Debbie Allen Debbie Allen Debbie Allen has become one of Americas brightest stars. She has spent a lifetime preparing to be famous. She lives her life by the philosophy that luck is when opportunity meets preparation. Actress, singer, dancer, director, producer Allen was born in Houston, Texas, on January 16, 1950, to a Pulitzer Prize-nominee for poetry, Vivian Allen, and a dentist, Andrew Allen. She is the third of four children (one sister and two brothers) in a family that includes Phylicia Rashad–Clare on the Cosby Show and Andrew Tex Allen–a jazz musician.
At the age of three, Debbie began her dance training and, by age eight, she had set her goals of a musical theater career. Her mother participated a great deal in her training. Her mother stood behind what she wanted, especially when she was refused by the Houston Foundation for Ballet because of segregation practices. Mrs. Allen contracted a dancer from the Ballet Russe to tutor Debbie. Later, she took Debbie to train with the Ballet Nacional de Mexico in Mexico City.
Debbie became very fluent in Spanish and attended performances at the school. At age fourteen, Debbie was finally excepted into the Houston Foundation for Ballet on a full scholarship as the only black student. The Houston Foundation for Ballet was not Debbies only racial obstacle. She was denied admission to North Carolina School of the Arts in Winston-Salem. The director stated inappropriate body type as the reason, but Debbie knew the truth.
This rejection caused her to stop dancing for a year and she began studying Greek classics, speech, and theater arts at Howard University in Washington, D.C. At Howard University, choreographer Mike Malone recruited Debbie for his dance troupe and gave her a part in the Bum Brae Dinner Theaters production of The Music Man. Debbie began performing with students while attending the National Ballet School. She, later, became the head of the dance department at the Duke Ellington School of the Performing Arts. She received her bachelor of fine arts degree cum laude from Howard University in 1971.
Although she loved to teach, she wanted more than anything to be on stage. She landed her first Broadway performance in the chorus of the musical adaptation of Ossie Davis play Purlie Victorious. After six weeks in that show, Debbie left to become a principle dancer in George Faisons modern dance troupe, the Universal Dance Experience. In 1973 she returned to the Broadway stage in Raison, a musical rendition of Loraine Hansburys A Raison in the Sun. After almost two years of Raison, Debbie began working in television in both commercials and series. Her first commercial, selling disposable diapers, gave her a chance to work with her sister.
She then began working with Ben Vereen on his special Stompin at the Savoy and with Jimmie Walker in the made-for-television movie The Greatest Thing That Almost Happened. Then, in 1977, Debbie starred with Leslie Uggams and Richard Roundtree as Miss Adelaide in the National Companys revival of Guys and Dolls. In 1978 she was selected for the lead in a disco version of Alice in Wonderland. This production was a failure. After this devastation, Debbie returned to television as Alex Haleys wife in Roots: The Next Generation. This year also marked Debbies film debut in The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh.
The hard-working actress and dancer worked in both capacities on the film, behind the camera as choreographer, and in front of it as a cheerleader. In 1980, she came back to Broadway in West Side Story. This play was the perfect chance for Debbie to display her talent. She overwhelmed the critics and Clive Barnes of the New York Post believed this would begin her stardom. Her peers agreed with Barnes ravings and nominated her for the Antoinette Perry Award and gave her the Drama Desk Award.
Also in 1980, Debbie was asked to be the choreographer for the television show Fame. This television show won five Emmy Awards (two to Debbies choreography) and a Golden Globe Award. In 1981, Debbie returned to film, taking a part in the movie Ragtime as a distraught woman trying to cope with disastrous circumstances. She was also still working with Fame and creating a movie titled Women of San Quentin in which she played a hard prison guard. In 1986, she starred with Richard Pryor in his Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life is Calling. This show won Debbie her second Tony nomination.
She then filled out this year with directing episodes of Family Ties and Bronx Zoo. Debbies talent was most visible in her choreographical achievements in Polly and Polly-Coming Home, a black adaptation of the Polly Anna stories, which ABC aired in 1989 and 1990. She then went on to create Motown 30 Special which showed the roots of break dancing. With all of Debbie Allens career, she has also maintained a personal life. She has been married twice and has two children. It almost seems impossible for one woman to endure so many obstacles while striving for a career in film and theater and still remaining as coherent as Debbie Allen is. She still continues to choreograph, act and direct, and continuing her Renaissance woman legacy.
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