11 January 2008

Debra Miller's World of Dance

I have 9 years of ballet and tap lessons under my belt from Debra Miller's World of Dance. The photo from the right was taken in June of 1985, "The Wee Rockettes", I was 6 & just finished up 1st grade. This was my third recital at Miss Debbie's (as we called her), and I had 6 more to go.
Miss Debbie was crowned Miss Columbia Heights of 1976. In the dance studio was a portrait depicting her royalty, her long flowing brunette hair with tiara and sash and a velvet blue robe over her shoulders. She was beautiful. As I got older I always giggled when dads would come and watch our classes thinking that they were probably there to watch Miss Debbie.
My years spent in that carnation pink walled dance studio are bittersweet. I was kind of an odd little girl; an only child, very contemplative and I talked to myself a lot. While I do believe that I had a gift for dance, I think Miss Debbie was puzzled by me and wasn't sure what to do, so she just let me be. That aloofness was hurtful and made going to dance a little tough at times, but I really loved the recitals, so I stuck it out.

Every year we had a Christmas recital, in red and green leotards, tights, and legwarmers we danced to "Jingle Bell Rock" and "We Need a Little Christmas" at the local VFW hall. Afterwords we all gathered around a couple of tables and shared Christmas Cookies and punch. Then Miss Debbie's husband, Bob, would come out dressed as Santa Clause distributing gifts to all the dancers. This recital was okay, but for me it meant that I was at the halfway mark to The Final Recital. This was my favorite and why I stuck out the aloof MIss Debbie all year long.

The Recital was in the local high school auditorium and hundreds of dancing girls ages 3 - 18 huddled in the cafeteria/dressing room and Got Ready. The older girls cordoned off their section of the cafeteria with bed sheets as walls which made them very mysterious and interesting to us little ones. We would imagine them eating up their downtimelounging around giggling and changing the colored rubber bands on their braces. Our downtie was spent playing Candyland and Shoots and Ladders. The cafeteria held garment rack after garment rack filled with costumes, accessories, and little ballet and tap shoes. There were tables with a make-up station for each of us. Miss Debbie required that we all wear blue eye shadow, mascara, rosy blush and dark pink lipstick. I knew how to apply mascera by the time I was 9 thanks to Miss Debbie. The costumes were elaborate and typically handmade by our mothers. In the last 4 years of dance lessons from Miss Debbie, I expanded from tap and ballet to Jazz & Hawaiian. Yes, Hawaiian. Probably not too authentic coming from a little hole in the wall dance studio in Minnesota, but we did wear leys and our costumes were made from Hawaiian Print fabrics, and that's the closest some Minnesotans got to Hawaii in the 1980s.

The make-up, the costumes, and the cafeteria dressing room were a piece of what made The Recital so exciting for me. Waiting in the wings and watching the class whose dance was before us was another piece. But stepping onto stage, feeling the lights come up (always with my eyes squinched closed as tightly as possible) and then the first steps of our Recital Dance routine was the biggest excitement for me. I relished those minutes dancing on stage, they always seemed to go too fast and the minute they were over I began looking forward to next year. The Recital that is, not the classes.



  1. Oh, you were so adorable! I can feel your enthusiasm just sparkling out of that picture! I'm sorry Miss Debbie never could see you the way you needed her to see you, but it sounds like you got some really valuable Life Experiences out of her lackadaisical-ness. I mean this in no condescending way: this is a precious memory. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Thank you for sharing your dancing memories! I too was a little dancer, all the way up through high school. While I worked hard to enjoy practices and rehearsals, there was nothing like recitals. The rush of dashing on stage, it was amazing and I really miss it.


  3. Oh so cute! I love this post.

    I alwasys wished to be a little dancer but I was super clumsy and my parents weren't into it and it was too expensive or something.

    Did you get get a proper dance picture every year? Like in a mirrored corner with a fancy outfit? I was always so jealous of those. :)

  4. Thanks for the nice words, ladies. This is one of my favorite posts and I'm glad you liked it too.

  5. I am 10 years old and I go to debra millers world of dance and this is my 7 year of dance but my favorite part is going on the stage at the competitions Because I Know I work so hard to be there and do the best i can also Miss Debbie Still has the picture in her office (the pagent picture)Thanks for sharing Your story
    But I always LOVE going to the classes because I know Im 1 step closer to my dream..
    I love Miss Debbie and Miss Mellissa (her daughter)
    xoxo Danielle

  6. You couldn't have painted a better picture of how it was dancing growing up. I did we rockets for the christmas show one year (it was the last time at the VFW before she changed it to the studio for years to come) So we probley were not in the same class, but that was one of my first years there too.

  7. Hi i am 98 yrs old and I was in dance For 86 years and I did go to Debra Millers World Of Dance for 10 years but I don't think she was alive when i came out of my moms stomach! I went to her basement first Cause that is where she started! I always thought I was gonna become famous but of coarse that didn't happen

  8. I totally danced at Debbie's and felt a little odd as well, but I love it and still do and now I'm starting a dance class in a low income neighborhood in Minneapolis.I was so happy to read about your dance experience it brought all of the warmth of dancing back.
    Thanks for sharing

  9. I was also apart of her group! Miss Debbie was one of the biggest influences in my life. She's a great woman!