The story of Heartbeat Studios begins with Deborah Lysholm selling everything she owned.
After escaping an abusive marriage, Lysholm sold her home and all of her possessions in 1996 to buy the property in Apple Valley that would become Heartbeat.
“I literally sold everything – I didn’t even own a fork,” said Lysholm, a dancer since age 4 who had been teaching dance classes through School District 196 Community Education prior to opening her own studio.
She and daughter Kristin Freya opened their dance studio in 1998. There were some lean years initially as Lysholm brought her dream to reality.
“I secretly lived in the studio for three years,” she said. “I slept on the lobby sofa. Cardboard boxes in the closet became my dresser.”
What began as a small dance studio, Lysholm said, has blossomed into a full performing arts center, and now offers acting, piano and voice lessons in addition to its array of dance classes. The studio serves about 500 students each year.
Heartbeat is celebrating its 15th anniversary this month with a Jan. 5 performance at Eastview High School.
In addition to Heartbeat’s students, the show at Eastview features four professional tap dancers Lysholm has worked with over the years. They are: Guillem Alonso from Spain, Yukiko Misumi from Japan, Jason Samuels Smith of New York City and Dianne Walker of Boston.
Part of the success of Heartbeat, Lysholm said, has been the relationship building with other dance studios around the globe. Heartbeat has “sister studios” in Barcelona, Milan and Geneva. And over the years Lysholm has taken groups of her students to perform at venues in Japan, Spain and England.
Highlights of her 15 years at Heartbeat, she said, include studying under tap legend Gregory Hines, and staging a dance adaptation of “Star Wars” with the blessing of George Lucas.
The best part, though, has been watching her students develop.
“The main reason I’m in business is to provide a place to build self-esteem and self-confidence,” she said. “Many of my students now are the kids of former students. I call myself a ‘studio grandma.’ ”
The 15th anniversary performance at Eastview is at 7 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 5. Tickets are on sale at the dance studio and also will be available at the door.
More about Heartbeat is at www.heartbeat-studios.com.