America’s First Dance Competition Is Celebrating Its 40th Anniversary!

Showstopper's National Finals Opening Number Performance

Showstopper has been making its impact on the dance world since 1978. Before then, dancers didn't have a stage to perform on, the opportunity to learn from peers, or a competitive outlet like most sports. Debbie Roberts recognized this missing piece in the dance community and that is how America's first and longest running dance competition, Showstopper, was born. Debbie taught dance for over 26 years and owned and operated her own dance studio for 20 years. She is now the owner and National Director of Showstopper, along side her husband, Dave Roberts. Dancer, teacher, business owner, author, and mother, Debbie has made dance her life's career.


Debbie got the idea to host the nation's first dance competition from watching her son, Adam, play competitive sports for years. Seeing the excitement he got for a big game inspired her to create the same for dancers. With the name suggestion from her dancing, 8-year-old daughter Angel, Debbie took her savings and booked four competitions for Showstopper's first year. She wrote letters and knocked on the doors of local dance studios. Despite many doors slammed in her face, Debbie did not give up. Instead, she drove around the state with her big sales pitch. Eventually, she recruited about 400 people to attend her first show. By the fourth show of that year, people were asking her how they could participate in Showstopper's competitions.

In no time, local televisions and newspapers were filled with pictures of children leaping across the Showstopper stage. The excitement and curiosity grew from dancers across the country, and with the help of her husband, they continued expanding their competitions from state to state. Showstopper attracted incredible young talent. Many of today's top superstars like Beyoncé and Britney Spears marked the beginning of their careers on Showstopper's stage.

Left: Cover of Dance Teacher Magazine 1984. Right: Showstopper Awards 1985, pictured Debbie Roberts

What has made Showstopper so successful from the start and still to this day was Debbie's knack for detail. She has gone to extraordinary lengths to provide a high quality event with the industry's most experienced judges, host cities with plenty of things to do, theatrical auditoriums with comfortable seats, large stages, and professional lighting.

Beyond the stage, Debbie's impact in the dance community continued. In 1984, Debbie graced the cover of Dance Teacher Magazine. In 1986, she topped Glamour Magazine's list of Outstanding Young Working Women. That same year Showstopper made it to the big screen. Before So You Think You Can Dance and Dancing with The Stars, was the American Dance Championships, Showstopper's National Finals Competition. Showstopper's hit TV Show filled televisions across the nation for 20 years and received 5 Emmy Nominations. In 1992, Debbie published her first of three dance-related books. Her first book, The Super Studio: The Guide to a Successful Dance Studio, earned major credit at many colleges throughout the United States. In the late 1990s, Debbie added a list of Dance Conventions to Showstopper's National Tour, providing dancers the opportunity to learn from the world's top dancers.

Debbie and Dave continue to grow Showstopper each year, now with competitions and conventions in over 40 locations across the nation. They are just as invested in their company today as they have always been, traveling every weekend to one of their competitions to make sure each is the best it can be. Showstopper's competitions continue to provide an experience for the whole family. Each show is held at carefully picked cities and venues. Seamlessly evolving throughout the years, Showstopper now has custom built stages with professional dance floors, LED background screens that are customized to each performance, and professionally recorded videos of each dance which are displayed on HD screens throughout the show. Showstopper is known throughout the dance industry for its perfectly crafted, rhinestoned trophies and colorful confetti that falls from the ceiling.

Showstopper National Finals, Photo Credit: Yoko's Dance

Showstopper has become more than just a competition, it is a lifestyle. Last year Showstopper released its first teen dance magazine, with editions published twice a year. Showstopper Magazine features today's hottest dancers, trends and fashion. Showstopper also launched its first teen blog, Showstopper VIP, a site for teens to get connected, inspired, and creative. It publishes daily articles about the latest dance trends, from fashion and music, to health and motivation. It doesn't stop there. Showstopper's new app gives you access to exclusive videos and interviews, and provides dancers with everything they need to know for their competition weekend. It is no wonder why they have recently broken ground on an extension of their headquarters, located in Myrtle Beach, SC. Showstopper continues to impact the dance world, as they have done for the past 40 years.


"Showstopper began as a dream - a dream I had in 1978 to provide a performing outlet for the tens of thousands of young talented dancers across the country. Our first year consisted of four regional events and a finals held in New York City. Since that time we've held over fifteen hundred shows and seen over 2 million dancers - some who grew up on the stage right before our eyes, year after year. We are very proud to have brought recognition, both locally and nationally, to very deserving, hard working dancers and teachers, and will continue all of our efforts to bring DANCE to the minds, hearts, and homes of America."
- Debbie Roberts, 2018

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