I haven’t done a #MustWatch post in a long, long while. I plan to do more but only when I find documentaries or shows that really inspire me to tap more into my passions
That was the case when I watched one of the latest Netflix documentaries centering around the legendary Debbie Allen — dancer, choreographer, actress, producer, entrepreneur, and the list goes on! This woman has a resume miles long so when I saw that Netflix was doing a documentary on her (produced by Shonda Rhimes, no less!), I knew I would be watching! Dance Dreams: Hot Chocolate Nutcracker gives viewers an inside look at Ms. Allen’s career, her dance academy, and her unique production of The Nutcracker that she puts on every year with hundreds of students!
But, of course, there’s valuable lessons to take away from the documentary as well.
Dance Dreams showcases Debbie Allen in her element at the Debbie Allen Dance Academy (DADA) in Los Angeles as she trains young dancers in not only the art of dance but also as young, creative professionals who can get bigger opportunities later on in life. Many of the students who attend DADA are on scholarship, as the Academy brings in kids from various backgrounds who may not get this opportunity otherwise.
Each year, Ms. Allen and her dance directors put on a production called Hot Chocolate Nutcracker, which is a huge fundraiser for the Academy each year. It’s a unique twist on popular ballet The Nutcracker, which takes the audience on a journey to different lands, letting them experience different cultures and dance styles through this huge musical/dance recital. And the talent throughout the academy and the production is absolutely astounding!
Watch the trailer for the documentary below.
Now, I know enough about Ms. Allen to know that she’s one tough cookie. You don’t have the career that she has had (and continues to have) without a huge work ethic and creativity. So she pushes her students to do more and be better, as all great teachers should. To STRETCH beyond what they think that they can do. Which is why she’s been training dancers on her own since 2001 at DADA.
With Ms. Allen’s own background as a dancer, it made sense that she would create her own academy. She created DADA after her own daughter Vivian had a really bad experience at another dance academy. DADA has grown so much over the years, which is detailed in the documentary as well. So it was awesome to learn more about Ms. Allen’s story and to see more of her creativity and work. To have her story celebrated while she’s still around to see it was heartwarming.
Of course, you know that I have some great takeaways from the documentary that I needed to be reminded of. They may seem simple, but they’re important to reiterate in this life, so I hope that they help you.
You should continue to dream big, no matter your age.
What I love about Ms. Allen and this documentary is that it shows that you should continue to dream big at whatever age you are. There are always new goals to accomplish, new places to go, and new things to try. As long as you have breath in your body, there is opportunity for you to achieve more. The documentary was a reminder for me to continue to imagine what could be and work hard to make it all happen.
You should embrace your unique qualities that you bring to the table.
I also love and admire that Ms. Allen is perfectly fine with being herself. She loves dance. She loves drama. She loves teaching. Her personality is HUGE and it always has shone on camera just like it shines in this documentary. Sometimes, we can downplay who we are in order to make people comfortable. We feel like we’re too much for people to handle or that we are too bold and should tone things down. Or at least I have in the past. And, while I don’t advertise being a know-it-all or acting like you’re better than anyone (none of us are), I also don’t believe in dimming your light and your gifts. It’s a disservice to God, yourself, and others. You should embrace who you are and what you bring to the table. Use your God-given gifts not only to shine but to help other people shine as well.
You have to hold yourself to higher standards.
Ms. Allen pushes her students to be great. She pushes them to work hard and be professionals because, according to her, “Every day…is a rehearsal for the rest of your life.” There’s no guarantee that you’ll do exactly what you planned in life, no matter how hard you work. BUT you certainly won’t make it if you keep doing the same things over and over. You have to challenge yourself and not just fall into old habits of laziness and procrastination. You have to hold yourself to higher standards outside of waiting for other people to push you. Especially when you’re chasing big dreams. Because people aren’t going to always be around physically cheering you on. There are not always going to be people around to hold you accountable for going after your goals. You have to do that!
I loved this documentary so much. It’s a great watch for the holiday season specifically, but really anytime you need a jolt of inspiration in remembering your purpose and going after it wholeheartedly. I know I needed the reminder.