The Moser School of Dance and Gymnastics is one big family. The school is led by sisters Debbie Moser and Carmen Moser Payne, along with their mom, Bernita Moser, Carmen’s daughter, Kattie Payne Schulte, and granddaughter, Luka Marie Schulte.
This fall, the Moser School is celebrating its 50th anniversary. The longevity of the program is because of the strong connection that the five women have with their students.
“Our family has been very blessed that we are able to be a part of a family business all these years,” Debbie said. “We always tell our students and their families that we are the luckiest people in the world to know them and to be able to share our love of dance and gymnastics with them all these years.”
“There is nothing more enjoyable, amazing and rewarding than working with your mom, sister, daughter and granddaughter,” Carmen said. “We share the same values and want the same outcomes with the kids.
“We not only teach dance and gymnastics but we stress respect, sportsmanship, hard work, kindness, caring and we all share those values and want that for our students, for them to learn those values.
“We all have our own style of teaching but we all love and care for our students so we share that in our teaching. We cherish every child no matter their ability, if they achieve even the easiest skill or dance move for the first time, we are so very excited to see any improvement and it makes us so very proud of them. We love to see their smiles. I am fortunate to be able to work side by side with my mom/sister/daughter/granddaughter for all these years as they simply are the best,” Carmen added.
The coaching staff expanded in 2018 when Luka became an official coach.
“Luka became an official Junior USTA Coach when she turned 14, but she had been helping out beside us for years,” Carmen explained. “We loved having her helping us out since she was little as the kids love, love, love her because she has so much fun with them and they relate to her, I think, because she can keep it on the lighter side. She makes me so proud every time she is teaching as she shows her love for the kids. The kids always talk about Luka.”
As the years have gone by the teachers have had the pleasure of teaching the children of former students.
“We decided to send Taytem to Moser because of Debbie herself. As a prior student, she always encouraged me and believed in me,” Emily Snedden said. “The way she makes her students feel is something remarkable. On visitors’ day and at the showcase at the end of the year you can see how much she cares for her students. Taytem adores her.”
“It means the world to me that (former students) bring their own sons and daughters to us,” Debbie said. “It means they trust us and know that we will always do our very best for each and every child. They know we are positive and make sure that each child knows they are loved, cared for and is as special as they are and they know they have placed their child in a safe environment.
“They know we teach more than dance and gymnastics — we teach respect, kindness, caring, self-esteem, confidence, how to stay focused, discipline, determination, set goals and do the work needed to achieve them — lessons that will last a lifetime. We all have fun while learning and they know they are all a part of our family.”
The instructors take their school on the road as they hold classes in nine locations : Monday — Manchester; Tuesday — Dyersville and Clermont; Wednesday — Monticello, Guttenberg and Elkader; Thursday — Dyersville and Edgewood; Friday — Strawberry Point; and Saturday — Independence.
The Moser School started 50 years ago in Guttenberg. It grew to include Edgewood and then Manchester before growing into the nine studio locations of today.
“We have a business because mom (Bernita) gave us opportunities,” Debbie said, referencing how her mom gave of her time and the families’ money to drive her and Carmen from their home in Garber to Dubuque for lessons when they were young.
“We wanted to take classes to the different communities because more kids could do it if we brought the gym to them,” Debbie said.
“It’s easier for parents and grandparents,” Bernita added.
While the Moser School has always taught youth dance and gymnastics, the focus has changed over time.
“We have taken different avenues in different years,” Debbie said. “We started with halftime shows at basketball games and shows at care centers and then branched out.”
“We did a lot of dance competitions in Chicago … but it got very expensive,” Carmen added.
The Chicago competitions gave the small Iowa school exposure, and with that exposure came some big opportunities in the form of overseas tours to Spain (twice); Russia (twice); China (twice); Paris, France; Euro Disney; and London.
“The overseas tours were mind-opening opportunities,” Debbie said.
“It was great for kids to see how lucky they had it,” Carmen said.
“We had parents come up to us afterward and say ‘you have changed my child’s perspective on life.’ We were able to offer them new opportunities and challenges,” Debbie added.
The Moser School’s dancers performed at the 100th anniversary of the Indianapolis 500 in 2016.
In the 1980s, the Moser School started competing with USTA power tumbling. “It was nice with tumbling because it’s an individual sport,” Carmen explained.
With power tumbling, students can progress at their own pace and compete against others at their level in their age group. They compete in invitational meets in October through April in preparation for the state meet in April. Those who qualify move on to compete at the national competition each June.
“We always tell the kids to have fun, meet a new friend and do the best you can,” Debbie said.
“We want the kids to feel good about themselves,” Benita added.
Seeing the students’ individual growth, whether it’s in dance or gymnastics, is a rewarding part of the job.
“I like to see the kids improve and feel good about themselves,” Carmen said. “To see any improvement feels good.”
“Every day is a new day,” Debbie said. “We have all ages and all levels, so that makes it interesting — the genuine joy, the excitement and enthusiasm each dancer/gymnast brings into the classroom. This is what we love about classes. Their smiles and excitement can light up the world. We love what we do.”
Bernita appreciates the hugs from her students which were commonplace before the COVID-19 pandemic. “You see them work so hard, and to see them accomplish something and then give you a hug, it is so special,” she said.
The Moser school offers classes each September through May, along with clinics in the summer. The annual year-end recitals are held each spring.