Legendary dancer and choreographer's musical provides chance of a lifetime while championing arts education
She's an artistic tour de force from the dance floor to the director's chair. She's won a Tony, a Golden Globe and an Oscar. Debbie Allen's latest project speaks directly to her passion: bringing hope to young people and speaking out for the importance of arts education in public schools.
Allen has just wrapped a five-city audition tour to find key talent from across the country to perform in the stage production Brothers of the Knight. According to Allen, "it's one of the most dynamic productions I've ever done." Allen's husband, NBA World Champion and two-time NBA All-Star Norman Nixon is Executive Producing. Los Angeles opens the tour at the Beverly Hills Saban Theater on June 19, 2014.
Brothers of the Knight originally opened at the Kennedy Center, where Allen is an artist in residence, and was brought on for several encore productions to a standing-room only crowd. It's a story she adapted from The Twelve Dancing Princesses.
When Allen decided to take the show on the road, she wanted each of city on the tour to be able to call the show their own. That's why she held exhaustive auditions in Boston, Charlotte, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.
Her keen eye for talent has led Ms. Allen to discover some names you might be familiar with: Jada Pinkett-Smith, Gary Dourdan, Jasmine Guy and Corbin Bleu. She was responsible for giving Emmy Award winner Mia Michaels her first job choreographing for television and has also choreographed world tours for Michael Jackson and Mariah Carey.
Working with Ms. Allen on Brothers of the Knight is a chance that many of these young dancers may not have had under other circumstances.
"I have a huge body of work that is really oriented for family theater and to give young people opportunity," Allen states.
During auditions for Brothers of the Knight and now, Allen is an outspoken champion of arts education. "It's a battle right now. Arts education is disappearing without a trace from the public schools. If you don't have arts as part of the core of your curriculum, you are not being well educated," she recently told Callie Crosley at WGBH Boston.
"Creativity is what has kept America number one around the world. Steve Jobs left his math class to take a dance class. We have got to find a way to offer this opportunity to our young people. I'm hoping that this Brothers of the Knight production will highlight why there needs to be more arts education in schools."
In 2001, Allen opened the Debbie Allen Dance Academy in Los Angeles, a non-profit organization offering classes for students in various dance disciplines. In addition to her work serving the youth of Greater Los Angeles, she is active with the African Caribbean Leukemia Trust and is a member of the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities, for which she was appointed by then-President George Bush.
The top 12 male and top 12 female dancers will journey to Los Angeles next week to begin a month long rehearsal process at the Debbie Allen Dance Academy, but a large local ensemble has been cast which will be trained by Allen in each tour city. By featuring the local youth at each venue, this production helps spread that message at a local level in a profound way.
According to Allen, her artistic projects are inspired by her curiosity. "I really want to find different things to discover - and I'm not afraid to fail. I keep moving," she says.
Because of that, Allen says she "become[s] a good icon for young people when they look at themselves and try to figure out 'what am I going to do?' I look at them and say 'you might do all kinds of things.'"
The Los Angeles production opens at the Saban Theater on June 19, 2014 for one week only.
Below, please find brief profiles from some of the Los Angeles-area talent that will train with Ms. Allen for the national tour. Their stories are that of hope, perseverance and shine a bright light on the talent Los Angeles has to offer.
Debbie Allen on Ryan Phuong 12 - Los Angeles
"When Ryan is on the dance floor it's hard for me to see anything else." He can sing, he can dance and his confidence is unparalleled. - Debbie Allen
"To be a true artist requires hard work, discipline, resilience, determination, and perseverance," he says. "I love to perform, and to be in one of Ms. Allen's productions is truly an honor." - Ryan Phuong
Debbie Allen on Jaylin Flowers, 10 - Los Angeles
"It's really hard for me to find the words to describe Jaylin. She has such a quiet beauty. She has a face that belongs to an Egyptian princess and she dances with such power. She is truly a rare bird." - Debbie Allen
Debbie Allen on Wayne Mackins-Harris, 17 - Los Angeles
"[Mackins-Harris] is an Alvin Alley in the making." - Debbie Allen
"I auditioned for Brothers of the Knight because it showcases the power and grace of male performers.," Mackins-Harris says. "Also it is a show that no matter the mood you're in you'll leave the theater feeling energized, happy, and loving your family more when you leave than when you came." - Wayne Mackins-Harris
Aiden Craberry, 16 - Los Angeles
Aiden is a sixteen-year-old who's danced at the Debbie Allen Dance Academy (DADA) for four years. He saw the original run of 'Brothers of the Knight' when he was just 11 and says it was the reason "I started to take the art of dance seriously."
"It was the most exciting thing in the world," he says. "It made me want to get myself in class and train as hard as I could so I could work my way up to the level of the show."
JoAnn Carrasco, 15 - Los Angeles
Los Angelino JoAnn Carrasco says she "auditioned for Brothers of the Knight for a life changing experience." Touring nationally with the production is a real opportunity for Carrasco who "has never been on a plane, or even out of the state!"
Ruby Pappan, 15 - Los Angeles
Pappan says her passion has always been dance - and "once I got such an incredible opportunity to audition for Debbie Allen, I jumped at it. She is a legend."
Pappan says she loves to dance, but also love[s] to act and try anything new. We moved to Los Angeles for ME! I feel blessed every day!"
For the EPK, which includes Debbie Allen's headshot and Bio as well as camera ready art, photos of the cast as well as production stills from past shows, visit
For more information on Brothers of the Knight, visit the production's official website at www.brothersoftheknight.com.
To see Debbie Allen discuss the project and the local auditions with local media, access www.brothersoftheknight.com/press-media/.