Be The Change: Dancing With Life: Deborah Jorritsma


“When you dance, your purpose is not to get to a certain place on the floor. It’s to enjoy each step along the way.” -Wayne Dyer

Deborah Jorritsma, artistic director of the Chico Community Ballet and Chico Creek Dance Centre, has lived a life of dance. When she was 5 years old, her mother took her to the ballet Cinderella in Fort Wayne, Indiana where they lived. She was enthralled and immediately wanted to become a dancer. The ballet studio where she began her training didn’t take children until they were 6 years old. “Waiting to become 6 and start ballet lessons was the longest year of my life!” says Deborah.

Photos: Avalon Portrait Gallery

Photos: Avalon Portrait Gallery

The teaching methods used in most public school classrooms didn’t work well with Deborah’s learning style. She learned best kinesthetically – through using her body. Dance was a perfect fit, and she danced through elementary school, high school and college. “My mother made sure that I had excellent teachers with good training,” she says.

The training and her joy of dance provided Deborah with numerous opportunities to hone her art and to perform. She attended summer dance camps as a high school student. She danced with the Fort Wayne Ballet Company and the Washington, DC Ballet. She attended dance school in Cannes, France.

Following graduation from the University of Oklahoma, Deborah danced professionally for three years with the Pittsburg Ballet. One morning she woke up and thought, “I’m done with dance.” She felt overwhelmed with the audition process. “Also, I’m too much of a perfectionist to dance and enjoy it,” she says.

In the early 1970s, Deborah moved to the Bay Area in California. She married, and in 1978 had her daughter Marijke, a true joy of her life. She moved to Chico in 1979 and enrolled in dance classes at Chico State. Soon she met a group of people involved with the Chico Community Ballet, a company originally founded for adults by Catherine Sullivan, its current associate director. Deborah and Catherine developed a deep friendship. “One day we looked at each other and said, ‘Let’s start a children’s program!’” And they did. In 1982 the Chico Creek Dance Centre was born and now serves 250 students with 10 teachers.

Catherine says, “Deborah has dedicated her life to the transition from performing dancer to teacher. She draws from many resources to stay current in the art of dance. She brings to her students a way to understand their bodies and how to use them in a safe and beautiful way.”

Through the transition from performance to teaching, Deborah found her passion. “I love the challenge of getting people excited about movement, about raising their awareness of how their body works,” she says. “When I teach, it takes me back to my own self-awareness which then makes me a better teacher.”


Deborah believes that anyone can dance. She teaches 17 classes each week at the centre, with students ranging in age from 5 through adulthood. She pays attention to the different ways her students learn, and says that dance teaches discipline, self-awareness and builds self-esteem. “You begin to see a level of confidence, and the way students express themselves develops. Dance teaches life skills such as time management, using time wisely and the ability to juggle the challenges of life,” she explains.

As the Wayne Dyer quote shown above says, the purpose of dance is not to get to a specific place, but to enjoy each step along the way. That is Deborah’s life philosophy. As well as teaching at the Chico Creek Dance Centre, she teaches a physical conditioning class at Inspire School of the Arts and Science, a charter school in Chico.

At the end of each day, Deborah returns to her home, which is her sanctuary, a place she loves. She reassesses her day and how she might be a better teacher and educator. She plays with her cats. When not working, travel, especially to Europe and dance festivals, brings her joy. Deborah has danced with life in such a way that she feels content and fulfilled.

To contact Deborah, call (530) 521-7193.

[sws_blue_box box_size=”580″]The mission of our Be the Change column is to feature a community member from the North State who is actively making a difference in the lives of children and families. If you would like to nominate someone who is making a difference, please write to[/sws_blue_box]

Carolyn Warnemuende
About Carolyn Warnemuende

Author Carolyn Warnemuende has two daughters and five grandchildren, and lives with her husband in Redding. She writes parenting and educational articles, sponsors a school in Uganda, and visits Africa twice a year. She receives great joy in taking daily care of her four-year-old granddaughter who was adopted from Ethiopia.

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