Robin Brumley didn’t think she’d be settling in Winlock when she planned a New Year’s trip to Washington earlier this year. After spending some time in Seattle, she decided to take the train back home to California, hopping off in Centralia to do some exploring. From there, she said she hired a cab, driving aimlessly through the Southwest Washington countryside, before stopping in Winlock for a meal. 

“It felt eerie,” she said. “It felt so familiar. Here’s a place I’ve never been before, and it felt so familiar, like I’ve been here before. It was a great night. It was just what I wanted after being in the city. I got home to San Diego and something still sat with me. Winlock was still in my head.”

A dance instructor, Brumley has taught since 2001, after earning a degree in dance from San Diego State University. Despite her long career in San Diego, she found herself increasingly drawn to Winlock after her trip.

She began looking for commercial space online, and she posted on a Facebook forum to see if the town would be receptive to a dance studio.

“The outpour was just amazing,” she said. “That answered that question — if I did it, they would come. It just kept checking out every step along the way.” 

Brumley decided to make her arrival in Winlock for Egg Days, the city’s annual festival in June. She packed up her car and drove north, then began work on “guerilla marketing” to promote her soon-to-open studio. A free trial event further confirmed that the community was on board. 

“I was impressed by the turnout, I was impressed by the respect — just the support already that I had from a small town that I had never even been to,” she said. “They really were trying hard and had a good attitude. As a teacher, it feels really good when you’re teaching kids who want to learn.”

Located downtown, Brumley’s Winlock Dance Center has opened its doors, and a series of summer dance camps have set the stage for a full slate of fall classes. Brumley is well-versed in many different styles of dance, and she says she offers something for everyone — including tap, jazz, ballet, hip-hop, ballroom, cultural styles and specialty dances. Her forte, she noted, is hip-hop.

“I love this job because I never can get bored of it,” she said. “There’s so many different facets.”

As part of her welcome to the community, Brumley is organizing a barn dance on Aug. 31 as a fundraiser. Attendees will get instruction on how to square dance, and it’s open to beginners and people of all ages. The dance will be held at the community building on 607 NW Kerron Street in Winlock, running from 6 to 11 p.m.

Once the studio is more established, Brumley is hoping to have monthly social dance events in the community, providing an opportunity to bring people together, as well as generating interest for the studio. She’s also planning to bring her students and put on shows at senior centers, community festivals and other events in the county. 

“That is one of the main drives that I wanted to move here and open up a business in a small town I never knew of,” she said. “I really did feel I could bring something to this community that would enrich and change the future of how the children are growing up here, what opportunities they’re given.”

Brumley spoke of dance students she took on at a young age who are now grown and leading successful lives. 

“When you’re here in the studio, you’re not just learning dance steps,” she said. “You’re learning skills of confidence and being in front of people and being vulnerable and putting yourself out there. I really believe that I taught these kids to believe in themselves and that you can be successful.”

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