Our Neighbors.... Becky Schneberger

Although Becky Schneberger doesn't come from a line of dancers, it became a family affair soon after she began taking lessons in second grade in her hometown of Austin, Minn.

Although Becky Schneberger doesn't come from a line of dancers, it became a family affair soon after she began taking lessons in second grade in her hometown of Austin, Minn.

"I always loved to dance," said Schneberger, who was born in 1947. "When we found out the next-door neighbor was taking dance, my brother and I both joined. We ended up performing as a trio."

Schneberger, who is celebrating 25 years of owning Becky's Dance Studio in Cloquet, credits her family for helping her achieve her dance goals. She recalls her older sister, Barbara, taking them to performances and their mother, Lola, sewing elaborate costumes.

"I remember [my mother] spending hours on costumes," she said. "My favorite one was gold and glittery and she had to repeatedly clean the [sewing] needle to get it done. It's incredible when you think now we just look in a catalog and order."

Jayne Gannon taught and ran the dance studio in Austin and Schneberger learned tap, jazz and ballet dancing.


"She was a great role model," Schneberger said.

Schneberger gravitated toward jazz and tap dancing, as did her brother, Steven.

"My favorite is tap," she said.

Like so many of her friends' parents, Schneberger's father, Marvin Krueger, worked for Hormel Foods. The most exciting thing about that for Schneberger, however, was that Leslie Caron, a famous dancer/movie star, was married to someone in the Hormel family.

"There was a Hormel estate and I used to go there and see if I could catch a glimpse of her," she said. "I just idolized her."

Schneberger also loved watching movies from the 1940s and 1950s that incorporated dancing.

"Gene Kelly and Mitsy Gainer were some of my other dance idols," she said. "The dancing back then was so basic, simple and elegant."

While in high school, Schneberger's brother Larry opened a dance studio by converting a room in the family's basement, and as she worked with him, Schneberger's career was launched, although she didn't know that at the time.


"I actually wanted to be a school teacher and that just never materialized," she said.

Schneberger took over the studio after her brother graduated from high school, and she enjoyed teaching lessons and performing whenever she could.

She also met her future husband, Steven Schneberger, while both were in high school. They met through mutual friends and became closer through their involvement in beauty pageants.

"It was big in Austin because that's where they held the Miss Minnesota pageant," Schneberger explained.

Schneberger competed in pageants and Steven was involved through his role in the area Jaycees organization.

They married in 1967 and Schneberger stayed involved with the Miss Minnesota pageants as a travel companion, choreographer and co-producer. Starting in 1977, Schneberger worked with Miss America pageant contestants as well. She was Miss Minnesota winner Gretchen Carlson's travel companion when she was crowned Miss America in Atlantic City, N.J., in 1989.

"That was quite the experience," she recalled. "We met many celebrities that night - it was an all-night affair."

They met Sammy Davis Jr., Ava Gabor, Donald Trump, and Donny and Marie Osmond, among others. In an elevator, Schneberger met Betty Ford, however, and that was the biggest thrill.


"She got the role model award in the pageant that year; it was neat to talk with her," she said.

While the Schnebergers lived in Austin in the late '60s and early '70s they had three children, Jeffrey, Corey and Kirsten, all of whom were exposed to the world of dance.

"The boys were in it when they were little and then got away from it," she said. "Kirsten stayed with it and still teaches, and many of my eight grandchildren are dancers now too."

The family also moved to Blue Earth, Minn., in 1973, due to Steven's job and Becky opened a dance studio there too.

In 1979, when her husband transferred to the Minneapolis area for work, Schneberger opened a dance studio at a YMCA in Brooklyn Park.

While they lived there, Schneberger continued working with pageants, even having one contestant live with them during her Miss Minnesota reign.

"It was fun," she remembered. "She stayed with us and we took her to all her events in the area. Steve and I would both judge too. It's a responsibility. You really have to be on your toes."

All in all, they were involved at that pageant level for about 15 years, Schneberger estimates. She kept it up even after moving to Cloquet in 1983, but quit in the early 1990s.


"All the travel just got to be too much with my family and dance studio," she said.

Today, Schneberger is unsure of future of pageants in general.

"Pageants have kind of lost their oomph," she said. "Many people would like to take the swimsuit portion out of the event altogether and promote the scholarship aspects more, but advertisers won't hear of it."

Over July 4, however, Schneberger had the chance to revisit pageant activities - as a judge for the Little Miss Moose Lake competition.

"One of my dance moms told me about it and although it had been a long time, it was great fun."

Shortly after the Schnebergers moved to Cloquet, the quest for a dance studio space commenced.

"It was a challenge to find a studio in a home or elsewhere," she said. "I started in a former pool hall called Gordy's Loft on Avenue C in the West End. Then we moved to a fitness center and the space where Mexico Lindo is now before finding our home at 1203 Cloquet Avenue."

Since it opened, some 300 people per year have participated in dance classes, meaning thousands of area residents have learned a dance step or two.


"It helps with coordination, is great exercise and you dance forever in your life - prom, dances, weddings," she said. "It's a social thing and is nice for both boys and girls to learn."

These days, Schneberger is not teaching lessons. She had back surgery in 2002 and gave up teaching the "Mommy and me" dance class last year when one of her former students wanted to teach.

"We have such talented, wonderful instructors," she said. "I really saw that recently when our competition team traveled to Branson, [Mo.]," she said. "We are definitely a non-competitive studio overall but I'm just so proud of [the instructors and the dancers] and how they handled themselves."

Even without teaching, Schneberger puts in many hours but has no plans to retire anytime soon.

"Sometimes recitals get to be a lot," she said. "But I never [even call it] a job or say that I have to go to work."

For many years, the dance studio has presented three nights of recitals showcasing 100 students per night, which take place at Cloquet High School.

All the dance classes participate, with dancers ranging in age from nearly 3 to "grandma-age," according to Schneberger.

"It's just so cool to see them perform," she said. "The little kids are so carefree and some of the others, especially the shy kids sometimes, just shine."


Various high school groups have helped Schneberger with the performances and she is grateful.

"I can't say enough about Julie McMerty and Elizabeth Wilson," she said of the high school theater and orchestra teachers. "We give them our proceeds and [the groups] are an amazing help. We couldn't do it without them."

Although none of her former students has gone on to a professional dance career, Schneberger said it's not the point of her studio.

"I just want to see [people] achieve," she said. "We always say we're not professionals but we love to dance and want to share it with you."

And while none have become professional, their skills have helped them in other ways - one former student is the coach for the Cloquet High School dance line, many of them teach lessons and many have gone on to do pageants.

Recently, Schneberger has been pleased to see a bit of a dance resurgence with the popularity of musical and dance productions like "High School Musical."

She hasn't watched too much of the recent dance-related reality television, but appreciates how hard the celebrities work on "Dancing with the Stars."

"It is very athletic," she said. "It's fun to watch [the celebrities] build endurance and learn these dances and have all these people watching them. It's fun for my mother, too, because she loves dance. In fact, if my mother lived closer, I'm sure I would have had her in my adult dance classes."

Becky's Dance Studio offers a wide range of dance classes for all ages, including a combination class of ballet, jazz and tap, a ballet pointe class and a jazz/lyrical class, among others.

For more information, contact the studio at 218-879-6717.

Pine Journal Editor Lisa Baumann can be contacted at: .

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