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From dancer to actress to producer and director, Debbie Allen has had one of the most legendary careers in Hollywood. Despite her three Emmy Awards and being a part of numerous successful film and TV projects, her greatest achievement is the Debbie Allen Dance Academy, which has taught generations of young women and men in Los Angeles.
Hundreds of guests, including Grey’s Anatomy stars Jesse Williams and Justin Chambers, Scandal‘s Khandi Alexander, and Mary Hart, among others, arrived at the Beverly Hills Performing Arts Center on Thursday night to celebrate the art of dance at the 18th annual Debbie Allen Dance Academy Fall Soiree Fundraising Celebration.
Allen took the time to speak to THR and explain why in a career filled with accomplishments, her academy is one of her proudest. “There’s such a great need, there’s such a void when it comes to the arts for kids and I’m just trying to fill it as much as possible,” she said. “This is character education, the discipline, the creativity of it all. You have to commit and it’s about finishing. You can’t just come and take the class, you have to take the whole program if you’re trying to get there.”
The evening was spectacular from start to finish, beginning with a cocktail reception in the center’s courtyard where guests were serenaded by Grammy-winning jazz singer Dee Dee Bridgewater.
Grey’s Anatomy‘s Williams was effusive when he spoke to THR about his admiration for Allen.
“She does an immeasurable amount of good in individuals’ lives and in the collective body of the arts but also for real people and communities. My daughter goes to her school. … The work that they do is just transformative. It’s transformative for the people involved, the people that get to consume it, creating a safe space for folks to learn and become and blossom.”
After the reception, guests were ushered into the center’s theater, where they were treated to a full performance by the Alonzo King LINES Ballet, one of the premier dance troupes in the country. The dancers put on a spectacular performance that at times left the audience breathless with the grace of their movements, and ended with a long and sustained standing ovation.
Chambers has worked with Allen for several years on the set of Grey’s Anatomy and he salutes her as an awe-inspiring presence in his life.
“I call her a beast, a beautiful beast. I’m around her a lot on set, we all are,” he said, “and just to see her juggle so many things and do it with grace and compassion and passion. She’s a very passionate woman and I’m in awe of it. I’m really happy to be here and congratulate her on all of her successes. We’re grateful to have her as a part of our show.”
After the dance performance, guests returned to the courtyard, where they enjoyed a buffet-style feast provided by several local restaurants. A long line formed for the fried chicken and collard greens from Dulan’s Soul Food and the pastries from Sweet Lady Jane’s Bakery were also a hit.
As guests ate, they enjoyed performances from some of the students of the academy and had the opportunity to appreciate the next generation of great dancers.
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