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Debbie Allen is a choreographer, director, and dancer who has worked on such projects as Fame, West Side Story and Sweet Charity.
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But Allen hit it big in 1980, after she starred in a Broadway revival of West Side Story as Anita. Her performance earned her a Tony Award nomination, and the critical acclaim necessary to land a role as a dance instructor in the movie Fame (1980).
Fame won several Academy Awards, and helped launched a dance fad across the U.S. The wild success of the film evolved into a successful television spin-off in 1982,
in which Allen also co-starred. For her role as choreographer on the show, Debbie snagged three Emmy Awards for choreography.
After Fame was canceled, Allen headlined Bob Fosse's revival of the musical Sweet Charity, for which she was honored with a Tony. Then in 1988, Allen stepped behind the camera to direct The Cosby Show spinoff, A Different World—her sister, Phylicia Rashad, had starred as mother Clare Huxtable in the popular franchise of The Cosby Show. Allen boosted the show to the top of the ratings, continuing to produce and direct the sitcom until its finale in 1993.
In 2001, Allen opened the Debbie Allen Dance Academy in Los Angeles, California. The nonprofit school offers a comprehensive dance curriculum for students ranging in age from 4 to 18, regardless of financial status.
Allen has received several honors for her work, including an honorary doctorate from the North Carolina School of the Arts—where she had originally been rejected. She also earned a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Women in Radio and Television.
Allen is married to former NBA star Norm Nixon. They have two children.
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