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Shooting Stars celebrates two decades of keeping step

Shooting Stars Dance students were alternately giddy, nervous or bored Saturday morning, as they waited for the spring recital to begin at Cloquet High School.

There were tears from a couple of the youngest dancers, still in diapers, in the hallway behind the stage. Meanwhile, the Cloquettes were calmly practicing their tap dance moves in the band room. Recitals are old hat to these veteran dancers, some who count 26 years (Deb Zahar) and 30 years (Sandy Hemsworth) in the popular dance troupe. High school students clumped in dressing rooms and hallways, fixing hair and makeup, talking excitedly. Soon their moment in the spotlight would come.

It had been a long 15 months. Last year's spring recital was virtual, a video painstakingly pieced together by Shooting Stars Dance owner/director Suzy Goodin over two weeks "because we wanted to do something for those kids that worked so hard all year on those dances."

This school year classes started in person, then went back to virtual between Thanksgiving and Christmas, but students were allowed to come back to class after Christmas break.

Saturday's recital (actually three different recitals in a row) marked 20 years for Goodin as a dance instructor, and eight years since she purchased Becky's Dance Studio in 2013 from Becky Schneberger, who retired after 30 years in the business.

A Cromwell native, Goodin started dancing with Becky when she was in second grade. She started teaching dance at local schools around the county when she was 18, creating her own business: Shooting Stars Dance.

Her dad was a business owner, so Suzy didn't consider it outrageous to start her own business.

"To be able to own a business where I'm doing something that I love so much and that I'm still passionate about has been phenomenal," she said. "Not many people can say they truly love their job. I wouldn't give it up for anything."

Suzy's husband, Lucas Goodin, has been part of the business from the start, from the early days of their seven-year courtship to running all the technical aspects of the show in the CHS auditorium on Saturday. In addition to technical skills, he is a jokester but also provides a calming effect in stressful dance moments, said his wife.

Longtime student and current instructor Megan Witte put together a video celebrating the anniversary, packed with stories, good wishes and testimonials from former students who, like Witte, came back after majoring in dance in college to teach here. Witte started with Suzy when she was 2, so they have made the 20-year journey together, although in different shoes.

Tara Longseth said dance was a huge part of her formative years.

"It gave me the confidence that I still have today, and gave me determination and taught me what 'the show must go on' looks like in its purest form," she said, telling a story about her team forgetting their steps all at once. "It taught me if anything in life doesn't go as planned, just dance your heart out."

What's next for Shooting Stars?

For her 80 competitive students, Nationals, which will take place at the DECC in Duluth in three weeks. There are dance summer camps. In the fall there will be another 250 or 300 students and 10 teachers back, ready for a wide range of classes, including jazz, lyrical, contemporary, hip-hop, acro (think acrobatic), musical theater and more.

Goodin will be one of those teachers too, usually teaching more than one elite level class, and at least one class of the youngest dancers.

"The high-level kids are amazing, because I can pretty much rattle off something I have in my head and they translate it, sometimes better than I imagined," she said. "But I love to see the little ones, because their enthusiasm can't be matched and they do the funniest things."

Like her youngest daughter, Emberleigh, who walked off the stage Saturday in the middle of a dance, to ask her mom if she could keep that giant sparkle she found on the stage. "I told her she could keep it and she was fine, she ran back out smiling," Suzy said.

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