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Debbie Allen takes her dancing shoes to the publishing house


Debbie Allen on:

...her new book
[480k WAV] or [2.4Mb QuickTime]

...what is dance?
[465k WAV] or [2.4Mb QuickTime] and the arts
[420k WAV] or [2.1Mb QuickTime]

Web posted on: Friday, September 10, 1999 5:11:28 PM EDT

(CNN) -- She's been a successful dancer, choreographer, actor, director, producer, and now Debbie Allen can add the title author.

Allen has taken a musical she created, which ran in 1998 at the Kennedy Center, and penned the children's book "Brothers of the Knight" with illustrator Kadir Nelson. "It's an updated fairy tale" about Reverend Knight and his 12 sons growing up in Harlem, she said. The reverend can't figure out why his sons' shoes are worn to threads each morning, when the boys claim they've been sleeping all night. Soon it becomes apparent that the boys are sneaking out each night to go to a swinging dance hall. They don't tell their father because the fear his disapproval.

"Part of what I hope comes across in the book (is that) parents and children need to not role play but be real people with each other," Allen said in an interview with CNN Interactive. "Just because you're the mother and the father doesn't mean that you're always right. It doesn't mean that you're always listening," she said.

And are the boys right in their fear of their father? "Reverend Knight's perspective is he loves to dance, too, but he has been contained in his own image of himself, in playing a role," she said.

Allen holds up her new book "Brothers of the Knight"

TV show a 'beautiful time'

Allen gained her fame through "Fame," the 1980 film and subsequent television series set at New York's High School of Performing Arts, where talented teens train for show-business careers. She created the role of dance instructor Lydia Grant, and not only co-starred in the series, which ran five seasons, but also handled the choreography and directed several episodes.

For many, the show was an eye-opener, showing teen-agers focused on entertaining and arts in a performing arts school. "I think one of the greatest things (about the show) is that we inspired performing arts schools all around the world," Allen said. Cranking out an episode every seven days was tough, she said, but, "it was a family situation for me. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It was a beautiful time."

And after spending 20 years in the performing arts, Allen says society is not paying enough attention or money to teach performing arts. "When I grew up I learned how to play a classical instrument, and I did not have to own the instrument to learn how to play," she said. "I learned in school, in public school."

Which dovetails with the message of "Brothers of the Knight." The boys love to dance, and that is good and should be respected. But they shouldn't sneak around and lie about it.

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