In this global economic crisis, it sometimes feels like the plight of dancers has been largely ignored. Debbie Allen is on a mission to change that. "They don't list dance and the arts as essential," she says, "but we are! We give people more joy and hope than almost anything."
To spread that joy and hope—and raise some sorely needed funds—Allen is putting on a 12-hour digital dance-a-thon on Saturday, June 13, called Dance To The Music. Along with her co-host, choreographer JaQuel Knight, Allen will be livestreaming from 12 pm to 12 am Pacific, sharing impromptu performances from top dancers, inspirational conversations with celebrities, dance classes with major choreographers, spotlights on studios around the country, and DJ sets that will get us all moving together.
JaQuel Knight will co-host along with Allen.
Hao Zeng, Courtesy The Purple Agency
Presented by Debbie Allen Dance Academy, JaQuel Knight Foundation, Dance Media, AIDS Healthcare Foundation and Annenberg Foundation, the event's main goal is to raise funds for dancers, choreographers and dance teachers whose jobs have been derailed by the impact of COVID-19. But Allen also hopes to uplift everyone though dance, and raise awareness for the many virtual dance opportunities being shared online today.
"Right now, as governors announce that our industry will be part of the last phase to open, artists like myself, we're dying to be creative," says New York City Ballet principal Tiler Peck, who will be featured on the stream. "So many of us feel so isolated—we're all at our respective homes, but we're used to dancing together. We're dying to be unified as one community."
The lineup includes dozens of special guests: mainstream names like Dolly Parton, Catherine Zeta Jones, Ellen Pompeo and Billy Porter, plus dance stars like Misty Copeland, Mia Michaels, the Rockettes and Savion Glover.
"Debbie is like the mother of dance to all of us," adds Peck. "If anyone can pull all these people together, it's her."
Before the show, Dance Magazine, Pointe, and Dance Spirit will be hosting "red carpet" conversations on Instagram Live with several of the stars that are scheduled to appear.
One more element of fun? The dance studio that hosts the biggest digital watch party with their students on Zoom or Google Meet will receive complimentary subscriptions to Dance Media magazines and special recognition at the Dance Teacher Magazine Awards. To enter, just send a screenshot of your video chat and a count of participants to firstname.lastname@example.org by Monday, June 15.
Funds raised through Dance To The Music will go to The Actors Fund, Career Transition For Dancers, The International Association of Blacks in Dance, International Association for Dance Medicine & Science, Dance Resource Center, Debbie Allen Dance Academy, The JaQuel Knight Foundation's Dancers' Relief Fund, National Dance Education Organization, Dance/USA, The NYC Dancers Relief Fund and other non-profit organizations.
What's more, Allen hopes this event will bring "energy and light" to the dance world, and connect us all together.
"When I did my very first Instagram class in March," she recalls, "there was a woman who was raising her children and hadn't taken a moment for herself, but decided, 'I'm going to go take this class.' And she came out of it so motivated. She had been in kind of a dark place. And then outside, dancing, she remembered the trees were green, the clouds were flowing, the birds were flying and the world was still beautiful in the midst of all we're dealing with. That is what dance brings."
Update, 6/15: Allen is accepting donations through her website for another week.