By RODNEY HO/ email@example.com, originally filed Tuesday, May 10, 2016
In the opening credits of the 1980s series “Fame,” Debbie Allen‘s teacher character Lydia Grant spits out the infamous line: “You got big dreams. You want fame. Well fame costs. And right here is where you start paying… in sweat!”
Three decades later, those words still resonate for Allen, who is teaching a master class Sunday in Atlanta and seeking students for her Debbie Allen Summer Intensive camp in Atlanta for a second year. (Pre-register here.)
UPDATE 5/11: The master class is sold out. People can still audition for the ATL Summer Intensive with newly added auditions starting at 3:30 p.m. Arrive and register by 3 p.m.
“I started this last year and it was quite well attended,” Allen said by phone earlier this week. “There’s a big need. There’s a strong singing community in Atlanta but the dance programs seem to need more. People were interested in me developing more so I come there to just add to what already exists.”
She said Sunday’s master class will be a fusion of contemporary and jazz. She will also be able to assess future stars.
“I do a lot of things,” said Allen. “I produce. I direct. But dance is the core. It’s always my heartbeat.”
She said she promotes learning multiple dance styles. “It’s about being versatile and speaking the language of dance. This is what I preach to my students.”
And she still feels the message of “Fame” resonates to this day.
“When students look at who I am and where I’ve come from, it has been nothing but hard work and sweat,” she said. “There are no layups here. You work for what you get. If your reputation is such that you can continue to rise, you can be like me in my 60s.”
The film and TV show, she said, featured people learning to sing and dance and act. “We were telling stories and changing lives,” she said.
Sadly, Allen said, fame today has become warped and devalued in the social media age.
“You can be famous by eating a frog,” she said. “You can become famous for losing weight! You can become famous for having a horrible sex tape. These are things I was not dealing with as a young woman. These were not options that anybody wanted.”
Allen, 66, recently received a TV Land Trailblazer Icon award for her contributions to television. “It was an incredible experience,” she said. “I was sitting with Norman Lear, who is such a god in the world of television.” When the awards show presented a dance to “Fame,” she felt like she was “reliving it.”
She has directed a vast array of television shows over the decades, from “Family Ties” to “A Different World” to “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” to ‘Everybody Hates Chris” to “Army Wives.”
In Atlanta last year, she directed an episode of Starz’ “Survivor’s Remorse.”
“I love that show,” Allen said. “I love those characters. The actors were wonderful. I love how it’s about basketball but you never see a game.”
ABC executive producer Shonda Rhimes last year hired Allen as executive producer of “Grey’s Anatomy” after she directed episodes of that show, “Scandal” and “How to Get Away With Murder.”
“She pulled me off the market,” Allen said. “I was doing ‘Empire.’ I was doing everything. She asked me to come and focus and help keep that family [at ‘Grey’s Anatomy’] together and happy. It’s been amazing. It’s been wonderful.. I learn from her every day when we sit down and analyze stories we are going to tell and her assessment of what works and doesn’t work. Her understanding of dramatic content is just beyond anyone I’ve ever worked with.”
Debbie Allen master class
Sunday, May 10
1:30 p.m. registration, 2 p.m. class
$25 audition fee
Maynard Jackson High School
801 Glenwood Ave. S.E.