Anthem for Mothers
Posted in Musings at 11:24 AM on May 14, 2012

We link the past with the future, as we cherish, shape, surrender, and reach with loving hands to tender hearts.

We are the chain of custody for our heritage as we build our own legacy through reading stories, battling spiders, wiping tears, building confidence, bandaging “boo-boos,’ and learning as we go.
It’s the greatest adventure, most intense challenge, and most serious responsibility of all time, with rewards unimaginable, influence that is both in the spotlight and under cover, and a constantly-changing portrait of the most important “part” of our lives.
It’s so much more than we ever thought it could be—yet in that transforming moment that we will always remember, we look into the soul of our child for the first time, we see the universe in our newborn’s face, and we know who we are—and who we need to be—forever.
Happy Mother’s Day from Debbie—John’s Mom

Graduation 2011
Posted in Musings at 7:34 PM on June 20, 2011


Senior Year
Posted in Musings at 7:46 PM on September 3, 2010

The first day of the last year. That’s what I kept thinking on August 25 when my seventeen-year-old son started school as a senior. It was unexpectedly bittersweet.

I kept thinking back to the first day of the first year—that milestone that as parents we remember forever. I can picture him as clearly as can be, with his Big Bird backpack, plaid shorts, and little boy polo, wearing a dimpled smile nearly as broad as his face was wide. He wanted a new backpack this year, too, but the calculator, mechanical pencils, and college-ruled paper were a far cry from the crayons and box of Kleenex we had taken twelve years ago. This year I dropped off an “almost man,” at the edge of the high school parking lot, not the little boy I had left in a stranger’s care in a room called “Kindergarten.” And like that day so long ago—yet almost like yesterday—time stood still for just a moment as I watched him get out of the driver's seat and stride into the building. Another milestone. Another memory that I will never, ever forget.
I will be thrilled when he graduates from high school this next spring, and yet….I keep thinking about how fast it seems like it’s gone; how I’d do it again a million times over, but never at the risk of giving up exactly where we are right now—who he is right now—the incredible, joyful, nearly-grown guy that I am so proud to call my son.
It’s a very sentimental time. We picked up the proofs of my son’s senior pictures this week. We’ll be ordering graduation announcements and invitations soon, and I can only imagine the hours it will take sorting through the boxes of photos we have. (I hear some folks start in grade school.) It will be quite a spring. And the culmination—after graduation itself—will be our Civic Center performance. I’m a seasoned pro in working with our graduating seniors as they carve out their signature dances—the performances they want to be remembered for, the ones that represent everything they’ve learned and become before they “cross over” to the world of adulthood.
But this year, for the first time, I’ll be wearing my mommy hat, too, and it’s blindsided me. Like never before, I get it. Parents camping out overnight to get a prime spot on the seating chart; families watching every minute of every rehearsal and performance; dancers with tears streaming from their eyes as the finale builds and the inevitable moment comes when the curtain descends on Saturday night. It all lies before me as the clock ticks and the calendar stares back at me.
One final year as an official "Dance Magic Mom"—and, like the hundreds of parents I've watched throughout the years, I’m going to soak up every single second.

It's Non-Stop Fun!
Posted in Musings at 6:11 PM on August 16, 2010

"Our state fair is a great state fair."  That's from the chorus of the musical that celebrates corn dogs, cattle barns, and grandstand shows--the Iowa State Fair--and it ranks among the best fairs in the US.

Held in Des Moines each August, the Iowa State Fair is a highpoint of the summer for over a million folks each season.  It's even more of a "must do" for many of our dancers who take the stage each August at the culmination of our summer programs.

Nearly perfect weather, enthusiastic audiences, and energy to spare jumpstarted our Junior-Senior dancers this year at the Riley Stage, named for Bill Riley Sr., originator of the State Fair Talent Search.

It's always a bit nostalgic for me to be there and see photos of Bill Riley and his wife Anne on the double doors in the center.  I remember watching Bill come out onto the stage for the last time the year before he passed away.  I remember many years of watching him emcee his show, including the one when my sprouts won.  And I especially remember the year I danced on the Riley Stage with my partner Terry.  At that time Bill had a television show.  We had qualified at a county fair, and then appeared on TV.  Bill asked us to tour the state with him to perform while the judges tabulated their scores during qualifying contests.  Good times.

This year our kids performed at a different venue:  the Anderson Erickson Stage.  We'd performed there many years ago and the stage has been remodeled, but it was like coming home.  The AE slogan on the back wall made me smile.  "Ridiculously high standards."  We fit right in.

I had a front row seat for both shows, and I thoroughly enjoyed watching our kids dance.  A job well done, with a boatload of help from some pretty special people.  My mother and I celebrated after the second show with our traditional corn dogs and lemonade.  Mmmm good!

The Iowa State Fair.  It lives up to it's theme:  it really is "non-stop fun!" 

Dance It Forward
Posted in Musings at 12:41 PM on August 5, 2010

Yesterday I witnessed “The Magic of Dance” at it’s best. There was no carefully constructed scenery, no glistening backdrops, no stage lights gelled in pink or lavender. The stage was only 9’ x 9’ and the audience sat in a variety of chairs pulled into uneven rows. The music played on a boom box that wasn’t quite loud enough to fill the room, and the program lasted less than half an hour. But the magic was there, and it was amazing.

Several weeks ago I’d received an email from Sandra, an intern at a local retirement home. A recent U of I graduate, she had taught four weeks of tap class to several residents, and they wanted to “put on a show” as a culmination of their session. Some of the students had tapped before, but some were first-timers. As a highlight to the program, Sandra wanted some local tap dancers to perform so the audience could see what proficient tappers can do.
Performing in a retirement home evidently didn’t catch the imagination of nearly all the studios Sandra had contacted. We were the only one interested, and it was a gift. Nick and John, dressed in their custom-fit dark blue suits, slick black fedoras, and broad smiles, executed their tricky moves like the pre-professionals they’ve become. Debonair and suave, they tapped, riffled, and articulated their moves like masters, injecting charm and comedy throughout their performance. They were great!
Elderly audiences are among the best—so appreciative and joyful—and Nick and John received a response beyond enthusiastic! Many of the residents came over after the performance to offer personal congratulations to “our guys,” and shook their hands. It wasn’t a red carpet, but our two tappers felt like stars.
What’s even more impressive? Two seventeen-year-old good-looking guys (that could have been texting girls or hangin’ with their homies) spent their summer afternoon spreading sunshine to a 60-plus crowd through dance. And when it was over they said they’d like to do it again.  It’s amazing what life can bring you, if you are willing to receive it.

For Our Kids
Posted in Musings at 4:08 PM on July 31, 2010

There’s a classic Broadway song that asks “Why do we live this crazy life? Applause!”

I thought about that question—and it’s answer—as I reflected on our two shows today at Merle Hay Mall. The answer is right on. We do this for the applause—applause for our kids.
But the enthusiastic response of our audiences is only the immediate “reward” for a job well done. Boldly stepping into the light and twirling, jumping, and bouncing to the beat has benefits far more powerful and more permanent: benefits that reveal themselves over time.
Some of today’s performers have danced with us for more than a decade, developing into seasoned entertainers and confident young adults. Others are at the beginning of their journey into self-assurance and “grace under pressure,” yet still held their own in front of a sea of families, friends, and fans.
A few of our youngest dancers took the stage with only two or three others, unable to rely on "strength in numbers," but instead relying on their own abilities to bravely “command the stage.” One little girl performed an unexpected solo when her partner was unable to attend; she carried it off like a pro.
Some day our cute (and handsome) primary dancers will be the ones leading the way for the next generation of kids, just like today’s teenagers were once the “newbies,” finding their path along the journey of life—and dance.
Elton John said it well. It’s the circle of life. Today’s kids are tomorrow’s leaders. Any investment we can make in their leadership, their values, and their confidence is well worth while. It’s how we build our future, one kid—and one dance—at a time.

Fabulous Feet!
Posted in Musings at 11:09 PM on July 29, 2010

I love looking at feet--especially across a room.  When I see someone I don't know, I immediately register a technical score.  "How much dance training have they had?" I wonder.

Dancers' feet are especially interesting even when they are NOT dancing.  Do they carry what they learn in class into their everyday movement?  What are the big signals that a person has taken her--or his--technical training seriously?

Turned in, parallel, or turned out?
Look for this when someone is walking as well as standing.

Rolling in, balanced, or rolling out?
The muscles on the inside and the outside of the foot (and ankle) need to be strong enough to keep the foot in alignment.

Leading with the heels or rolling through the foot?
Dancers need to master the art of being on the balls of their feet.  The trickiest time seems to be as dancers are escalating to a leap, often digging into their heels because they think this will help them achieve power.

All three of these skills are critical.  It takes mental understanding, kinesthetic awarness, and a lot of repetition to create the muscle memory needed for this skill set, so dancers:  make sure you "work your feet--and they'll be fabulous!" 

Dance Camp--The Original
Posted in Programs at 10:18 AM on July 24, 2010

Every year when summer rolls around I rediscover the magic—and uniqueness—of Dance Camp. It’s close to my heart, an education-arts phenomenon, and it pioneered the shape of summer dance for studios everywhere.

In 1985, during the break between our spring performance and fall registration, our dancers wanted something to do. As an educator I’ve long appreciated the value of studying multiple disciplines, so I pondered.
“Why not have a week-long full-day series of classes centered around dance, but with an expanded curriculum?” Add singing, dramatics, announcements, cheerleading, auditioning, choreography, as well as all the diverse dance styles that we love. And Dance Camp was born.
At that time, nothing like it existed anywhere. The closest things to it were “Little Miss Enrichment School” and “Valley Dance Theater,” two other summer programs I had pioneered in the 60’s and 70’s. (I was a budding entrepreneur of the arts, creating my own summer jobs!)
In fact, the phrase “Dance Camp” was my personal brand name. Local advertisers respected that ownership for several years and wouldn’t allow “copycat programs” to use it in their ads. Eventually Dance Camp went the way of Kleenex, Jello-O, and Walkman—losing their brand identification as they became commonly used.
Dance Camp was an immediate hit, and over the years has grown to a program with five age groups—all eclectic, yet dance-based. Dozens of Dance Camp graduates have gone on to professional careers on Broadway, in touring companies, in dance companies, in film, on television, on radio, on cruise ships, and in the recording industry. And literally hundreds have come back years later and thanked me for the confidence, seasoning, and grace under pressure that they attribute to their dance experience—especially those happy, silly, summer days of dance and so much more.
Each summer I’m inspired once again. Seeing how much our Dance Campers grow in just a week—and comparing where the youngest ones are to the dancers who’ve come to our camp for 12-15 years. It is truly amazing to see how much difference an activity can make in the lives of kids. The benefits last a lifetime.
It’s a huge responsibility—and my absolute passion. I love it!

Grease: It's The Word
Posted in Musings at 12:13 AM on July 19, 2010

Every time I think of the show "Grease," I think of Paul Dieke--a musical genius, a local legend, and a personal friend.

I met Paul at the DM Playhouse when we both worked on "West Side Story."  We did three other musicals together, both great believers that artistic excellence and commercial success are achievable at the same time.

In 1986 I put together a medley of songs from "Grease" to perform at Disneyland.  With my conceptualization, editing, and choreography, and Paul's excellent vocal coaching, we had a hit.

Over the years we revived my Grease Medley several times, each with a new set of singers.  Each time Paul was there, guiding, coaxing, and tweaking my dancers until they sounded pretty good!

Now here we are again with a new cast, but no Paul.  He recently passed away, and I miss him deeply.  His words and advice are a part of me, and I'm trying to impart his knowledge to this new flock of fledglings.  So I'll dig deep and give it my best shot, for my singers--and for Paul.

Get Out Da Shades!
Posted in Greetings! at 7:40 PM on July 12, 2010

It's "techno-riffic!"

How ya doin', dance fans?  Have you checked out all the pages of our newly revised web site?   The cutting-edge technology we're using will make updates fast and frequent.  We'll be able to add photos and videos, so watch for those soon.  And our "Contact Us" page will zip your inquiries right to the front desk.

In addition, we're continuing our techno "forward motion" by updating our payment processing.  Starting this fall we will be able to accept both credit-card and direct payment for your tuition and fees.   We know this is a welcome addition to many of our dance families.

Plus, we're transitioning our database to an online system which will allow our receptionists to check a student's status online from any of our locations.  Eventually we will tie in our web site to our database, allowing our customers to check their accounts online!  That's a bit of a way off, but it's in our future!  Yeah!!

So hold on to your tap hats!  To use the lyrics from one of my kid song faves, the future's so bright, I just might need to wear shades!!

Paradigm Shift
Posted in Greetings! at 6:56 PM on July 9, 2010

It's the dawn of a new age, folks.

Startin' Today!
Posted in Greetings! at 6:53 PM on July 9, 2010

Yippity, skippity! Hip, hip, hooray!
A brand new dance season starts today!
Teachers are ready; receptionists, too.
We're all itchy twitchy just waitin' for you.
Baby ballerinas and the hip-hop team;
Tappers and rappers with rhythm and steam;
Ladies that glide and gents that can rock;
Nippers and flippers are watchin the clock.
We're ready to go cuz it's time to dance.
The tunes will be flowing from pop to trance.
So get yourself down and don't be late.
It's time for
Dance Magic, and it'll be great!

'Sup, Bloggers?
Posted in Greetings! at 6:47 PM on July 9, 2010

Welcome to our blog!

We've joined the newest communication trend with our own Betty Hill Dance Studios blog, and we're glad you've found us.  We hope to have updates, news, and other blog-worthy information on a regular basis--so check back periodically to find out wha-sup!

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