Debbie Allen, the multi-hyphenate dancer, choreographer, and actor extraordinaire, knows worldwide fame: from Broadway; her large and small screen roles in, well, Fame and Grey’s Anatomy; her work behind the camera as a director and producer for both film and television. She also performs on another level entirely. As founder of the Debbie Allen Dance Academy in Los Angeles, she brings her knowledge and passion to underserved communities. It’s a place where budding dancers can see people who look just like them.
Allen and her husband, Norman Nixon, former NBA player for L.A.’s Lakers and Clippers, founded DADA in 2000. Contributions from Berry Gordy and Wallis Annenberg helped to make it happen. Two decades saw growth happen, and DADA’s 7,800-square-foot center in Baldwin Hills was just too small. Enter another multi-hyphenate entertainment star, Shonda Rhimes. A friend, board member, and mother of DADA dancers, she donated a 25,000-square-foot facility to meet the growth curve. Now, enter Gensler. Under the leadership of Shawn Shin, Wayne Thomas, and Barbara Bouza (currently with Disney Imagineering), the firm transformed and added to an erstwhile warehouse to create the Shonda Rhimes Performing Arts Center, home of Debbie Allen Dance Academy in L.A.’s Arlington Heights. Below, the building’s performance space will be clad in black ribbed steel. Dedicated to DADA, the second-story addition will be a light-box beacon formed of insulated polycarbonate panels.
Inside, it will house a production area, multipurpose studio for dance and the performing arts, and offices. For the award-winning Allen, the project is indeed celebratory: “In places around the world where we do not speak the same language, or even understand that we pray to the same God, we dance to the same beat, that is ‘the one’”. Ground-breaking occurred July 1. Completion is slated for August 2021.