Know Your Driftless Neighbor: Teacher Brenda

By Samantha Ludeking, Driftless Journal Production Manager

From your next-door neighbor to that one down on main street, a face you see around town or a name you hear over and over, these are your Driftless Neighbors…

While she doesn’t have an exact count, it’s safe to say Brenda Kurth of Luana has been a familiar face to thousands of young dancers in the Driftless Region. For 42 years, “Teacher Brenda” has been owner/instructor at Brenda’s School of Dance, instructing ballet, tap, jazz, hip hop and tumbling to dancers ages three to 18. 

Growing up in Harmony, Minn., she danced at the Barb Johnson Dance Studio. In exchange for lessons, her mother sewed some of the costumes, a talent Kurth inherited, as her and a friend have created many of her own dancers’ costumes over the years. 

“Brenda’s School of Dance had been my dream since I was a little girl, my teacher was our neighbor with a studio in her home and her daughter was one of my best friends growing up. We were always dancing and hanging around the dance studio,” explained Kurth. 

With the help of that neighbor/dance teacher, she got started teaching on her own.

“My first year teaching dance started in the New Albin Elementary School lunchroom with 25 students one day a week. I remember being so excited. The next couple years I spread my wings as much interest was shown and started teaching five days a week in all the surrounding areas,” Kurth continued.

As if teaching a room full of youngsters wasn’t challenge enough, she added a daddy daughter/son performance to the recital. For the last 20 years, fathers (and father figures) have shown up once a week each spring for dance practice. Kurth possesses some kind of magic that she can take a pack of farmers, plumbers, accountants, mechanics, chefs and more, and turn them into dancers. Dear reader, let me tell you, the highlight of each recital truly is the smile on those kids’ faces when they are up on stage with their dancing dads.  

Every parent, grandparent, caregiver, etc., that walks their tiny dancer into one of her classes can see her enthusiasm and love for what she does.

“Seeing the kids every week, watching them learn and improve. The recitals at the end of each year. I have watched many students grow from really young into adulthood. Having the summers off and planning for the next year. Being my own boss,” Kurth listed everything she enjoys most about the job.

“I have the biggest and best support group of family and friends that show up and help me out every year with the recitals. I couldn’t do it without them. I am blessed,” she concluded. 

When she’s not coaching arabesques, pirouttés and pliés, she enjoys walking, relaxing in the sun and spending time with her husband Lyle, their six children and 14 grandchildren. This fall she’ll begin her 43rd season with classes in Waukon, Decorah, Monona and Prairie du Chein, Wis.

Brenda Kurth, pictured at one of 2023 spring recitals for Brenda's School of Dance. (submitted)


Best part about living in the Driftless:
Rural life, walking

Favorite Driftless spot: Mabe’s Pizza, my weekly Tuesday night pizza! I also love to shop locally and use the Waukon Wellness Center.

Favorite Movie:
Downton Abbey

Favorite Human(s):
My grandkids

Hidden talent:
Cooking and sewing

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Skime Trina
1 month ago

Teacher Brenda taught all 3 of my kids and my husband… and even me one year. Best times and memories. My kids are 26, 21 and 18 now and I still love the pop up memories from Brenda’s School of Dance. Also made alot of adult friends along the way!!!