Teacher has dedicated her life to teaching dance

Published 9:52 am Tuesday, June 16, 2015

GET READY: Debra Franco, right, teaches Chloe Harris, 2, how to do a somersault. Harris is the daughter of Denise and Leonard Harris.

GET READY: Debra Franco, right, teaches Chloe Harris, 2, how to do a somersault. Harris is the daughter of Denise and Leonard Harris.


Debra Franco, of Debra Franco School of Dance, has been taking dance since before she started school. In fact, she started dancing instead of going to school.

Franco, who has been teaching for close to 40 years now, started taking dance when she was five years old.

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“My mother gave me the choice between kindergarten and dance,” she said. “Back then kindergarten wasn’t required.”

Little did her mother know her decision would shape the rest of her life.

“I grew up doing ballet, tap, jazz and acrobatics, which are the basics,” she said. “Then I went to Texas Christian University, which at the time had one of the best ballet programs in the nation; it still does.”

Franco said she focused mostly on ballet, taking classes five days a week, two or three times a day and she danced for ballet companies in Fort Worth and Dallas in addition to teaching classes.

After moving back home to Vicksburg, Franco continued teaching: ballet, tap, jazz and acrobatics.

Other instructors at the school teach hip-hop, modern and strength and conditioning classes, Franco said.

“We do a lot of competitions,” she said. “The competition we’re going to in a couple of weeks has 2,000 dancers competing.”

The competition is in Orlando, Fla., but Franco said her students have competed in Las Vegas, Nev., Ocean Springs, Md., Baton Rouge, La., Memphis, Tenn., Birmingham, Ala., Gatlinburg, Tenn. and Dallas, Texas.

“I love teaching dance because I love dancing and I want the kids to love dancing,” she said. “It was just so much fun.”

Franco said ballet is her favorite type of dance.

“I don’t know if it’s the exercise and the endorphins that kick in, but ballet is so beautiful,” she said. “I want all the kids to feel the way I felt.”

Franco said she enjoys exposing the younger generation to how beautiful ballet can be.

“I think ballet is your foundation for everything else,” she said. “You have to be good at ballet to be awesome in jazz and the others. I like jazz, but I love ballet.”

Franco said ballet is beautiful; it’s graceful, but it’s also harder and more difficult, making the rewards that much greater.

Dancing has an array of benefits for children, Franco said.

“Of course I think the exercise is good, but more than the exercise, I think it’s the discipline and how they learn,” she said. “They learn to follow directions.”

Franco said some students are more visual learners and dance is good for them.

“Dance is definitely a visual art,” she said. “With the music and the sound, there are just so many ways to learn that they’re not exposed to in school. All the different ways of learning are used in dance.”

Franco said many of her students have gone on to become teachers and professional dancers, including her daughter.

“I have a couple who own dancing studios in other places who are teaching,” she said. “They’re able to use it.”