Deborah Lysholm gave up everything to start Heartbeat Studios – even her home.
After fleeing an abusive marriage – and launching the first-ever domestic violence trial in civil court – Lysholm sold her home and all of her possessions in 1996 to buy the property on 145th Street in Apple Valley that would become Heartbeat.
When she and her daughter Kristin Freya opened the studio in 1998, Lysholm describes it as a “dream that became reality.” But there were some lean times at the outset, with Lysholm, still homeless after the purchase of the studio space, secretly living at Heartbeat the first three years.
A dancer since age 4 who had been teaching dance classes through School District 196 Community Education prior to opening her own studio, Lysholm chronicles her and her daughter’s odyssey from abuse victims to performing arts center directors in her new book, “Dancing to My Heartbeat,” which was published in May by Beaver’s Pond Press.
“The important message of the book is that people in bad situations – mine happened to be domestic violence – can escape them,” Lysholm said. “The book is also about the healing aspects of dance – when you dance, you reclaim who you are, and it just gives you a respite.”
Heartbeat celebrated its 15th anniversary last year. What began as a small dance studio 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.
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.
Some highlights of her 15 years running Heartbeat with her daughter, Lysholm said, include studying under tap legend Gregory Hines and staging a dance adaptation of “Star Wars” with the blessing of George Lucas.
Lysholm does speaking engagements on the subject of domestic violence in addition to continuing to run Heartbeat. The studio’s next dance recitals are June 15-16 at Eastview High School.