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Debbi's Dance Etc. Story
In a phone conversation between Suzi Gilbertson and her niece Debbi Halfhill many years ago, a spontaneous comment…”let's open a dance studio” led to the conception of Suzi & Debbi's Dance Center! In a 600 square foot, one room building in the heart of Lacey the studio opened up in July 1976.

Enjoying a family partnership for five years, the studio expanded into Suzi's Dance Center on the west side of town and Debbi's Dance Etc. operating in the Lacey/Olympia area. Quickly growing out of her location in what was then the South Sound Mall, Debbi's Dance moved to a larger facility on Pacific Avenue.

Many wonderful events & student accomplishments happened from that hub, including a Cultural Dance tour of Australia & New Zealand; being named (twice) Dance Studio of the Year at I Love Dance Nationals in Las Vegas, NV; Star Search Semi-finalists Sparkle x 3 and many wonderful community performances, competition successes and everyone's favorite….the annual recitals!

In the summer of 1996, the studio moved to its current location at 6715 Martin Way East.The staff grew, adding diversity and a comprehensive level of training. The dancers reached levels of accomplishment never imagined in those beginning years, finding their way onto professional stages around the world.

In a surprise conversation on a trip back from a competition, Debbi suggested to Andrea Patton that it might be time for her to take the reins and a new journey began. Andrea and Debbi agreed that Michelle Hager would be the perfect duo partner and another memorable conversation took place! The 2008 recital, Dancing Through Time, marked Debbi's last as owner/director. The torch was passed to Andrea & Michelle that July and they met the challenge with excitement, positive energy, and an abundance of enthusiasm. The studio continues to thrive under their leadership; growing from three to four dance rooms and providing an artistic, fun and positive dance experience for the next generation.

Debbi moved to Las Vegas, works for Illusion Projects (alumna Holli (Moss) Clothier's husband, Tim), teaches tap at Heather's Dance Life (owned by Alumna Heather (Shanahan) Gordon), continues to perform in the dance troupe, “Aliante Steppers,” and enjoys visits from alumni. Aunt Suzi passed away in March 2015, she is remembered by family, friends and a myriad of students with whom she shared her love of dance.

Here are some of Debbi's Dance Etc. alumni who have danced professionally:

Ronelle Russell-Banfield - all ages dance studio in Olympia, WA
Ronelle Russell-Banfield - Ronelle holds the title of our very first professional dancer! Leaving Olympia at the age of 19, Ronelle traveled to Nassau, Bahamas where her 13 year career as a Jazz and Acrobatic dancer began. She dance in several production at the Paradise Island Resort and Casino "Le Cabaret" Theater ... Read more
Amy Warren-Genovese - all ages dance studio in Olympia, WA
Amy Warren-Genovese - Amy began her career in 1991 dancing at the Horizon Hotel in Lake Tahoe. She moved on to dance in Spellbound in Atlantic City and Harrahs, Las Vegas before joining the yearlong Spellbound World Tour, dancing in 25 German cities, Switzerland, Seoul, Korea and Manila, the Philippines. Amy has ... Read more
Holly Moss - all ages dance studio in Olympia, WA
Holly Moss - After obtaining her Associates Degree, Holly moved to Las Vegas and joined the cast of Jubilee! at Ballys Hotel where she remained from 1999 to 2002. Working nights and going to school days, Holly became a Licensed Masseuse and currently works for the Spa at the MGM Grand Hotel. Holly has made her home in ... Read more
Shelley DeBoer - all ages dance studio in Olympia, WA
Shelley DeBoer - One of our infamous Star Search semi-finalists, Shelley began her professional dance career aboard Norwegian Cruise Lines' Southward. She moved on to cruise on NCL's Seaward before accepting a position as a featured acrobatic-dancer with Mystique, a Dick Foster production. Beginning at Harrah's Hotel ... Read more
Chey Smith - all ages dance studio in Olympia, WA
Chey Smith - After graduating Timberline High in 1990, Chey left for her first dance job on Paradise Island and the Bahamas. Wanting to continue to see the world, Chey joined the cast of Circa Las Vegas for a tour of South America followed by a contract in Arizona with the show Latin Fire! Moving to Las Vegas, Chey has found ... Read more
Jamie Keating - all ages dance studio in Olympia, WA
Jamie Keating - After graduation in 1994, Jamie moved to Reno, Nevada. Her first professional dance position was at the Horizon Hotel & Casino in Lake Tahoe in the show Phantasy, a magic review. She began to learn the art of illusion and, being petite and gorgeous, has grown to be an accomplished Illusionist Assistant!... Read more
Kim Murphy - all ages dance studio in Olympia, WA
Kim Murphy - Dancer, actor AND singer, Kim has far too many dance and film credits to list here. Update September 2006! Catch Kim on “Cold Case” in October! The highlights these past 10 years have been acting with Sinbad in Houseguest, starring in the TV series Level 9 as ‘Sosh', playing an ongoing part in the TV hit Cybill, making ... Read more
Cherrise Gadd-Pawlak - all ages dance studio in Olympia, WA
Cherrise Gadd-Pawlak - Cherrise began her professional dance career onboard the Norwegian Majesty. She then went on to perform as a singer/dancer and adagio-dancer with Holland America Cruise Lines onboard the New Amsterdam. After cruising Bermuda, the Caribbean and the Panama Canal, Cherrise returned to the states, ... Read more
Melissa Hortin - all ages dance studio in Olympia, WA
Melissa Hortin - Melissa has spent 5 years with Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines! She has danced on the Sovereign, Grandeur, Voyager, Explorer, Brilliance, Adventure and Navigator of the Seas. Melissa has performed in 16 different full length shows and has been a featured soloist, vocalist and served as Line Captain! Her ... Read more
Jaffar Smith - all ages dance studio in Olympia, WA
Jaffar Smith - The adorable “baby brother” of Chey, Jaffar is currently making his mark in the Hip Hop scene in L. A. and on tour. Beginning in 1998 as a member of Culture Shock, the infamous Hip Hop ensemble both in Las Vegas and San Diego, Jaffar quickly became a part time choreographer. He danced and choreographed ... Read more
Meghan Gilstrap - all ages dance studio in Olympia, WA
Meghan Gilstrap - In September 2001, Meghan took her first professional position dancing for Jean Ann Ryan Productions on the Norwegian Star during the Inaugural Season. She worked as a featured gymnast and web performer and, of course, dancer! She then moved to Las Vegas where she worked at the Rio Show in ... Read more
Amanda Sherry - all ages dance studio in Olympia, WA
Amanda Sherry - In the year 2000 Amanda began her professional dance career in the Brett Daniels show Journey into the Unknown in Memphis, Tennessee. She was then hired by Greg Thompson Productions for their Laughlin, Nevada show Bewitched. In 2001, Amanda was hired by Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines as a ... Read more
Jason Hortin - all ages dance studio in Olympia, WA
Jason Hortin - Jason graduated UNLV 2005 with a degree in dance with a Ballet/Modern dance focus. He performed The Human Show created by Kari Margois of the Marglois-Brown Company summer of 2003 for the Fringe Festival in Scotland. He also performed with the Mink-Colbert Ballet ... Read more
Vy Nguyen - all ages dance studio in Olympia, WA
Vy Nguyen - After graduating from Olympia High School, Vy went on to attain her BA in English Literature at WWU. While in college, she danced with the WWU hip-hop dance team and also the Seattle-based hip-hop group, Phyzical GraFFi-T. Shortly after her college graduation, Vy was signed by Van Son ... Read more
Lauren Bacon - all ages dance studio in Olympia, WA
Lauren Bacon - Lauren has worked as an Assistant Coordinator, Production Coordinator and Production Manager for countless TV commercials, Music Videos, Industry Films, and Feature Television! She began her career in 1998 in Los Angeles, CA where she continues to reside. Lauren ... Read more
Natalie Walstead - all ages dance studio in Olympia, WA
Natalie Walstead - Natalie is our most recent professional! Landing her first job at her very first audition, Natalie holds the record for getting that “magic” phone call. She was offered a contract within 3 days! Natalie will be dancing onboard RCCL's Monarch of the Seas, cruising the Mexican ... Read more