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We all know that Debbie Allen is a Jill of all trades. She’s an actress, producer, director, but many of us were introduced to her as a dancer.

So it only makes sense that as her star rose in the entertainment industry, Allen would seek to diversify her portfolio by returning to her first love and opening up a dance studio—the Debbie Allen Dance Academy or DADA.

We get it.

But recently in a special for Netflix, Allen revealed the reason that led her to open the studio in the first place. And it was the perfect mixture of a mother’s protective instincts and racism.

In a clip from the new Netflix project, produced by Shondaland,  Allen’s daughter, Vivian Nixon explains.

“I really started training heavily and seriously in dance at the Kirov Academy of Ballet.  My third year there, my teacher looked at me one day in class and goes, ‘Stop, stop, stop, stop!’  He looked at me and he goes, ‘You’ll never be dancer. You go Alvin Ailey.’”

Allen explains, “Alvin Ailey is our premiere contemporary American dance company, and yes, it’s mostly Black people but that means she can’t dance? Chile I was coming through that phone,  I was getting ready to…I sent my husband because I knew I was not going to be nice.”

Norm Nixon, Allen’s husband and Vivian’s father says, “For me, having my daughter gone for three years, it was time for her to come back home, in my eyes, anyway.”

Vivian picks up the story to say, “He pulled me out of the school and that’s when my mother decided that she was going to create the Debbie Allen Dance Academy.”

Allen says, “So I started DADA and she came home.”


Thank God Vivian’s parents just so happened to be who they were, with the resources to remove her from that toxic, racism environment.

The story is a part of a new special, Dance Dreams: Hot Chocolate Nutcracker. Streaming on November 27, the special will follow not only DADA but the Hot Chocolate Nutcracker, a holiday production Allen puts on every year.

Watch the video of Allen and her family tell the origin story of DADA in the video below.

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