Debra Collier's School of Dance
Debra Collier's School of Dance

Studio Hours

    M-Th: 12:30p-9p
    F: 9a-4:30p

Debra Collier's School of Dance Debra Collier's School of Dance Debra Collier's School of Dance

A Dad’s Perspective

Tuesday, September 17th, 2019

I’ve known my daughter was going to be involved in dance pretty much from the day she was born. You see, my wife took lessons from Deb Collier for 18 years and over those almost two decades, she was able to personally experience the value of having dance be such a big part of her life. Those values were undoubtedly going to be passed onto her daughter as soon as she was able to sign her up for classes.

I had no reason to question my wife’s decision to enroll our daughter in dance but the overall life impact? I wasn’t so sure. I mean, come on, it’s just dance, right? Go to a class or two each week, learn how to move to a beat, show off at the annual recital and let summer begin. Sure, she might be able to cut a rug a bit more fluidly than some of her other friends but a significant impact during her formative years? I was skeptical.

It didn’t take long, however, for that skepticism to be swept away. Not only did our daughter learn to tap her feet in rhythm, she learned socialization skills. Being in a class at the age of two made her feel more comfortable in larger groups. She learned to listen and take direction from someone other than her family. Her dance teachers were the first teachers in her life, a fact that can’t be overestimated.

She also enhanced her memorization skills by learning steps, repeating them and then practicing throughout the week. She discovered that physical activity could be more than just exercise – it could be fun and done in concert with her friends. She learned the value of positive reinforcement, constructive criticism and that if she listened closely enough to her teachers, she could create moving art.

She’s made lifelong friends along the way, sharpened her mind and learned to appreciate dance not just as a physical activity but as an art and a way to express herself. Her teachers, the assistants and staff have positively impacted her in immeasurable ways that will continue to influence her throughout her life. And on one wonderful weekend, they all step back and allow her to shine on stage like the princess she is. Sure, we’re all ready for summer to start at that point but pausing to take a moment to let my princess have her moment in the spotlight?  I’ll sign up for that every year.

~ by Tom Westerhof

Why do our staff and students attend CNADM?

Tuesday, July 23rd, 2019

Chicago National Association of Dance Masters (CNADM) offers so many amazing opportunities for our dancers and teachers to grow.  Let’s just start a the beginning of the week…

Our staff can step out of the teachers roles as they attend the CNADM Training School.  This program, only for teachers, focuses on enhancing teaching skills through technique and educational theory.  Having the opportunity to learn the newest teaching techniques and choreography keeps us all inspired and eager to share our knowledge with our students.

Ballet Forum is an amazing five-day ballet intensive where students are immersed in the world of classical ballet, sprinkled with variations, character work, modern, lyrical and more.  Students learn newly commissioned choreography and then perform at the Ballet Gala at the end of the week.  A placement class assures each student is placed in the appropriate level where they will be challenged and can excel.  The exposure to professional classical ballet faculty from around the world gives the students diversity in their training that you cannot find at any other workshop.

Just down the hallway is another opportunity for dancers age 16 and older that want to pursue a career in the field of dance, Dance & More.  With classes designed to help you explore your options in the world of dance and the opportunity to learn artistic choreography to perform at the CNADM annual awards banquet, Dance & More is packed with experience for the advanced dancer to use to broaden their knowledge and push themselves as a dancer.

Three programs down, but the as the weekend approaches CNADM continues to offer more!  Teachers can attend the Convention which provides them with fresh choreography from master teachers from around the country.  For the students, there are seven different levels in the Student Sessions; each of them filled with age and level appropriate technique and choreography to expand their knowledge and build their skills.  The week caps off with a wrap up rally where the dancers and teachers join together to celebrate dance, see fun performances by the yellow class (most advanced Student Session level) and the faculty.  It’s a perfect ending to a week filled with dance, friends and fun!

We asked this year’s attendees a few questions about their experiences.  Read what they had to say below.

What keeps you coming back to Ballet Forum each year?

“I love performing at the Ballet Gala.  Learning the choreography and having a chance to perform in the same week is exciting.”  ~Abi, Ballet Forum Attendee

“I like to push myself and I like to learn.  CNADM gives me the chance to do both.” ~Aly, Ballet Forum Attendee

What makes CNADM different from other conventions you have attended?

“CNADM focuses on education, technique and theory, not just dance steps.  From the Training School for our staff to the Student Honors program for our students, everything is designed to expand your knowledge as a dancer.”  ~Miss Claire

You do not normally take tap and jazz.  Was it hard for you to take those classes?

“Not at all. Jay Fagan (tap teacher) was so encouraging and positive, it made it fun.  And jazz was a blast!  Many of the things I have learned in ballet, modern and contemporary carried over into the other styles and made it easy for me to pick up the choreography.” ~Emma, Student Session Attendee

What do you feel you gain most from Student Session?

“I get to learn so many styles of dance and from so many different teachers.  I like gaining confidence to step into the front and really try everything.  The faculty at CNADM is really encouraging to try things, even if you’re not perfect.  They just want you to learn.”  ~Lauren, Student Session Attendee

Join us at CNADM November 2 & 3, 2019 for the Fall Workshop!

First time attending CNADM ♥

Dance friends make the best friends!

Acknowledge the Positive

Monday, February 2nd, 2015

As dancers we are accustomed to corrections, critiques and goals.  But all too often we become so focused on what we need to improve that we forget to acknowledge what we have accomplished.  While you may be striving for a triple turn, you still need to remember you have your double.  While you may not get the solo you desire, you must allow yourself to recognize that you are in the select company.

This doesn’t mean you don’t embrace the areas that need improvement, but just that you don’t allow those to become your only focus.  Dance is a process, not a single moment.  Acknowledge your accomplishments and allow them to motivate you to pursue your goals.

Pointe work…when to begin

Monday, November 24th, 2014

Pointe work…it can be beautiful, graceful, and elegant…or it can be difficult and dangerous.  How do you make it a positive experience for you or your child?  There is no magic age, no perfect number of years of training, it is a combination of physical strength, control and technique.  Two students of the same age may take the exact same classes each year, yet one may be ready to progress en pointe before the other.  This may be due to a variety of factors.  For instance, if a child’s foot has not slowed or stopped growing, there is significant risk of injury.  Body weight times momentum creates a great deal of force.  Also, if a student does not possess the physical strength to manipulate the pointe shoe or have strong and consistent technique, she will find pointe work to be very discouraging.

One of the most challenging jobs as a dance educator is to tell a young, eager student she is not ready for pointe.  But there are times when that is the only responsible decision to make.  We carefully evaluate students, after they have trained twice a week for a full season, to assess their readiness for pointe work.  If a student shows they are ready to begin pointe work, they are then required to take classes three times a week.  Many parents wonder why this is necessary.  Let me explain.  A ballet student’s progress in soft shoe should not end when they begin pointe work.  We continue to build their technique, knowledge and experience during their weekly Ballet and Ballet Enrichment classes.  Pointe work should begin as a slow, supervised process.  No student should just jump into a 90 minute ballet class in pointe shoes.  Students instead join a Friday technique class and gradually introduce their bodies to pointe.  After all, they are learning how to manipulate new shoes to support their entire body weight on a very small area.  Additionally, a student will not have the necessary strength if they are only training once-a-week.  You wouldn’t expect a basketball player to excel if they only picked up their basketball one day a week, ballet is no different.

Students must first learn the proper way to prepare their shoes, sew their elastics and ribbons, tie their ribbons, etc.  The holiday season always makes me cringe a little bit when I think of this part of the process.  I love how many dance themed gifts are now available, but when I see a music box with a dancer en pointe that is parallel, or a poster of a ballerina whose ribbons are tied on their Achilles tendon or in bows, it does make me bristle.  Worse yet are social media photos of children that clearly do not have the technique to know how to dance en pointe, cannot get over their box, or have on ill-fitting shoes.  Online options to order pointe shoes are great for properly trained students, but are a nightmare for teachers when other students buy them without knowing how to use them.

Laura Rodriguez, manager of Standing Ovation Performance Apparel shares, “Pointe shoe fit is very personalized. The fit depends on the proportions of the foot, how much the foot compresses when en pointe, the relative strength of the dancer’s feet and legs, weight, and more.  This is why it is so important to have them professionally fit. The dancer’s teacher can be a vital tool in this process, as they are often the best judge of the dancer’s strengths, weaknesses, and technique.  The bones of the foot are not fully developed, strengthened, or hardened until sometime in the teenage years. The growth rate of girls from ages 11-14 vary widely. If a young dancer attempts pointe work without proper strength and technique, there is a chance she will permanently damage those not fully developed bones.”

So what is a parent to do? First off, make sure your child is training with a certified, experienced teacher.  Then trust them.  We only have your child’s best interest in mind.  We want to help them attain their goals in a safe and positive way.  Below are a few key points and photos to help you understand things to look for and to help your child through this aspect of their dance journey.  Above all, if you ever have any questions about your child’s progress ask their teacher.  We see them every week and know their strengths and weaknesses.   Let us help you navigate the world of ballet.

  • Students should not begin pointe work until their feet are no longer rapidly growing.
  • A pointe program should require a student to train multiple times a week to gain proper strength and technique.
  • A student’s foot must be able to sustain a position that will allow them to stay “over the box” of a pointe shoe.

Pointe placement


There is a correct way to attach and tie pointe shoe ribbons.  Ribbons should never be tied on the Achilles tendon or in a bow.




How the Right Dance Class Can Positively Influence Your Preschooler

Tuesday, October 14th, 2014

Parenting would be so much easier if it came with a manual, a how-to of tried-and-true routes for raising a confident, well-adjusted child in this busy world.  When looking for activities for a child, many parents might think of team sports or music lessons first, but there are several reasons why the right dance class could be a better confidence builder for your child.   From the coordination and musicality to the performance aspect, dance provides numerous opportunities for your child to find self-confidence and a sense of accomplishment.

When a child’s class is designed to work specifically with their motor skills and attention span, they easily find success in discovering the joy of dance.  Themes, such as Fairy Tales or Join the Circus, where dance is presented through corresponding activities are a great way to engage  young children and spark their imaginations.  When a child enters a classroom that has been transformed into a big top, you can see the excitement in their eyes.  To an adult, it may look like a balance beam, but to a child it quickly becomes their high-wire act.  When gallops and marches become the choreography of prancing ponies, you can see their confidence soar.  Each song and activity is designed to give young children the opportunity to discover movement and dance in a very attainable way.  They gain confidence through each accomplishment.

From the small moments in a classroom where the foundation of self-confidence is built, to the moment they step onto a stage in front of hundreds of people, dance can help students begin their journey to building a strong self-esteem and belief in what they can accomplish.  Consider enrolling your child in a dance class that is designed just for them.  You might end up granting them a lifelong passion and while building their confidence too!


When is too late to start to dance?

Wednesday, September 10th, 2014


The answer is simply never.  Dance is universal and ageless.  It can provide benefits to dancers of all ages and levels.  Let’s take a look at just a few dancers that did not start their journey until their teens and after.

Misty Copeland didn’t start ballet until she was 13 years old.  Two years later she accepted a full scholarship to the San Francisco Ballet’s summer intensive and quickly earned another scholarship to the American Ballet Theatre’s summer intensive program.  She was then selected as one of six dancers chosen from the 150 participants to join ABT.  By 2007 she had earned the position as an ABT soloist, only the second time such a title had been held by an African-American ballerina.


It wasn’t until college that Michael Wood stepped into the world of dance.  While looking into colleges with strong musical theater programs, he took the chance to audition for Oklahoma City University’s dance program, even though he had no formal training.  What he found was a passion for performing that lead to a career as a tap dancer.  Traveling around the world and performing on tours such as Riverdance, he has seen what the world of dance has to offer.

Michael Wood

Michael Wood

David Zurak didn’t take his first dance class until he was 23 years old.  He was actually focused on academics, earning a degree in electrical engineering from McMaster University in Ontario.  But in college he saw a dance performance by Canadian soloist Peggy Baker, his first opportunity to ever have exposure to the theater, and the spark with lit.   After graduation he combined his discipline, focus, commitment and drive and took as many classes as he could in ballet, modern and jazz.  He describe himself at this stage as, “Uncoordinated and not flexible in any way, but with supreme joy in my heart.  I began a painful and tumultuous journey that would eventually land me in New York as a leading dancer in the Martha Graham Dance Company.”

David Zurak

David Zurak

Phillip Chbeeb actually was more interested in sports than anything else as a child, but when a sports injury took him to the sidelines he used the opportunity to take a chance on dance.  That was a wise choice given that his journey led him to become a season 5 contestant on So You Think You Can Dance, a member of the winning crew, I.aM.mE, from season 6 of America’s Best Dance Crew and on to appearances in the movie Step Up 4.  This popper from Indianapolis, Indiana can also be seen as the dancer on Ed Sheeran’s “Don’t” video and in the Taylor Swift “Shake It Off” video.


Phillip Chbeeb



As you can see, these dancers and many others did not start dancing as young children, yet found the passion and drive to turn their late starts into successes.  So it is never to late to start to dance.  At DCSD we will assure you are placed in an age appropriate class for your level, so take the chance…you never know where your path may take you.


Importance of Continuing Education for Teachers

Monday, June 23rd, 2014

Miss Deb has always encouraged continuing education for our staff.  From attending the Teacher Training and Conventions held annually by the Chicago National Association of Dance Masters, to working with master teachers the studio hosts, she encourages all of us to expand our knowledge of not just dance, but teaching dance.   Last week she arranged for our teaching staff to have a two-hour private session with Diane Gudat.  It was a wonderful time of learning new teaching techniques, sharing experiences and inspiration.

The world of dance is always evolving, so the aspect of teaching dance has to grow too.   As dancers begin to understand their anatomy better, the science of dance changes.  As styles of dance expand, so must what we teach.  As dance educators we have to stay current with the changes from every direction, that is why continuing education is so important.   But, not all programs are created equal.  Throughout the years, our studio has attended many conventions, training programs and seminars.  We have found some focus more on combinations and others focus more on education.   It is important for teachers to pursue knowledge that will enhance their students’ training, not just learn steps.

There are wonderful organizations that focus on education, teachers just have to seek them out.  As dance educators we must remember that it is not enough just to have a love of dance.  We must take it farther.   We must continually expand our own knowledge and ability to teach.