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


Debbie became owner of our studios in 1985.  Her mission was, and still is, to bring the families of Greater Des Moines a new standard of dance excellence, based on an all-American approach with clean-cut music, dances, and costumes.

Blending her expertise and training in education, business, and dance, Debbie devoted herself to our studios, with a "quality, appropriate, and happy" experience as her priority.

As technology and dance styles have changed, we have added to our curriculum and to our performances, but not at the expense of what is in the best interest of our families.

Thirty years later, a quality, appropriate, and happy dance experience is still Debbie's vision.  We bring our families lessons and performances ranging from "the basics" for our littlest dancers to cutting-edge and Broadway pizzazz for our oldest performers.

One of the first things on Debbie's agenda was to remodel our Windsor Studios, utilizing her former home as a main office.

She moved the receptionist area into the former living room, converted "Studio 2" back into a classroom, established a sound studio in one of the former bedrooms, and redecorated throughout.

Debbie created a new logo using her color scheme of hot pink, black, and white and repainted all of our studios with her "new look."

Coining the phrase "Dance Magic" and establishing her "roots and wings" philosophy, Debbie built on the rich traditions established by her mother, adding her own style, creativity, and professionalism.


Next Debbie moved our South Studio to its 6007 SW location.  This gave our students a larger classroom, a spacious lobby, a dressing room, and a separate office.

For several years we held photo sessions here, as well as rehearsals and classes with guest teachers.  We were pleased to have such a beautiful studio for our SDM families.


As Debbie's leadership in the dance community grew, she was increasingly asked to participate in community events.

Debbie was also in demand for custom choreography and to direct performing projects.

When the Iowa Lottery was approved in 1985, plans began for a kick-off event at the Iowa State Fair Grandstand.  Lottery Director Ed Stanek hired Debbie to choreograph the opening number!

Lottery officials were thrilled with the results
and asked Debbie to choreograph a commercial for the first scratch game. 

Seven of Debbie's dancers learned her routine to "7, 11, 21,"
the theme song to the opening game, to be revealed at the Fair.

Debbie's choreography and dancers were also
featured in the television campaign,
filmed at Busby Studios--
a great experience for our dancers.

Debbie had worked with boys in directing high school musicals, teaching break dancing, and directing the "Valley Dancers."  Building on that experience, she created "The Boys Club," a series of "boys only" classes that exploded in popularity.

With an emphasis on athletics and musicality, the advent of music videos helped her propel her program into one of the largest programs for recreational boys dance in the nation, with as many as 99 boys age 3 to 18 enrolled in our classes.


Having boys in our studios also made it possible for us to offer partnering classes, unheard of in the Midwest unless part of a classical ballet company.

Debbie added footwork, lifts, and stunts from ballroom, cheerleading, and ballet, which gave our partners a well-rounded experience and tremendous audience appeal.

This also gave us an advantage in local, regional, and national competitions.  Many of our championship dances have featured male performers, including our Bill Riley Talent Sprout winners.  This was an especially proud moment for Debbie, because she had performfed a partnering duet with one of our male dancers in the Bill Riley Talent Competition, as well as touring with Bill to county fairs throughout Iowa and performing on Bill's weekly television show.

Debbie also added many new programs to our studio offerings, the first of which was DANCE CAMP.  Many studios offered summer classes, as we had done, but no one had used the phrase "Dance Camp."

Creating a daytime camp for boys and girls was revolutionary and was an instant success.  We offered a variety of dance styles, singing, choreography training, "Mr. Microphone," and Dance TV.

Our students raved, and we made it a summer tradition, adding mall performances and shows at the Iowa State Fair.

Three decades later it is still one of our most successful programs.



Our dancers love to perform!

When area malls began encouraging local groups to perform during the holidays, Debbie wanted to sign her team up, but the few dance groups Debbie saw were performing dances from their spring recitals.  Purple and orange sequin costumes with choreography to rap and pop music just didn't fit the Christmas spirit.


Based on the clean-cut "Debbie skirts" we had worn for our summer shows, Debbie created an entire show featuring holiday musical favorites.

We had Frosty, and Santa, and snow--yippee!

With dances ranging from sentimental to smashing, we turned, clapped, and jumped to the best music of the holidays, and we've never seen anything like it!

This joyful and energetic Christmas tradition has become an important part of the dance heritage of our families.

Former dancers in their 30's and 40's have come back to us and said that performing in our Christmas Shows has had a lasting influence on their lives.

Some have said that when "Happy Holidays" or "Little Saint Nick" start playing in a restaurant, they feel like jumping out of their seats and boppin' to the beat, cuz

" 'Tis the Season to be DANCING!"


Debbie believes strongly in a diverse education, and began bringing nationally acclaimed guest teachers to our studios.

One of our favorite guest teachers was Laurie Gamache, a Valley graduate who was in Debbie's "Valley Dancers" performing group.  Laurie is most well-known for performing the lead role of Cassie on Broadway in "A Chorus Line," the iconic Broadway musical about the life of a dancer "on the line."

Our dancers had the opportunity to learn part of the authentic Broadway choreography from this classic show.

Debbie also took our students to local, regional, and national conventions from Minneapolis to Dallas, and from New York to Las Vegas and Los Angeles.

Our students have attended Dance Caravan, Dance Olympus, Young Americans, Dance Excellence, Dance Masters, and many more, taking classes from national, and even internationally acclaimed teachers.


Diversity is at the heart of our studios, and as we've evolved Debbie has also added a broad range of classes to our curriculum.

As our dancers grow older, they are able to take multiple dance styles.  We have classes in combination ballet and tap, jazz, lyrical, acrobatics, hip hop, classical ballet, and pointe, with invitational classes in partnering and dance team.  Add to that our Boys Club, Dance Camps, State Fair Shows, and Christmas Shows.

This range of classes gives our dancers the flexibility, confidence, and discipline that come from multiple opportunities in an activity they love! 

As we reached the millenium, we rebuilt our West Des Moines Studio, adding a double classroom, a large lobby, a dressing room, and ample parking.  This has allowed us to hold back-to-back class offerings, as well as schedule master classes, major rehearsals, and studio photos at WDM.    
Debbie also built on her advanced training in technology to increase our customer service with our advanced database and content-rich web site.
Our technology rocks!

We have sophisticated music editing using professional music software.  Debbie edits every song we use in our performances, allowing us to have mixes and "mash-ups" which are customized for our dances.

Debbie also checks lyrics and eliminates any music that is not appropriate for general audiences, using the "best bits" from recorded tracks, making our shows fast-paced with high audience appeal.

Debbie and her son John have collaborated on blending puppetry and video clips, creating "Debbiegrams."

This is yet another use of creativity in our constant evolution to be on the cutting edge of dance education.



In the last few years, Debbie's life has expanded to include managing the Theatrical Shop, Dressmakers, Roses, and several properties in Valley Junction.

A preservationist and historian, Debbie served on the Historic Valley Junction Board of Directors as President, and has been on both steering committees of the Historic West Des Moines Master Plan.  She was named one of the "Top 17 of 2017," and received a Governor's Volunteer Award for her work in Historic Valley Junction.

She's put her own creative spin on these new worlds, adding special events to the Theatrical Shop calendar, and giving her dance teams an opportunity to serve as ambassadors for Valley Junction.

Debbie believes this is an exciting time for our studios and dancers as we collaborate to bring fun and cheer to our community.   


    But the heart of Debbie's life still remains at our studios.  Throughout the decades,
Debbie has taught literally thousands of boys and girls, teens, and adults.
She's taught nearly every dance style, from private lessons to 
workshops with hundreds of participants.

Some of Debbie's dancers have gone on to professional careersperforming on Broadway, in Las Vegas, in modern and ballet companies, recording companies, and beyond.

It is rewarding to any teacher to see students become professionals!


Most of Debbie's students, however, have been "regular kids" who have discovered the fun, joy, and confidence that Debbie's program at Betty Hill Dance can bring. 

The benefit of dance for these students is equally as great, giving them
 self-esteem, work ethic, and relationships that last a lifetime.


 Add to that the life-long friendships, the family memories,
 and the artistic heritage
that our studios bring to our dancers--


 and you have Debbie's DANCE MAGIC!

Return to our "History" page.


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