Debbie Allen remains a trailblazer, director and queen of dance

Earlier this year, she opened The Rhymes Performing Arts Center, a new 24,000-square-foot performing arts center for the Debbie Allen Dance Academy (DADA) in Los Angeles. (Yes, like Shonda Rhimes.)

Allen founded DADA 20 years ago to ensure that children of color in particular have the opportunity to participate in the performing arts. The reason it became her passion is personal.

In a recent interview with CNN, Allen told CNN, “In my mind, I will always be one of those kids.” I grew up in Houston, Texas. I couldn’t go to class because I was so busy, I wasn’t allowed to go to the best dance schools.”

She studied, struggled, and worked her way to success. Her first big break was the 1980 film Fame and her subsequent television series about high school students at New York’s School of the Performing Arts. Allen played Lydia Grant, a hard-working but loving dance instructor who didn’t sugarcoat what it took to succeed in the dance world.

Debbie Allen (front left) and Jean Anthony Ray (front center) in the 1982 episode of

“My role in Fame did a lot for me because I did a lot. I was a psychiatrist and a cook. I did it all,” Allen recalled of his experience. “I fell in love with these wonderful young people who were actors and dancers who became writers and composers.

Her art center was made possible with the help of friends and colleagues when she wasn’t sure her dream of expanding would work.

Long time no see.

In 2017, Hollywood mogul producer Rimes, who Allen worked with on ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy,” purchased a building, a warehouse in LA’s Koreatown and donated it to Allen’s show. The Rhimes Performing Arts Center opened this spring.

“Give young people opportunities for art, that’s what my life is about. It’s better than most other things I do,” Allen said.

Debbie Allen on the set of

And Allen did a lot. From dancing to producing to choreographing to acting to directing, she’s powerfully yet gracefully pushed the boundaries that the industry has set her way.

Allen, she says, continues to be the director and executive producer of “Grey’s,” a show that tackles real-life issues such as: COVID Women’s reproductive rights.

“Our show is very female-driven and the plight of women in this country is remarkable. What kind of fight you have to fight, it’s . scary,” Allen said.

When the show started record-breaking Allen of the 19th season admits, “For the past three years, we’ve been talking about what’s over,” but it doesn’t feel right to end the series.

“I can’t,” she said. “Fans — (we) have more fans than ever before.”

Another show she was on, A Different World, a groundbreaking series Allen produced and directed from 1988 to 1993, ended prematurely, she says.

“‘Other World’ should never have aired,” she said. “That’s my opinion because we talk about relevance and we talk about what’s really going on in our country. We talked about a few things – the presidential election, racism, date rape, AIDS .

Debbie Allen at the Debbie Allen Dance Academy in 2011.

With an impressive career in retrospect, Allen still spends most of his time looking forward to it.

Later this month, she plans to host a jazz festival with legendary musician Arturo Sandoval, a Grammy winner, to raise money for her school. Excited to teach.

Obsessed with having fun while working hard, she laughs easily and embraces the old and the new. like a twerk.

Oh yes she is perverse.

“Twerking had many names. It was the old shimmy way,” she says. “Twerking is interesting. It’s a booty move and you can link it perfectly directly to African dances.”

Whether she’s raising money, bossing a set, or working her feet, Allen always has her mission in mind.

“I want to be remembered as someone who gave her everything,” Allen said.[Someone] You gave 150% to your family, community and young people around the world. ”


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