By Bruce Karnick [email protected] It was 1988 that I first officially met Jan Tripp, owner of Jan’s School of Dance. I was 14 years old, learning how to set lights in the theater at the …
By Bruce Karnick
It was 1988 that I first officially met Jan Tripp, owner of Jan’s School of Dance. I was 14 years old, learning how to set lights in the theater at the Hastings Senior High School, now the Middle School. Jan had only been running her studio for seven years at the time, but you would never have known it. See, Jan has a larger than life, take charge personality that, on the surface, seems almost braggadocios. She knows what she wants, how she wants it, and she is going to guide you understanding that, but 10 seconds into a conversation with her, you begin to see her kindness, her love of what she does, her supportive nature, her thought process of ‘I’m going to take you along side of me and we are going to do great things together.’ That is Jan Tripp if I can sum her up. She will bring out the best in you, lift you up, empower you, give you a kick in the rear to motivate you if you need it, but she will never leave you behind and she will always do so from a position of love and kindness. Her directions may sound like orders on show days, because she is efficient. It is never rude, just simple, to the point and easy to understand so she can get to the next part of 100 things she has to accomplish. Her smile is genuine, and it rarely leaves her face, and the best part? She treats everyone like family. Traits that are hard to find in today’s leaders.
By now, you’ve come to realize, this is not going to be your typical article. Journalism rules have already been thrown out the window. Jan is Jan, not Miss Jan, Not Mrs. Tripp, I will not refer to her as ‘Tripp’ when writing about her because that is not Jan. To her students and parents, it has never been ‘call me Miss Jan” like the majority of instructors across the world are. Nope, it is simply ‘Jan’.
“I don’t know if that’s good or bad, but back when I was teaching community ed and stuff I thought Miss Jan sounded weird, so, yeah, we never have gone with the Miss thing, makes kids feel closer to you,” explained Jan.
Jan always knew, even from a young age, that she wanted to teach dance and being able to do that for 40 years is something special.
“It means a lot. I was thinking about it, actually a funny thing, we were cleaning out our cupboards and stuff. We found my junior high yearbook, and the question they had in my junior high yearbook was, ‘what do you want to be when you grow up?’, I said was a dance teacher. I had no idea. I mean, I’ve wanted to be a dance teacher forever you know but, but I guess that proves it,” Jan said with a chuckle.
She went on to college for physical education and health, but really focused on dance. When she graduated, she worked at two High Schools for six years, a year at Rosemount and five for Hastings, which gave her the opportunity to coach dance.
After those six years of teaching, Jan recognized she needed to change what she was teaching. “I sad, that’s it, I’ve got to teach what I want to teach instead of what they’re having me teach you know I was more individual sports person than the rest of my department was so, you know, I took a year’s leave of absence, opened the studio and never looked back. I love it, love it and people like Julie, She’s a teacher, she has master’s in education teaches in Hudson, and she comes and teaches for me two or three days a week, so I think if you love it you love it, right?”
That year off was 1981. The fall of 81 Jan’s School of Dance opened in the old racquet ball club just across the tracks on Second Street. The building is currently a church. That location was quickly outgrown, and she moved to 216 Second Street E, which is currently occupied by Quaint and Quirky, a cute, unique gift shop.
“I was there until 93 and we just had outgrown the space because that was a long narrow, real long arrow facility, and it didn’t have a separate lobby, so very cold, you know, you didn’t have air lock or anything like that so everybody that opened the door brought the winter right into the dancers,” Jan Added. “We made a second studio out of the garage in the back so that was good, but then no parents could watch, and I’ve always been a strong believer that parents should be able to watch all of your classes all the time. So, by then we had outgrown the space, so Sam and I just looked around. I tried to buy a downtown, over by where the park is or anywhere downtown that I’d have parking because I needed parking for safety and whatever so we ended up coming out here, which was, was a great move.”
“Out here” is the same location they have owned since 1993, a fairly non-descript building at 2610 Industrial Court in Hastings.
“You know we have all the space and parking, that we want and the big thing to me is to have a lobby that the parents could watch so it’s so much fun to watch your kids dance and in the dance world nobody, nobody does that. That’s kind of unheard of,” Jan beamed.
She’s right, most studios only allow parents to watch at performances, not practices. Watching football, baseball or softball practice is not prohibited, she wanted dance to feel the same way.
“I don’t know why people are afraid of having people watch you, you know, that’s half of the fun is to let the parents in on all the fun because we’re such a family-oriented studio. You know all the parents, everybody we’re all friends and the parents like it,” added Jan.
That is not the only place Jan is different. She has a knack for remembering names, faces, details. Jan can go years without seeing you and when she does, it is HEY! How is your daughter? She must be what 20-21 now? (She’s 20) and how about your son? Does he still play baseball? Jan can remember details that blow people away, and it’s not a fake thing with her, she simply absorbs information and can recall it quickly. A feat that is quite impressive when you look back over a 40 year and still going career.
Jan and her husband Sam were discussing the number of students she has taught over the years. Their conservative estimate came in around the 5,000 mark. Let’s stop and think about that for a second. as of 2019, Hastings had a population of 22,738. That means Jan has taught dance to nearly 22% of the Hastings population. They didn’t sit down and count it out right, but the higher estimates were closer to 7,000 but she wasn’t as sure of that number, but it certainly is a possibility since it is only 175 people per year. Even so, if they are close to 7,000 dancers over 40 years, that is 30% of the Hastings population, that is a lot of folks impacted by one dance studio.
Those 5000+ dancers have earned Jan’s School of Dance 544 National Championships, 15 Grand National Championships and numerous regional titles and honors for choreography etcetera. They have also earned the top overall score of the National Competition three times out of 1600 entries.
Jan’s dancers have also danced professionally; Three have been Minnesota Viking cheerleaders, one was a Minnesota North Stars cheerleader, One Disney performer. Countless students have danced at the college level and earned dance degrees.
Remember how I said Jan loves to bring people with her along her road to greatness? She even brought me along for one of my favorite memories in my lifetime. The Super Bowl Halftime Show. I distinctly remember Jan telling me that she wanted me to be there as part of the set crew, she brought 12 people total, 11 dancers and me. We had a blast. I met Gloria Estefan, Dorothy Hamil, and Brian Boitano. Some of the 1980 Olympic Gold Medal winning hockey team was there, it was supposed to be cool! At the time, it was cool until it aired. Look it up, watch the video, it has gone down in Super Bowl history, and I was part of it thanks to Jan. I would recommend that you pause reading the story and watch it first. Go ahead, this story is already printed, it’s not going anywhere. I was a late teen at the time, and I had no idea it would be ranked as the worst Super Bowl Halftime show in History. Production wise, it was quality, entertainment wise, it was awful. Experience wise AMAZING, the last piece was thanks to Jan.
That is what she does, she builds memories, memories that last a lifetime for dancers, families, friends, employees, and community volunteers. She brings people with her on her journey, and you simply want to go along.
Her journey has changed recently from an active teacher to more of support role, especially with the younger dancers, but she is going to be there as long as she is able. Her arthritis prevents her from squatting to work with the preschoolers like she used too, but she makes sure every student that enters her door knows who she is that she makes them feel welcome. They are part of her family now too. Her son Thor still flies home to be part of the adult routines, he has danced since he could walk. Her mom still travels with her to costume trade shows in Vegas and still helps keep the costumes organized. Her husband still does the books and dances in the adult routine as well. Jan’s School of Dance really is a family affair. One that a 1,900-word story cannot fully encompass for what Jan and her team have meant to this community for 40 years.
“Another thing that you have to realize is how much you have influenced those people, right, that how many people will always remember you and be grateful to you for all the time. These girls are here do love you and you’ve changed their lives changed in a positive way for all those girls and boys,” Coach Julie added drawing tears from Jan.
Jan is quick to turn that around “I’d like to thank the Hastings and surrounding communities for making my dreams come true! I am truly thankful for my students and their families,” she said in an email.
That’s all well and good Jan, but I’m fairly certain there are 10,000+ parents, 5,000+ former and current students, and countless others that would like to thank YOU for all that you have given this community.
The spring recital entitled “The Greatest Show-2021-40th Anniversary” will be held on Saturday, June 12 at 1:30 and 6:30 and Sunday, June 13, at 1:30 and 6:30 at the Hastings Middle School Auditorium. Tickets will be available at the door.
Congratulations on 40 years to Jan and Sam Tripp of Jan’s School of Dance!
Jan Tripp, owner of Jan’s School of Dance, has been teaching dance at her studio in Hastings for 40 years this year. The family atmosphere is a huge part of the studios success, as showcased by the several hundred awards on display in the different rehersal rooms at the studio. Photo by Bruce Karnick