor in dance from her undergraduate work at the University of Colorado-Boulder.
While there’s over a month before the transfer becomes official, Threlkeld said she has already started working on the fall schedule and designed a new logo for the studio. Neither Threlkeld nor Frey expects to see any major changes immediately for the studio with 13 instructors working out of three locations, including studios in Frisco and Breckenridge and a space they rent in nearby Eagle County.
Threlkeld has been dancing since she was 4 years old and performed with various groups while she was at CU. She also taught for a stretch at the studio where she cut her teeth in grade school before moving up to Summit County, where she currently works for Breckenridge Ski Resort in addition to being a dance instructor.
“The second I moved up here, I walked into the Summit School of Dance and asked for a job,” she said.
Now that she’s about to become the owner, the students seem happy that the dance studio they’ve come to know so well over the years won’t change its core mission.
“I think this dance studio provides a lot of really fun experiences,” said Faith McMahon, one of the students in Wednesday’s point class. “You make a lot of friends that you can have outside of school and get to see teachers and have really cool bonds with them.”
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