Phoenix grandmother Becky Hewitt started dance classes near her Memphis home when she was just 6 years old. But she really longed to be like the girls she saw getting off the bus every Saturday with “batons and cute little outfits.”
Hewitt’s dad favored ballet over batons, so twirling lessons had to wait until her mom could save enough of her “allowance” to pay for them. Hewitt was then 8 years old, and she’s been twirling ever since.
Hewitt heads Arizona Twirling Athletes, which provides twirling training and performance opportunities for boys and girls ages 5 to 18. They’ve never had a formal studio, so Hewitt travels around the Valley to various schools and community centers.
She’s been teaching twirling for 36 years, and also enjoys building parade floats with her students. During the past decade, three of Hewitt’s students have been crowned “Miss Arizona.” But that’s not why she started teaching.
“I just did it as a fun thing for my daughter and it grew.”
Daughter Lisa started twirling when she was 6, and twirled at Shadow Mountain High School until graduating. Her twins, Kylie and Caitlin, got their first batons and twirling costumes from grandma—though twirling lessons are hard to come by in Manhattan Beach, Calif.
Hewitt’s son also has two children: 8-year-old Alaina and 6-year-old Madysin. “They got baby batons when they were born,” Hewitt says. “They’ve been going to classes since they could walk.”
Alaina is already competing in other states, in categories like hoop twirling, flag twirling, one-baton and two-baton. She takes two hours of team classes with Hewitt on Mondays, while Madysin does three classes on different afternoons.
Hewitt notes that twirling develops fitness, self-esteem, character, poise, positive thinking and teamwork. “It’s more than learning to twirl a baton,” she says. Families from all walks of life train and travel to competitions together, learning discipline, sacrifice and respect for individual differences.
“It all goes into being a family when they’re grown up,” reflects Hewitt.