The first biannual Los Angeles International Dance Festival will be held next month, featuring 30 performances spread across L.A. and surrounding regions, over the course of 16 days. The festival is the brainchild of the “quintessential renaissance woman” of the arts—Debbie Allen—the legendary award-winning, director, producer, choreographer, author, dancer, actor, teacher and mentor. The festival, which Ms. Allen co-founded with Nigel Lythgoe OBE, the creator, executive producer and judge on So You Think You Can Dance, also will feature daily classes, workshops, a flash mob in Union Station and free outdoor events.
I so admire Ms. Allen, whose amazing accomplishments are featured in the cover story of the April 2020 issue of Dance Magazine. She is a phenomenal example of how to use your life to blaze a pathway of access to the arts, especially for children of color.
One of Ms. Allen’s most cherished accomplishments has been the establishment of her own school in 2000—The Debbie Allen Dance Academy (DADA)—which offers dance training for children as young as three; master classes for professional dancers, and a full-time academy, beginning at age 8, for those seeking to pursue a career in dance. When her busy career allows, she teaches classes at DADA, as well as mentors young dancers seeking to breakthrough in their careers.
About her efforts to promote access to arts education, Ms. Allen told the magazine, “”When you talk about arts education, you’re talking about character building, discipline, creativity, finding your own voice, innovation. The arts teach tolerance because there is no one way of doing anything. The modern world wants you to turn in, the ballet world wants you to turn out, the hip-hop world wants you to turn upside down.”
DADA’s community outreach programs include “free dance days,” where the community can come in for free classes; a dance and movement-based program to support cancer patients; subsidized school programs, and scholarships. Thanks to the generosity of The Rhimes Family Foundation, which was established by the multi-award-winning writer, showrunner, producer and director Shonda Rhimes, DADA will have its own building in 2021.
In an interview with the online publication, Sisters from AARP, Ms. Allen, who is 70, shared her belief in the importance of dance: “I really believe that dance is [foundational to] people recalibrating their physical health. Dance. You need to move. The whole world is in motion. Nothing is static. This planet is moving, swirling in the air. You know, the physicists started talking about how planets move around each other and they call it cosmic dance. Anyway, movement is so important. And if you can help people through the art and make them understand that. I tell them when they’re sweating its holy water. You come into a space where your mind is so strong.”
The Dance Magazine cover story is timely and so well-deserved. Thanks for demonstrating to us, Ms. Allen, your ability to create and navigate an astonishing career in the arts—including as a television director and producer. It inspires and empowers us all.
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