Debbie Reynolds Studio: A Treasured Legacy in the Balance

Debbie Reynolds Studio: A Treasured Legacy in the Balance.

A little more than a month ago I was riding in the car with a friend of mine who teaches at Debbie Reynolds Studio in North Hollywood.

We were headed to Staples Center for something totally unrelated when he mentioned,” Hey Luckie, did I tell you that Debbie Reynolds is going to be auctioned off?” It had to settle in for a millisecond but then I snapped back to reality after considering what he was saying and the catastrophic effect it would have on the dance community, local and around the world.

As I sat in awe, Derrick began to pull up the link that he read when he found out the news. We looked on and right there in bold Internet print, it said that Debbie Reynolds entire estate would be up for auction October 7th which included the ranch and the dance studio amongst other things.

Most recently, the staff at DR has adopted new social media campaigns and upgrades like multiple lighting effects into the studios to continue serving the community. Their followers have gone up tremendously on social media; acquiring a worldwide audience of dance fanatics. From the outside looking in, it felt like Debbie Reynolds passing triggered a renewed energy in the studio and a promising future to come.

I started asking everyone I knew if they had some sort of insight into what the buzz was around the studio. Some people had heard about the building possibly being auctioned and others had no idea, but everyone had the same reaction. What will we do and where will we go?

Meet Dana Rosenthal. She worked at DR for about 7 years as an instructor and the office manager.

If there’s anyone that could shine a light on the genuine connection the studio shares with instructors and students, it would be her. 

“Debbie Reynolds’ Dance Studio going up for auction is completely devastating. It’s one of the loves of my life and my LA home.  It’s helped shape my career and greatly influences who I am today as a dancer, entrepreneur and adult woman.  

I heard that the auction occurred on October 7 and this historic gem was sold to an unknown individual who supposedly plans to keep it as is until he figures out what to do with it.  Not sure what the final sale price was but the asking price was 6.15 million dollars.  To be honest, Debbie Reynolds’ Dance Studio is priceless and no amount of money in the world would add up to the value of the studio and its impact on the entire professional dance industry. 

The best scenario is that the Debbie Reynolds’ Dance Studio stays intact as the amazing studio it already is and has been for almost 40 years!  Whether it’s run by the new owner or a group of dancers or celebrities, I pray that that name stays the same to preserve Debbie Reynolds’ legacy and the history of every dancer’s story that began there. 

The existence of Debbie Reynolds’ Dance Studio has shaped almost every professional dancers’ career and every dancers’ story begins with Debbie Reynolds’ Studio. Whether they took their first LA class there, taught their LA first class, booked their first audition, booked their agent, met friends, significant others, life-long connections and simply received the BEST professional dance training in the world. 

The absence of Debbie Reynolds dance studio in future dancers’ lives will have a huge & destructive impact on the professional dance industry. 

There are many differences, which sets Debbie Reynolds’ dance studio apart from the other LA dance studios. The main reason is dancers go to Debbie Reynolds’ studio to train. Simply to become better dancers and enhance their careers. Dancers go to many other LA studios just to get known, make connections, get on TV, get on YouTube and just to dance with other well-known dancers. The other studios have instructors who “teach” or show choreography for impressive purposes and to make YouTube videos for their own personal gain. Debbie Reynolds Studio has authentic teachers and veterans in the entertainment industry skilled in teaching and training dancers. They don’t just teach dance moves but also the ways of the industry by talking about their own experiences, tools needed for auditions, class etiquette and professionalism.     

Another important thing that sets Debbie Reynolds Studio apart from other studios is that the walls are comforting, covered in professional history of actors, performers and dancers who have graced the hallways of Debbie Reynolds Studio and much of Debbie Reynolds’ professional accomplishments. Roberta and Margie from the front office are friendly, comforting and take care of all their teachers and students. 

Teachers and students often hang out in the lounge, in the hallway, on the front porch before and after class because they don’t want to leave and enjoy talking and hanging out with each other in between classes. 

Dancers make connections from all over the world because they come to dance a Debbie Reynolds dance studio from Japan, Poland, Mexico, Spain, Netherlands and all over the world.  There’s even a miniature flag display at the studio to represent all the countries where dancers come to train at Debbie Reynolds’ Studio. 

The studio isn’t only for professional dancers either. There’s a whole program at Debbie Reynolds for adult beginning dancers, recreational dancers and youth dancers. It’s also a rehearsal studio for everybody from actors to professional artists such as Justin Timberlake, Rihanna and Chris Brown.  Many Celebrities even take classes there such as Drew Barrymore, Nicole Scherzinger, Felicity Huffman, Zoey Deschanel and more! 

(Michael Jackson “Thriller” music video rehearsals at Debbie Reynolds Studios) 

My dance story has certainly been impacted & created by Debbie Reynolds’ Dance Studio.  I wouldn’t have a dance career or be who I am without it.  The studio shaped me as a dancer, performer, lead me to all of my professional credits and ultimately guided me in starting my own dance studio.  As soon as I moved to LA summer of 2006 I began taking classes at Debbie Reynolds’ and I felt home.  By January 2017 I became a work-study, started working in the office and was able to take any class and train on a regular basis. Shortly after I was pulled over to the other desk and became the main night manager in the office for the next 7 years. I ultimately learned how to run a dance studio and have since run multiple studios in Chicago including my own currently.   

Aside from dancing, performing and learning the business side of dance, Debbie Reynolds’ Studio gave me the platform to teach in LA. I started teaching beginning adult hip-hop classes in 2007 and to this day my Saturday class 12:30 pm was the best class I’ve ever taught in my life!  About 20 to 30 dancers came to dance with me on a regular basis and it was just a Saturday afternoon dance party. Towards the end of my LA journey, I was often depressed and my Saturday class really kept me going and happy. 

I also developed close relationships and friendships with many of my beginning adult students.  I’m still in contact with many of my students from Debbie Reynolds from the past 10 years.  They used to come support my LA performances and every time I go back to visit California now we catch up and have dinner together. One student Caroline has been one of my closet friends since meeting her in my adult hip hop class and she introduced me to Occidental College where she used to attend and work at. I ended up teaching College hip-hop courses and coached the dance team which were both dream come true accomplishments. 

Not only has my connections at Debbie Reynolds Studio helped me and my dance career, I have also had the privilege of guiding multiple dancers in the right direction due to my connections.  I was able to help new teachers subclasses and start their teaching careers, I was able to connect students with the right teachers for the right projects, and I’m fortunate enough to help Chicago dancers with their transition to LA by sending them to Debbie Reynolds’ Studio for the best training! 

The biggest devastation of all from Debbie Reynolds’ Studio going up for auction is that I lost my dream of owning it one day. For the last 11 years, it was my personal goal to own & run Debbie Reynolds’ studio one day. Unfortunately, it got sold before I was able to make my millions of dollars.  Not only is my dream shattered, the fate of the studio is now in the hands of someone who isn’t connected to it and has no idea how much it means to so many people. This a terrifying thought and I hope the right thing is done and Debbie Reynolds’ studio doesn’t disappear for good. “

So where are we now? I found another article about the estate auction on that gave a brief mention of what happened with the studio.

After reading the articles, they still left me with so many questions about where the direction of the studio would go and if the person who owns it has any interest in continuing the phenomenal work that has already been started.

Where will this community of dancers move to? Now that Millennium is no longer on Lankershim and Magnolia, what original landmarks and iconic studios still exist? Are we losing the foundation and fabric of the dance community in North Hollywood to new development and real estate?

Will there still be that down-home, loving, community of people that share their artistic journey in a neighborhood committed to seeing its residents flourish?

I definitely hope so.

More to come. Thanks for reading!

Author: Luckie