She taught their grandmothers.
She taught their mothers.
Now, Tina Grider Lyon is teaching her third generation of young ladies the art of dance.
“That’s what’s special about this place,” she said.
Since 1986, Tina Grider School of Dance has instructed Longview girls and boys in the physical, technical and lyrical aspects of dance, but executing the perfect pirouette isn’t where lessons end.
“Dance teaches self-motivation, discipline, poise, self-confidence and grace,” Lyon said.
“Dance teaches so much more than moving to the left or right; it teaches you how to stand up and give a speech in front of a group, how to walk into a crowded room, so many good life skills, even if they never pursue dance after leaving this studio.”
Yet many of the students who start at Tina Grider School of Dance at age 3, and leave when they’re 18, do go on to pursue dance. Some have gone on to become part of the internationally recognized Kilgore College Rangerettes. Others have gone to the esteemed Apache Belles team at Tyler Junior College, the University of North Texas drill team and the Texas A&M Commerce dance team. Current students put their talents to use in their high schools, as dance and drill team members.
The school has about 400 students who learn the intricacies of tap dance, ballet, jazz, lyrical and pointe. The school also offers five teams that compete all over East Texas and have traveled to Dallas and the Austin area. In 2018, the senior division team took home first place in a national competition.
“This really teaches them to work as a team, not as an individual,” Lyon said. “These girls are dancing four to five hours a week; they’re really committed.”
Lyon first put on soft, pink ballet shoes at the age of 4.
“I just love it. It gives me joy to perform and dance,” she said.
When just a junior high student, Lyon’s own dance teacher made her an apprentice. In high school, she worked as a dance teacher through a co-op program at her high school. After high school, she earned a dance scholarship to Kilgore College. It was then she decided to throw her hat – or boots, if you will – in the ring for the Rangerettes. She earned a spot on that squad and its elite group, the Swingsters.
“I went to Kilgore College for dance, but being a Rangerette was a big bonus,” she said.
Longtime Longview dance teacher Joan Fuller also was a Kilgore College Rangerette and Swingster.
The Joan Fuller School of Dance in Longview operated for almost 30 years before Lyon got word Fuller wanted to sell. Lyon joined the Joan Fuller team in 1985 and purchased the school, at its old location on North Fifth Street, in 1986.
Lyon kept the business at its Fifth Street location until about a year and a half ago, when she moved the 1,800-square-foot operation to a 4,300-square-foot building on Hoyt Street.
The “new” location boasts three dance studios, a dressing room, an office, a kitchen and a waiting area with closed circuit television monitors so parents can watch their tiny dancers in real time.
As for the future, Lyon just wants to “continue to teach these beautiful dancers the art of dance.”
“We’re a family and I get to be part of their lives, part of their family,” she said.
The secret to her success, she said, is her wonderful staff, most of whom have been with her for 10 years or more.
“My name might be on the building, but it’s everyone else’s hard work that has contributed to the success,” Lyon said.