Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

Nevada Ballet Theatre to Honor Debbie Allen as Woman of the Year for the 31st Annual Black & White Ballet

Nevada Ballet Theatre (NBT) announced today that it will honor dancer, choreographer, actress, producer, director and author Debbie Allen as Woman of the Year for the 31st Annual Black & White Ball. The recipient of numerous awards, including a Tony Award, Golden Globe and three Emmy Awards among others, Allen's many contributions to the performing arts and entertainment industry will be celebrated on Saturday, January 24, 2015 at ARIA Resort & Casino, CityCenter.

The Black & White Ball is the 43 year-old ballet company's largest annual fundraiser. As one of the most anticipated charitable affairs and highly attended black-tie society events in Las Vegas, it hosts an array of local celebrities, dignitaries, VIP's and arts supporters.

Allen is widely known for her role as dance teacher Lydia Grant in the 1982 musical drama TV series, Fame, where she also served as the series principal choreographer. Her love of dance began at the age of three and shortly thereafter, she resolved to become a professional performer. After lessons with a former member of the famed Ballet Russes, Allen danced with the Ballet Nacional de Mexico and in 1964, after auditioning for the Houston Foundation for Ballet, she received a full scholarship and became the company's first African-American dancer.

In 1980, Allen's Broadway career catapulted when she starred as "Anita" in the revival of West Side Story, earning her a Tony Award nomination and a Drama Desk Award as well as a role in the movie version of Fame. Two years later, the successful television spin-off version of Fame debuted with Allen in the lead role, earning her three Emmy Awards for her choreography. In addition to movies, her TV work continued with shows such as the hit TV series, A Different World, a spin-off of the Cosby Show, which she directed, as well as her most recent acting stint, her reoccurring role on the ABC drama, Grey's Anatomy.

"Debbie Allen is one of the most significant and versatile artists in the entertainment industry today," said NBT Co-Founder and Co-Chair Nancy Houssels. "From her beginnings as a ballet dancer to her performances on Broadway, it is her unwavering talent and dedication to the art form of dance that has been her foray into choreographing, acting, directing and producing," said Houssels. "In addition to celebrating the strides she has made as an entertainer, we greatly admire her work as a dance educator - serving students of limited means through the Debbie Allen Dance Academy."

Allen's choreographic talents were showcased on the Academy Awards from 1991-1994 and in 2007 she participated as a judge in the TV hit dance competition series, So You Think You Can Dance. In 2001, she opened the Debbie Allen Dance Academy in Los Angeles, a non-profit organization offering classes for students ages four to eighteen 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.

In 1985, NBT began honoring female trailblazers - philanthropic pioneer women including former casino owners and hoteliers, politicians, businesswomen, and entertainers who shaped the face of Las Vegas. In 2001, the company honored actress, singer and dancer Debbie Reynolds and since that time, an array of internationally-recognized Broadway performers, actresses and legendary entertainers have been honored: Chita Rivera, Carol Channing, Celine Dion, Ann-Margret, Rita Rudner, Paula Abdul, Twyla Tharp, Bette Midler, Marie Osmond, Priscilla Presley, Eva Longoria, Mitzi Gaynor and most recently,Florence Henderson. In addition to leaving an indelible mark on the world of arts and entertainment, most of these honorees have performed, lived or owned businesses in Las Vegas.

For over three decades, this star-studded gala has raised important funds for NBT, enabling the company to produce professional company dance productions at its performance home, The Smith Center for the Performing Arts; provide quality dance instruction within its affiliated school, the Academy of Nevada Ballet Theatre; and share the art form of dance with underserved populations of youth as part of its Education and Outreach program, Future Dance.

Nevada Ballet Theatre is currently in partnership with The Smith Center and the Clark County School District to present "Dancing in the Wings," a unique education and outreach program based on Allen's 2001 children's book of the same name. Through this new initiative, over 6,000 students have witnessed this engaging performance demonstration with additional presentations planned in the coming months.


In a career that spans three decades, the name Debbie Allen is synonymous with dynamic energy, creative talent and innovation.

For her vast body of work, Ms. Allen has earned three Emmy Awards, a Golden Globe, five NAACP Image Awards, a Drama Desk, an Astaire Award (for Best Dancer), and the Olivier Award. She holds four honorary Doctorate degrees and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

She was appointed by President George W. Bush to represent the United States as a Cultural Ambassador of Dance. She has been artist in residence at the Kennedy Center for over 15 years, creating original works with the legendary Arturo Sandoval and James Ingram, such as: Pepito's Story, Brothers of the Knight, Dreams, Alex in Wonderland, Soul Possessed, Pearl, Dancing in the Wings and Oman O Man.

Her long list of directing and producing credits include television classics such as FAME, Grey's Anatomy, Scandal, A Different World, Everybody Hates Chris, Stompin' At The Savoy, Polly, That's So Raven, Cool Women, Quantum Leap, The Fantasia Barrino Story, and on stage, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (on Broadway and London's West End.)

Ms. Allen was the creative force behind Steven Spielberg's Oscar nominated epic, Amistad. She holds the distinction of choreographing the Academy Awards ten times.

She is influenced by the legendary artists who directed and trained her, among them: Katherine Dunham, Alvin Ailey, Bob Fosse, Jerome Robbins, Donald McKayle, Gil Cates, Alan Johnson, Derek Walcott, Twyla Tharp, Tatiana Semenova, Louis Johnson, Jo Jo Smith, Mike Malone, Henry LeTang, Willie Covan, Patsy Swayze and George Faison.

Ms. Allen has directed and choreographed such legendary artists as Lena Horne, Sammy Davis Jr. Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Janet Jackson, Will Smith, James Earl Jones, Phylicia Rashad, Gregory Peck, Mariah Carey and Queen Latifah.

With her keen eye for talent, Ms. Allen discovered entertainers such as Jada Pinkett Smith, Gary Dourdan, and Jasmine Guy. She was responsible for giving Mia Michaels her first job choreographing for television.

A true devotee of Arts Education for young people, she has trained some of the most dynamic young talent on the scene today - Vivian Nixon, William Wingfield, Jada Grace Gordy, Taylour Page, Dion Watson, Danny Tidwell, Corbin Bleu, Hannah Schnieder and The Crewe, a dynamic, multi-cultural group of young singer/dancers.

She has worked tirelessly to enlighten, inspire and engage young people around the world through dance and theater arts. She recently debuted her anti-violence dance musical, Freeze Frame during Australia's Brisbane Festival.

In 2001, she founded the non-profit Debbie Allen Dance Academy in Los Angeles. The school's mission is to fill a void for youth who have an interest in learning dance and performance technique.

A native of Houston, Texas, she is the daughter of Vivian Ayers and Dr. Andrew A. Allen. She is the wife of NBA All-Star Norman Nixon and mother of Vivian Nichole and Thump. She is the sister of Tex, Phylicia, and Hugh.

With such dynamic creativity and endless energy, Debbie Allen remains an artistic tour de force!

For more information, visit:


Under the artistic direction of James Canfield, Nevada Ballet Theatre is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization based in Las Vegas and the largest professional ballet company and dance Academy in the state. Committed to the highest artistic standards, this classically-based company is at home in an eclectic repertory, moving easily from the classics to the high-energy contemporary ballets. The mission of Nevada Ballet Theatre is to educate and inspire statewide, regional and national audiences and vitally impact community life through professional company productions, dance training and education and outreach. Nevada Ballet Theatre is the resident ballet company of The Smith Center for the Performing Arts.

Related Articles View More Dance Stories

More Hot Stories For You