As a Moffat County High School cheerleader, Christalin Thompson limited her thoughts of becoming a professional dancer to daydreams.
Now 22 and a single mother in Craig, she's living bigger.
"I always wanted to do something, but I never thought anything would ever happen with that," Thompson said, standing inside her new dance studio downtown. "I have to get a goal. I have to do this."
On May 12, Zumba Fitness opened its doors at 29 W. Victory Way for the first session.
Her business plan is to start simple. Two dance fitness classes a week.
The classes themselves are less straightforward.
Thompson is a certified Zumba instructor. An excerpt from her business' flier describes the classes this way:
"Zumba fuses hypnotic musical rhythms and tantalizing moves to create a dynamic workout system designed to be fun and easy to do!"
Thompson is equally as enthusiastic about what she offers.
"It's an amazing class," she said. "People will enjoy it. They'll have a blast. They'll be addicted."
She knows because she only recently fell under Zumba's spell.
After graduating from high school in 2006, Thompson spent about 14 months in California. By chance, she started working out at a Zumba class, and within three months she was hooked by the mix of Central and South American dances, such as merengue, reggaeton and salsa.
She said she came back to Craig and found there was nothing like it.
"I could see all the changes, and it was actually fun," Thompson said. "I love to be fit, but I hate working out. I've had hundreds of gym memberships and never used them."
She's taken that philosophy to all aspects of her studio. There are no mirrors on the walls, usually hung so dancers can monitor and perfect their form.
"This is supposed to be fun, and you want to be loose," Thompson said. "If you're watching yourself in the mirror, trying to make sure you do everything perfect, you're not having fun.
"We want to make this a place for stuff that's offered at a gym, but it's not in a gym atmosphere, because people are scared of gyms."
In the future, she plans to expand into other fitness routines. Then, she'll invite other residents to start their own dance classes.
Some already have approached her with ideas for children's programs and salsa instruction.
Her worries about local residents not wanting to dance to more exotic beats have lessened after seeing the zeal customers already have shown in her studio.
It feels good to be a small business owner, she said, a feeling evidenced by the enduring bright and toothy smile she had before Tuesday evening's class.
It hasn't been easy. Finding cheap rent space was tough, but she landed a big, open space close to downtown. The only catch is, she and her boyfriend, Josey Haskins, 27, have put more money and sweat into remodeling and repainting the inside.
"It's been hard to get everything together, and it's still not done," Thompson sighed, gesturing to the wall-to-wall carpet and remarking she hopes to put in wood floors when she has the chance.
It's all for more than success and profit, she said. It's about more than realizing her long-held but only recently admitted dreams of a dancing career.
Thompson is a single mother first, and she wants to be with her boy, Riley, who turns 3 next month.
"Being a single mom, it's hard working a 9-to-5 job every day," she said. "It's too hard being away. This will let me be with him during the day."
Thompson knows she is taking a risk, especially considering her responsibility toward Riley. She plans to keep working outside the studio as long as she has to, but she doesn't plan to fail.
"It's difficult, but you can't have that kind of attitude that something's going to go wrong," Thompson said. "You have to dream big, right?"