The Era of Debbie and Betty: 1975 to 1985

In the summer of 1975, Debbie moved back to Des Moines and immediately became involved with our studios as a teacher, a choreographer, and a strategist.


Ann Dirksen was teaching theatrical ballet to our Juniors and Seniors, and Ann wanted Debbie to be her demonstrator.  Debbie had studied privately with Ann and loved her choreography, so she was honored to be offered this opportunity.

Debbie taught the Juniors and Seniors tap, jazz, and finale.


This was a great time for our studios, with Betty, Debbie, and Ann teaching.  Each brought her own style and choreographic ability to our students.

The success of this shared teaching strategy reinforced for Debbie how valuable it is for students to have a range of teachers--and this laid the foundation for the diversity of classes and teachers we have today. 

Debbie's style was strongly influenced by working with Ann, and the overall effect on our studios was to add sophistication, complex musicality, and dynamic staging--especially in our production numbers.

The late 70's and early 80's were marked by a series of dramatic and "over the top" finales and production numbers, as Debbie challenged our students and thrilled our audiences.

 In 1978 we purchased and remodeled a "Red Barn Dairy Store" in West Des Moines, adding a third location to our studios.

Debbie taught all classes at our West Des Moines location, as well as holding rehearsals and private lessons there.

We also opened branch locations in Pleasant Hill and on Lower Beaver Road.

We loved being able to provide better access to our customers from the east and north sections of Des Moines, but eventually focused our efforts on locationis in western and southern Des Moines..


Debbie developed the choreography and staging for our spring performance.  She also created a performing group that entertained extensively in the central Iowa area.

In 1979 Betty and Debbie opened "Stage 3," a teen disco.  Debbie was the manager and trained her "Disco Ladies" performing group not only as performers, but as deejays.

Betty handled the business end of the disco and started a talent showcase for aspiring local performers.  One of her performers was local celebrity Ben Ulin, magician and comedian.  Betty gave him his first performing job! 


It didn't take long for community leaders to look for a theatrical space to fill the void KRNT's demise had left, and by the end of the decade the Des Moines Civic Center was conceived, constructed, and ready for performances.

We were the first group to rent the Civic Center when it opened, and we've held our spring performances there ever since.

We've held our recitals in this magnificent midwest theater for over four decades, and our students have had the joy and pride that comes from dancing on the same stage as the nation's greatest theatrical performers.

Our families are able to see their own children perform in the same theater that houses the best touring companies from Broadway.  There's nothing like it!


During this era Betty expanded the Theatrical Shop and at one time had branch locations in Ames and Iowa City.

Betty also went into the bridal business and opened "Valley Bride--Tuxedo Junction."  Many of our dancers modeled in bridal style shows, with Debbie writing the copy--a team effort.

Yet Debbie and Betty continued to run the studios together.  It was a classic family business!


Debbie and Betty attended local, regional, and national conventions, in their efforts to become experts in dance, as well as staying on the cutting edge.

For a number of summers, they took their students to study with nationally respected dance professionals.  Our student trips to Minneapolis, New York, Dallas, Las Vegas, Los Angeles,and Kansas City were some of the most fun experiences we had--learning, laughing, and loving what we do!

After Debbie received her MBA she taught at Drake for six years.  Although she enjoy this intellectual and professional challenge, she was ready to leave "the ivory tower."

A corporate career loomed on the horizon, but Debbie decided instead to bring her business management expertise "back home"--back to her family business--but this time as the owner.

With Betty's Valley Junction businesses and properties growing, the time was right to move to the next era of our business.



Our transition was so smooth that many people didn't notice a difference.  For a number of years Betty kept her corporate offices in the Windsor office complex.  She also continued to teach children's classes, and was heavily involved in costuming.

In the early 90's, Betty moved her offices to Valley Junction, and she eventually retired from teaching.  Debbie designed our curriculum, performances and costumes, enhanced by the resources at the Theatrical Shop and Dressmakers.

Betty continued to work with our lighting designer to create the splashy effects at our Civic Center performance.  She also functioned as Debbie's closest confidante.  She'd been through it all!

Read about The Era of "Debbie's Dance Magic:" 1985 to the Present

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