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Debbie Allen, the celebrated dancer, choreographer, actress, writer, producer and director, will receive the Television Academy’s 2021 Governors Award at the 73rd Primetime Emmy Awards ceremony on Sept. 19 “in recognition of her numerous contributions to the television medium through multiple creative forms and her philanthropic endeavors around the world,” the TV Academy announced on Thursday.
Allen, 71, was chosen by the Television Academy’s Board of Governors for her TV achievements and her commitment to inspire and engage marginalized youth through dance, theater arts and mentorship.
The Governors Award honors an individual or organization in the television arts and sciences whose achievement is so exceptional and universal in nature that it goes beyond the scope of annual Emmy Awards recognition. Previous recipients of the honor, which was introduced in 1978, include Tyler Perry; Star Trek; American Idol; William S. Paley; Hallmark Cards Inc.; Masterpiece Theater; Comic Relief; and ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC and A+E networks.
“Debbie Allen has been a creative voice for a generation of performers and storytellers and has left an indelible mark on the television industry,” said Governors Award selection committee co-chair Eva Basler. Added committee co-chair Debra Curtis, “Debbie’s commitment to mentoring underserved communities has been nothing short of extraordinary. She has shared her gift and love of dance and choreography with countless aspiring performers across the globe.”
Allen, for her part, said: “This has been an amazing year for me. To be celebrated by the Television Academy is an overwhelming honor that humbles me and says to my community of dancing gypsies, actors, writers and musicians that if you stay passionate about your craft and do the work, you can go far.”
Among her vast body of work, Allen has choreographed for legendary artists such as Michael Jackson, Mariah Carey, James Earl Jones, Phylicia Rashad, Janet Jackson, Whitney Houston, Gwen Verdon, Carmen de Lavallade, Diane Carroll, Lena Horne, Sammy Davis Jr., Dolly Parton and Savion Glover. Her directing and producing credits include television classics such as Fame, Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, How to Get Away With Murder, Jane the Virgin, Empire, Insecure, A Different World, Everybody Hates Chris, Stompin’ at the Savoy, Polly, That’s So Raven, Cool Women, Quantum Leap, The Fantasia Barrino Story and Christmas on the Square.
Allen has been an artist in residence at the Kennedy Center for over 15 years, creating original works with the legendary Arturo Sandoval and James Ingram, such as Pepito’s Story, Brothers of the Knight, Dreams, Alex in Wonderland, Soul Possessed, Pearl, Dancing in the Wings and OMAN…O Man! Additionally, she serves as executive producing director of Grey’s Anatomy where she stars in a recurring role as Dr. Catherine Fox.
In 2000, Allen opened the Debbie Allen Dance Academy to expand the reach of dance and theater arts to marginalized students in Los Angeles and around the world through a comprehensive dance curriculum spanning numerous dance styles. Under Allen’s direction, the nonprofit school today provides services on-site to over 3,000 participants annually; grants extensive scholarships to students; and invests in classes specially designed for cancer patients, seniors, and women and children who have experienced domestic abuse. During the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Allen is expanding her curriculum with the Debbie Allen Dance Academy Virtual Dance World, a series of custom and on-demand classes available through Zoom for a small donation.
The three-time Emmy Award winner in choreography (Fame and The Motown 25th) is a Kennedy Center Honoree and the recipient of 10 Image Awards, the Olivier Award, multiple Tony nominations, a Golden Globe and the Drama Desk Award.
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