Meet Deborah! The woman who's ready to strike a pose all over Philly!
Meet Deborah! Deborah, a self-proclaimed dance addict from Wisconsin, initially started her career as a journalist. She attended Medill at Northwestern University, graduating with bachelors and masters degrees in journalism in 2004.
“I’m the kind of person who wants to do all the things. I have a hard time relaxing. If I have free time, I fill it!”
So, while working as a daily newspaper reporter, she began pursuing fitness certifications – group exercise, then Zumba, mat Pilates, step aerobics, kickboxing, personal training, barre, yoga and the list goes on….She taught cardio dance classes at 6 a.m., headed to the newspaper office, then ended her night out dancing.
When Deborah moved to Philadelphia in 2008, she taught at a number of gyms around the city, “but it never felt like I was in the right setting. I wanted to create stronger connections with my students and build a community around dance — a place where you could find both technique classes and exhilarating, tough workouts.”
Nothing like that existed in Philly at the time, so Deborah decided to try launching her own studio. She held her first independent classes in a rundown city rec center room in Graduate Hospital in early 2010. Her husband, Seth, helped her make a website and developed a computer program for class registration.
That summer, Deborah also organized the first annual Philadelphia Dance Day, a nonprofit community festival that’s brought hundreds of people together to celebrate the joy of dance. Not long after that, she started another side business teaching wedding dance lessons through sister company Ballroom Bliss.
For the first few years, Deborah juggled full-time reporting & editing jobs with growing her dance businesses. But as the company expanded (along with her family, which now includes three children ages 4, 7 and 9), she left journalism to focus on her first “baby.”
The company has since grown to include about 25 instructors teaching more than 50 classes a week at multiple locations. During the pandemic, the studio immediately pivoted to offer livestream and outdoor classes, which kept them afloat through the hardest months. The studio still offers virtual options in tandem with in-studio classes. In fall 2021, the company also expanded to an intergenerational audience with a full slate of afterschool dance and drama programs. A day camp launches this summer for kids ages 5-12.
“I still can’t get over the amazing community that’s come together through Philly Dance Fitness and the devoted students who endlessly inspire me to work harder.”
Roses and Thorns
“I love the autonomy of being my own boss, but that can also be frustrating. When there’s a big decision, I have to make it. Sometimes it would be a lot easier if someone else called the shots!”
But connecting with people who appreciate the company makes the never-ending to-do lists worthwhile, Deborah says.
“Whenever I get caught up with logistical challenges or worry that our services might be considered ‘trivial,’ I think about how many people of all shapes, sizes, ages and abilities that we’ve brought together through dance. Some of them have made lifelong friends, some have powered through serious fitness goals, some have fulfilled childhood dreams of learning ballet long after they thought that wouldn’t be possible. A couple of former students have even emailed after moving away to tell us how much they miss our classes — I can’t think of better motivation to keep Philly Dance Fitness going than that!”