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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.