Debbie Allen Sweetrocks Inspiring Woman
Deborah Allen is an American actress, dancer, choreographer, television director, television producer, and a former member of the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities. She is perhaps best known for her work on the 1982 musical-drama television series Fame, where she portrayed dance teacher Lydia Grant, and served as the series’ principal choreographer. She currently portrays Catherine Fox on Grey’s Anatomy.
Debbie Allen had her Broadway debut in the chorus of Purlie. Allen also created the role of Beneatha in the Tony Award-winning musical Raisin. She first began receiving critical attention in 1980 for her appearance in the role of Anita in the Broadway revival of West Side Story which earned her a Tony Award nomination and a Drama Desk Award; she would receive a second Tony Award nomination in 1986 for her performance in the title role of Bob Fosse’s Sweet Charity. One of her earlier television appearances was in the TV sitcom Good Times in a memorable 2-part episode titled “J.J.’s Fiancée” as J.J.’s drug-addicted fiancée, Diana.
Allen was first introduced as Lydia Grant in the 1980 film Fame. Although her role in the film was relatively small, Lydia would become a central figure in the television adaptation, which ran from 1982 to 1987. During the opening montage of each episode, Grant told her students: “You’ve got big dreams? You want fame? Well, fame costs. And right here is where you start paying … in sweat.” Allen was nominated for the Emmy Award for Best Actress four times during the show’s run. She is the only actress to have appeared in all three screen incarnations of Fame, playing Lydia Grant in both the 1980 film and 1982 television series and playing the school principal in the 2009 remake. Allen was also lead choreographer for the film and television series, winning two Emmy Awards and one Golden Globe Award.
In 1981, she had the important role of Sarah, the lover of Coalhouse Walker (Howard E. Rollins) who is killed while trying to defend him in the movie version of the best-selling novel Ragtime. In an article from the Museum of Broadcast Communications, The Hollywood Reporter commented on Allen’s impact as the producer-director of the television series, A Different World. The show dealt with the life of students at the fictional historically black college, Hillman, and ran for six seasons on NBC.
Debbie Allen was also selected to appear in the 1979 miniseries Roots: The Next Generations by Alex Haley where she plays the wife of Haley. In 2008 she directed the all-African-American Broadway production of Tennessee Williams’ Pulitzer Prize-winning drama Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. The production, , had a limited run (2009 – April 2010) in London.
Allen has released two solo albums, 1986’s Sweet Charity and 1989’s Special Look which also had several singles off the album. In 1995, Allen lent her voice (as well directing the voice cast) to the children’s animated series C Bear and Jamal for Film Roman and Fox Kids. In 2001, Allen fulfilled a lifelong dream by opening the Debbie Allen Dance Academy in Los Angeles, California. Allen’s academy offers a comprehensive curriculum for boys and girls ages four to eighteen in all the major dance techniques including Classical Ballet, Modern, African, Jazz, and Hip-Hop. In addition, special workshops are held for concentration in the Peking Opera, Martial Arts dance techniques, Flamenco, Salsa, and Tap. Debbie Allen was awarded an honorary doctorate from the North Carolina School of the Arts, as well as from her alma mater, Howard University. Since 2007, Allen has participated as a judge and mentor for the U.S. version of So You Think You Can Dance.
Thank you Debbie Allen (#DebbieAllen) for being an Inspiring Woman!
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