At age 75, dance instructor Robin Horn says she has “only” taught dance for 57 years since there were 18 years of her life when she wasn’t leading classes. The last 43 years of that instruction has been at Heights Recreation Center, where she’s taught generations of dancers from toddlers to senior citizens.
Residents have learned ballet, tap and jazz under her direction. Some students have gone on to become accomplished in the sphere of dance competitively and professionally. Horn began teaching dance at Heights in 1978, and her daughter, Holly Baxter, began teaching there in 1998.
For Horn, a family legacy of dance began with her own mother, who was a dance instructor in Indianapolis. Horn grew up learning and performing ballet, tap and jazz. By the time she was 15, she became an instructor at the family’s competitive dance studio. At Butler University in Indianapolis, Horn was a member of the celebrated ballet company. There, she met her husband Larry in a lighting class.
His career led the couple and their three daughters and one son to Pennsylvania, Maryland and Iowa, before the family moved to Richardson in 1978. Robin began teaching at Heights Recreation Center’s former location. While some parents and participants approached classes as a diversion rather than a serious pursuit, Horn always taught with the professionalism and skill ingrained in her.
“I lived dance,” she said. “And recently I redid my curriculum. I’m always trying to find new ways to teach. I’m always reading and getting ideas to see what I can do to be a better teacher.”
Through the years, Horn organized dance recitals for class participants, complete with characters, costumes and event programs. She has helped the most dedicated students progress to the highest levels they wanted to go.
Baxter grew up dancing in her mother’s classes and joined a competitive dance studio as a teen. By 18, she had become a dance instructor at Heights as well and danced at Collin College. Baxter was inspired to introduce ballet to the youngest audiences, and began Baby Ballet classes at the rec center.
Baxter continued to teach dance while she earned a teaching certification through UT Dallas. As an educator for RISD, Baxter still instructs dance. She teaches children’s classes and an adult adaptive class.
“I couldn’t not teach dance,” Baxter, who is known in classes as “Ms. Holly,” said. “I always enjoyed dancing and the challenge of learning new skills and pushing hard and getting better, but now I love teaching more than performing. I love to see the students’ excitement.”
Heidi Scalice, Heights Recreation Center Manager, said, “Teaching dance is not work; it’s fun for them.”
Horn and Baxter are deeply ingrained in the community. Horn has taught two generations of dancers, and some of Baxter’s former dance classmates had children who then came to her class. Baxter even has some of the same students in dance class and the school classroom.
“My husband Dan says, ‘We can’t go anywhere without someone knowing who you are,’” Baxter said.
Baxter’s daughters, Taylor and Kathryn, grew up in their mother’s and grandmother’s classes. They danced in both the former and current Heights classrooms. It’s not unlikely there could be three generations of dance instructors at Heights, Horn and Baxter said.
Horn said it’s fulfilling to see new classes of dancers each year and to have longstanding, generational friendships.
“It’s a circle of life and it circles around,” Horn said. “It’s been fun and I love to see the joy on children’s faces.”
Horn plans to dance into the future.
“I think the plan is I’ll look at it again at 80,” Horn said. “I still live dance.”
For class information, visit www.cor.net/parksonline.