INWOOD—Aspiring young dancers in the western Lyon County area do not need to travel far to find a teacher.
Katie Caven, director of the Inwood chapter of Just For Kix, started the program two years ago to provide girls in the area with a nearby option for taking dance classes. Just For Kix is a national dance organization based in Minnesota that has locations in 14 states.
Entering its third year this fall, the Inwood dance program has 82 students enrolled, Caven said. The first two nights of classes for this season began Monday and Wednesday evening in the Inwood Community Center gymnasium.
“Primarily, it’s the kick/pom-style dance, which is kind of what Iowa is going to for kind of a core dance, when you get to the higher levels,” Caven said. “Then we also offer hip-hop.”
Caven took Just For Kix dance classes while growing up in Willmar, MN.
When she reached high school, she competed on her school’s varsity team all four years.
She primarily leads the Just For Kix classes with her program assistant, Angie Evans. She also recently hired another instructor, Katie Roemen, to assist with classes for the youngest students.
Caven said there are class offerings for 3-year-olds to 12th-graders. The fall season lasts through mid-December, with a winter show to take place at the end of November.
“Then January kicks off our spring season and our competition season,” Caven said. “Our girls who are second grade and older do competition.”
The contests, in which the dancers compete against other Just For Kix programs, take place throughout the Midwest in places such as Rochester, MN and Brandon, SD.
Caven said her students in Inwood always get excited to compete, which has led her to add more competitions to next spring’s travel schedule to give them more opportunities.
“They’re definitely a competitive group, and they like to do their best and see if they can top their best,” she said.
The first class she taught Monday night was a hip-hop class for girls in third grade through ninth. She started the class by having her students do warm-ups and cross the length of the gym while doing stretches. She devoted the second part of the 45-minute session to showing the girls the first moves of a hip-hop routine they will do for their winter show.
She led three kick/pom classes later that evening for second- and third-graders, fourth- through sixth-graders and seventh- through 12-graders.
Most of the students she teaches come from the West Lyon School District, but a few travel from Canton, SD, to attend the classes. Caven said having a dance studio nearby allows her students to engage in an activity with their friends without having to drive a long distance.
“They’re excited to have something close to home that they can kind of call their own,” she said.
Caven reflected on her own experience driving her oldest daughter, Sydney, from Inwood to dance classes in Tea, SD, and then Brandon, SD, before Caven started Just For Kix. She said it was not realistic for her to drive her daughter 30 minutes to a class that only lasted 30 minutes.
Prior to launching Just For Kix, Caven worked as an occupational therapist before launching her own business of personal care products as well as an occupational therapy consulting business. The flexibility of running her own businesses gave her time to start Just For Kix and provide her daughter a way to learn dance without having a commute.
Caven said her favorite part about running the dance program is getting to know the girls she teaches, including her daughter’s friends who are in the class.
“It’s nice to be able to get to know the girls in the community,” she said.