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

Studio Hours

M, W, Th: 9a-5p
T: 9a-7p
F: 9a-1p

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

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

PhillipChbeeb 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.

Reflections After Recital

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014

Each year as the recitals come to a close I always take a moment to reflect on the season.  The graduates that leave, the tiny tot that took their first step onto stage, they all leave an impact on us.  This season was a little extra special as I celebrated 25 years of teaching.  Oh wow does that make me feel old!  LOL

Dance has evolved a lot since I began teaching and thankfully, so  have I.  But one thing is still the same, the wonderful excitement I feel when my students come off the stage having a sense of accomplishment that shines through their eyes.  Dance is a simple word, but it goes far beyond the music, steps and technique.  It is about the confidence a child can gain, the discipline they develop, the life-long friendships they build, it is about taking a child and helping him or her find new strengths within.

So as we close out this season and look to the next, make sure to take a moment to see beyond the steps your child learned this year.  Look at what they gained as a person.  It’s about more than dance…

 Miss Tammy