A powerful pair
Sandra and Roger Hollingsworth have taught thousands in dance and gymnastics
Sandra Hollingsworth’s lifelong love of dance began with a 75-cent pair of tap shoes.
“My dad was a tapper and my friend sold me a pair of shoes for 75 cents,” Hollingsworth recalled. “And because I already had the shoes and my dad was teaching me a little bit, I decided to go to class with my friend.”
Hollingsworth, who grew up in Indiana, was 11 at the time. She would go on to continue her dance training in Des Moines.
“I started and I kept going,” she said. “My friend stopped, but I didn’t.”
Hollingsworth and her husband, Roger, own Hollingsworth School of Dance and Gymnastics.
Sandy has 53 years as a dance teacher under her belt. Roger, a Fort Dodge native, first started teaching gymnastics in 1970 at the Fort Dodge YMCA.
Their studio, located at 721 S. 25th St., is split — dance on one side and gymnastics on the other.
Dance students can learn classical ballet, tap, pointe, Jazz, acrobatics, adult hip-hop, adult Jazz and dance competition. Gymnastics includes uneven bars, vaulting, balance beam, floor exercise, progressive tumbling, trampoline and power tumbling.
“The sport is basically the same from when I started,” Roger said. “The tricks have gotten harder. The kids on my side of the room have to like to use their muscles.”
Roger and Sandy met in 1955.
“I was a juggler and Sandy was a dancer,” Roger said. “I was known in my era as the town’s only juggler.”
While in high school, Roger would practice at the YMCA.
“When I was a senior (Fort Dodge Senior High), they let me out to go to the old YMCA downtown by the old library to practice juggling,” Roger said. “So I had a study hour and made sure I did my homewortk. The principal knew exactly what I was doing. My folks liked it because they knew where I was. They didn’t really know if I would go into show business or not.”
Meanwhile, Sandy eventually joined with a group of girls who called themselves the Kayettes. One of their talents was riding unicycles.
That group, which was based in Chicago, was booked for the county fair in Manson.
And that’s where Roger first encountered Sandy.
“I remarked that I could ride one of those (unicycles) and she remarked that I bet you can’t,” Roger said. “And I got on it.”
The two decided to race. And although Roger won in the speed category, Sandy maintains she was the real winner.
“He won because he could go faster,” Sandy said. “But I could do fancier things.”
After that, the two traveled the country, each performing separately.
“I was on an A unit and he was on B unit, so we were in two different territories, but we came together,” Sandy recalled.
Roger’s interest in gymnastics was accelerated as he watched professional acrobats.
“I was surrounded by professional acrobats in the circus from Europe and I always had a fascination for it,” Roger said. “And one was a trampolinist from Des Moines. He started one of the first gymnastic schools in Iowa.”
Eventually, Roger returned to Fort Dodge and Sandy joined him.
“We got into show business at a late time when television was taking over and replacing the kind of activities we were doing,” Roger said. “So I came back to Fort Dodge as an insurance salesman with Metropolitan Life.”
The couple would end up building a home in the Kennedy Brown addition in the 1960s.
It wasn’t long before Sandy started dance in the basement.
“She started teaching neighborhood kids dance in our basement,” Roger recalled. “And it kept getting bigger and bigger.”
When 100 children started taking dance lessons, Sandy thought it was time to move to another location.
“I didn’t want it to affect my neighbors,” Sandy said. “So we moved to Ridgewood Bowling Alley. I noticed he (owner) had a bunch of tires and stuff out by the building and he said he was going to build an addition. And I said would you be interested in building a dance studio for us.”
“We were in that location until we moved to Friskies where they had warehouses,” Roger said.
They stayed there for about 20 years before moving to their current location about 15 years ago.
Roger spent 40 years in the insurance business.
“This (gymnastics) was always a sideline and then I retired from insurance and kept doing it,” he said.
Thousands of people have been taught by the Hollingsworths.
“We have a lot of kids who dance professionally,” Sandy said.
And that’s been one of her biggest joys.
“That’s probably the thing is watching the success of our dancers,” she said.
In 1996, Roger started the Hollingsworth Power Stars tumbling and trampoline team.
Team trophies cover the walls inside the Hollingsworth business.
“We have a lot of team trophies,” Roger said. “Some people come in and think we sell them.”
The couple has also enjoyed seeing their children get involved in dance and gymnastics.
“All of our kids took dance, even Jim,” Sandy said.
Their daughter Vicky Vinchattle runs a dance studio in Gowrie along with their granddaughter Tiffany DeCastro.
Their other daughter, Angela Peterson, ran Market Street Gallery many years, according to Sandy.
“Jim is our bookkeeper and also has a business — JC Music Xpress,” she said.
Sandy said she’s stuck with dance through the years for a simple reason.
“I just had fun with it,” she said. “I liked the rhythms, I liked the music. And I liked to practice at the time.”
Roger added, “We’ve been fortunate that our whole lives we’ve done something we liked to do.”
The Hollingsworths have no plans of slowing their enthusiasm for the business.
“A lot of my friends say why don’t you retire,” Roger said. “Well, you got to do something.”