Dance Dreams (2020) - full transcript

Behind-the-scenes at the Debbie Allen Dance Academy and their award-winning version of The Nutcracker, which blends a variety of dance traditions.

["Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy" playing]

It's gotta be perfect today.
We only have two more chances. Come on!

Come on!

Two, three, four, run, six, seven, eight.

Two, two, three, four,
five, six, seven, and one!

Where is the straight line? Guide left.

The person to your left
gets there before you. Nope!

She gets here before you,
so you got to line up to her.

Let's do it again.
All three groups, come on.

And one, two, three, four,
five, six, seven, eight.

Two, two, three, four, five, six.

Here we go, one!

Much better. Okay, okay. Are we okay?

Are y'all gonna remember
everything we did?

[kids] Yes!

-Because dancers are what?
-[kids] The smartest people on the planet.

The most intelligent people in the planet,

and we remember everything, right?

[kids] Yes.

Okay. Go to makeup.
I'll see you in a minute.

[kids chattering]

-[boy] Thank you, Miss Allen.
-You're welcome, sweetie.

[sighs] Oh, God.

Okay, what's next?

["All I Want For Christmas Is You"
intro playing]

Anyone else for hair and makeup?

[female crew member]
I see why she's ended up using the…

-[Debbie] Come on, everybody here!
-[audience cheering]

[female fan]
That's Debbie Allen. She's famous!

-[Debbie] Hot Chocolate Nutcracker!
-[audience cheers]

-[females fans whoop]
-I am Debbie Allen…

-[audience cheering]
-…and I'm so ha-- Wow! Ooh!

I am so thrilled and so happy

to welcome you as our very first audience

for the Hot Chocolate Nutcracker
this year.

[audience cheering]

[kids singing]
♪ Hey, Mr. Santa Claus ♪

♪ Hey, Mr. Santa Claus ♪

♪ Hey, Mr. Santa Claus ♪

♪ Hey, Mister, er ♪

[solo kid 1]
♪ Only one more day ♪

♪ I wish that I could stay up late ♪

♪ Ooh, my mama says I gotta go to bed
'Cause Santa's on his way ♪

[kids vocalizing]

-[solo kid 2] ♪ I got a list so long ♪
-[kids] ♪ So long ♪

[solo kid 2]
♪ It just keeps going on and on ♪

-[kids] ♪ On and on ♪
-♪ Ooh, if he asks me if I was good ♪

-♪ I know just what to say ♪
-[kids vocalizing]

[kids] ♪ Dear Santa
I've been spreading cheer all year ♪

[female solo kid] ♪ And if you
Could grant me this one wish ♪

-[kids] ♪ One wish ♪
-♪ Then every kid could have one gift ♪

[Debbie] Shh!

I know some of you still need to learn
how to point your toes and your feet,

but none of that will come

if you don't learn
how to be quiet and listen!

Welcome to
the Hot Chocolate Nutcracker audition.

Um, I'm really happy to see you.

I see a lot of familiar faces.
I see some new faces.

I am looking for

young dancers that have life and energy

and want to be on stage,
that can become a character,

that can become a doll or a monkey

or a fairy.

So you have to think of yourself
not just as a dancer, but as an actor.

There's a lot of opportunity
for you to show me where I could use you,

and know
that I will do my best to keep you--

keep you where I think you belong.

And if you're not ready
after the end of today, don't feel bad.

Just know that you need
to train a little more. Okay?

We did so well last year,

and everyone is just waiting
for us to come back.

I'd like to introduce our ballet master,
Miss Giana Jigarhan.

-Madame Jigarhan.
-[all applauding]

And today,
she's gonna put you through some paces.

We may teach you
two different combinations,

and then Miss Eartha Robinson
is going to give you a jazz.

This is Miss McDonald, the director
of the Debbie Allen Dance Academy,

and Miss Cathie Nicholas, of course,

who's my right hand and left foot. Okay.

[Giana in Russian accent]
So let me-- Call me the names, échappé.

We'll go, one and two and three and four.

One and two.

And two, one and two, and three, and four.

So some people come
into the Hot Chocolate Nutcracker

at age four, five, and…

you know, at 12, they're still here.

They go all the way
through the dance academy,

and so some people are actually

on their seventh Hot Chocolate Nutcracker.

And then we have those first-timers.

[Debbie] Hop, hop, hop, hop.

Up, down, pivot.

There's so many people.
It was a little overwhelming. [chuckles]

There's a lot going on.

-This is my seventh time.
-This is my sixth.

Eight or nine years.
Basically half my life.

And one, two, three, four,
five, six, seven, eight.

Two, three, four, and that's it.

Will, what makes you think
you couldn't do that?

I-- I don't know.

I like-- I like teaching kids.
They drive me nuts sometimes,

and they're monsters most of the time.

[Debbie] Careful.

-[boy] Whoa!

-Are you auditioning?
-[instructor] Eight. Can I watch you?

-[girl] I just don't want to.

You don't want to?

Well, then sit down.
If you're not gonna audition,

just tell your--
I'll tell your mom, sit down.

[Giana in Russian accent]
I love what I'm doing.

And I always wanted teach children.

In a company, dancers already trained,
and they know what they doing,

but children,
you opening for them, beauty of ballet

and beauty of art,

and through that experience,

I realized they start appreciate,
um, beauty of life too.

I'm gonna keep my eye on you,
and I'll watch you in class.

If I have an opening, I'll come get you,
but now, I think you need to train more.

You just need more class.
You just need more class.

-It hurts my feelings too.
-[crying] I love you.

[Debbie] I'm very happy.
You all did so great. Thank you very much.

-Say, "Thank you, Miss Allen!"
-[kids] Thank you, Miss Allen!

I'll see you tomorrow, one o'clock. Go!

-[kids chattering]

[Debbie] As a young girl,
The Nutcracker was so important to me.

I was in the flower land.

We sang the…

♪ Welcome to flower land ♪

♪ What tidings have you to bring us? ♪

♪ Ta da da da da da da da da ♪

["Waltz of the Flowers" playing]

"The Sugar Plum Fairy"
was always my dream.

I love "The Sugar Plum," that music.

["Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy" playing]

[Giana] The original Nutcracker,
Tchaikovsky create the music,

and, uh, Petipa, French choreographer,
he create a libretto for ballet.

First, The Nutcracker was performed
in, uh, Saint Petersburg,

in the Mariinsky Theatre in 1892.

Critics didn't like that,

but public got crazy.


The Nutcracker brand and name
is just so familiar to people,

and then our twist
is the Hot Chocolate Nutcracker.

If you go to see New York City Ballet,

they have adults
performing all the principal parts,

with kids that would just get up
and run across the stage, sit on a tree.

But our Nutcracker,

although we have
professionals and teachers

playing some of the roles,

the kids are the stars.

[Debbie] As a young child, I wanted to be
a Black fairy queen flying in the air.

I never saw any of that
when I was growing up,

but I still knew I wanted to be that.

[classical music playing softly]

[audience murmurs]

[Debbie] There had been a couple
of different Chocolate Nutcrackers

all over the country,

but I decided
to take it on and make it fun

and have a cultural identity of music

that was not tied to Tchaikovsky.

[hip-hop music playing]

[Debbie] So the Hot Chocolate Nutcracker
takes us on a journey

to real and imagined lands,

all done with different styles
of dance and music.

[percussive music playing]

[flamenco music playing]

In "Flamenco Fire," I am a roach.

-Yeah, we're fairies. We're Egyptians.
-"Egypt." [laughs]

We're "Bollywood."

I do "China."

I'm in "Birdland." I'm in the party scene.

Anything with a guy in it,
I'm in it basically.

I'm playing the Hot Chocolate Nutcracker,
or you can just call me "HC."

I'm a spider in the rain forest.

[Debbie] In October, we start rehearsing.

Oh, my goodness.


You guys have to do your job.

Your job is to come to rehearsal…


You also have to be responsible
at home too.

Miss Allen doesn't play.

You guys have to be role models.

You have to be model citizens
at home, at school.

Is there anybody in here that's three?


-Good. Put your hand down!

Is there anybody in here that's four?

Four years old.

Come here.

Good girl. Come on.

Shh! Quiet!

Are there any five-year-olds?

Come on down.

Shh! Hey!

[whispering] Yes, come on.
Spread out. We're gonna be on this line.

Spread out, face the front.

Are you five for real?

You're tall.

Come on.

[Debbie] You need to practice.

You're not gonna get there,

switching and going around to the mall
and being cute in heels.

Take those high heels off
and get down on the floor and stretch.

[woman] Debbie expects a lot
of greatness out of these kids

just on every level,
not just one thing, but just everything,

and so, in the world…
things are not easy.

Even in this dance floor.

When they come across this floor,
some will fall,

but if you don't fall at least once a day,
you ain't reachin'.

I need a tilt that goes into six o'clock.

Trust me.

That's what they're gonna see
when you leave DADA.

They don't love you like I do.

I met Debbie when I was 16,

about ten years ago.


["Fame" playing]

So, I did Fame with Debbie.

You've got big dreams.

You want fame?

Well, fame costs,

and right here is where
you start paying with sweat.

She's the same right now.
It's absolutely brilliant.

I would never walk into a rehearsal
without stretching and doing my tendus

and having my legs ready
and being ready to go.

It ain't gonna happen.

You won't get to the next level.
I'm trying to help you.

Okay, if I'm kicking your ass,
it's 'cause I care. Okay?

[woman] My mama?


She's tough.


Effervescent, the most talented,

a mother truly to all.

♪ Fame! I'm gonna live… ♪

[Vivian] She's a groundbreaker.
I mean, this woman

has choreographed the Oscars ten times.

♪ High! ♪

♪ I feel it comin' together ♪

♪ People will see me and cry ♪

Did I ever think I'd be here
on this big lot,

a producer, a director, a star,

a choreographer, a mother?


♪ Fame! I'm gonna live forever ♪

[music fades and stops]

The pieces that involve more students,

we start with those pieces first,
and we only rehearse on the weekends.

[Debbie] All right, let's go
right at the top of "Toyland."

Enjoy coming alive.

Dolls, little dolls.

["Toyland" music playing]

Da, da, da, boom, bop! Okay, okay.

What scene were you guys in?

-[Cathie] Come on, now.

And what scene are you guys in now?

-[dancers] Well, everything.
-[Cathie] All of them? Yeah, see!

See, "Toyland" is a stepping stone.

Everybody who's everybody
comes through "Toyland."

You are in "Toyland."

I've never even seen a regular Nutcracker.

The only thing I know is Hot Chocolate.

And I-- I kind of like that.

Kylie Jefferson.

She's the youngest person
that I ever put in the Academy.

I remember we walked into…

the Debbie Allen Dance Academy,

in Culver City at the time,

and there were so many people there.

And when we got to the table,
I remember them telling my mom

that I could not audition.

They were like, "She is too young."

She came in in first position,
hair pulled back… [inhales]

…and just so serious,
I'm like, "Oh, yeah."

And Miss Allen said, "Let her audition."

[Debbie] And they all looked at me
and said, "Miss Allen, she's too young,"

and I said, "I can change the rules."


Most of my students come from LA,

from various economic backgrounds.

Some of them live in Beverly Hills,

some of them live in Compton,

and those that are the most serious
about dance,

they come at least five,
maybe six days a week,

and they are required to take
no less than ten, up--

Some of them take 15 classes a week.

She wanted to have a place where,
regardless of what you look like,

if you want to dance, you can come dance,

which speaks to why we have a large group
of people that are on scholarships here.

A lot of our kids can't afford to come.

We find a way to…

get people into the doors
who want to be there.

[Debbie] We go, we go, we go.

We've always been raising money.

A lot of my friends
stopped taking my calls

after that first year. [laughs]

But no, my friends have all been so cool.

We started thinking about,
what brand can we use

that's in our toolbox

that can help generate more income,
that would be familiar to people?

When George Balanchine came to New York
to start the New York City Ballet,

he had to find something
that would raise money,

and The Nutcracker was what did it.

It was The Nutcracker
that helped fund the rest of the year

for the New York City Ballet.

[Eartha] The original Nutcracker

is a story told completely--
It's an opera completely in dance.

Our Nutcracker is a narrative.

Hey, Harvey! It's time to go!

The Nutcracker's awake.
We gotta go battle.

[Eartha] We have a narrator, or narrators,

who are taking us through the journey,

and it's more--
It's comedy in here that is spoken.

It's not mimed.

-[glass shatters]

Ooh! Who turned out the lights?

-Who turned out the lights?
-[audience laughs]

It just caught on like wildfire.
It's a huge part of our fundraising.

It's probably
our largest single fundraiser.

[Debbie] This is gonna tell me
who's doing this tilt. Ooh no!

Get the leg up!

You need to sit in that split
while you're watching TV, doing homework.

You all don't do that enough.

You all are too busy talking to boys
and doing other things.

Get the leg up higher.
Come on. I'm gonna get it this time.



Tilt over! Bend!

Yes, bend!

Yes, hold yourself and get the leg up!


Well, my first memory of DADA
would be when I was 11.

I was so scared
'cause I didn't even know,

like, people could be this, like, good.

'Cause I was, like 11,
and I was, like, "I'm the best."

Then I was like, "Nope."

The teachers here, they're hard on you,
and they're tough, but they care.

I just feel like it's a family.

Miss Allen cares
about every single one of us,

which is, like, really good.

[girl] I've been at DADA for nine years,

since I was five, and I'm 14 now.

So… I've basically grown up in DADA.

When they first told me I was Kara,

I was, like, nervous and happy

because I felt like I had
such a big responsibility

to, like, make sure I wouldn't mess up
or, like, screw up the entire show.

Everybody wants to be Kara,

which is the lead role.

She's the little girl
who goes on an adventure.

And Miss Allen
always double casts the show

so that people
get to interchange their roles

and have different experiences.

[photographer] Nice.

-♪ Kara, Kara, won't you smile? ♪
-To the camera.

-♪ Take a look, tell me what you think ♪
-Tell me what you think!

I remember Miss Allen, she told me
that I was gonna be Kara for three shows,

and I literally freaked out.

♪ My dear, such a surprise ♪

♪ Surprise
Surprise, surprise, surprise! ♪

-[all] ♪ Kara, Kara ♪

♪ Kara, Kara ♪

[girl] You know we love you!

It's that feeling when it's like
you have a goal, and you reach it,

and you meet it, and it's like, "Yes!"
You know? So I was so happy.

[indistinct chattering]

Now, let's talk about the Egyptian Doll.

You wanna get right under her little butt,
and you have her hand, if she needs it.

And you press her all the way up.

That is the position,
and you're on the other side.

I was the first Egyptian Doll.
My mother choreographed that on me.

[solemn music playing]


And one and two.

One, two, three.

Single turn, open. Head, head.

[Vivian] I really started training
heavily and seriously in dance

at the Kirov Academy of Ballet.

It's about right here
that you start. She splits.

[Vivian] My third year there,

my teacher looked at me one day in class,

and goes, "Stop, stop, stop, stop, stop!"

And, um,
he looked at me, and he goes,

[in Russian accent]
"You never be dancer.

You go Alvin Ailey."

And that was a dig.

[Debbie] Like Alvin Ailey was nothing?

[chuckles] Alvin Ailey's our premier,

you know,
contemporary American dance company,

and, yes, it's mostly Black people, but…

that means she can't dance?

Child, I was coming through that phone.
I was getting ready--

I sent my husband
because I knew I was not gonna be nice.

For me, having my daughter gone
for a coup-- three or four-- three years,

it was time for her to come back home
in my eyes anyway.

He pulled me out of the school,

and that's when my mother decided

that she was gonna create
the Debbie Allen Dance Academy.

And so I started DADA, and she came home.

She was the inspiration.

She's my muse. She always has been.

There's something here for everyone.

You know, every shape,
every size, every color, every culture,

and that makes us very unique.

And she's gonna walk over,
and then you all recede back.

She is the one.

-She's adorable.
-And she's fierce.

-She's fierce.
-[instructor laughs]

April is cutting where she has to cut.

You all need to keep coming around.
You can do it.

[April] I didn't start actually dancing
until I was eight years old.

I came here from North Carolina,

and I-- I received full scholarship
by Debbie Allen.

April is one of the most gifted dancers
I've ever come into my circle.

And I brought her here
so we could nurture her

because she needs it.

I have a part-time job at El Pollo Loco.

I'm a cashier.

So, right now, I'm a cashier.

People usually see me as a quiet person,

and, like, most of the time,

I have a lot to say,
or I have a lot on my mind,

but I just don't know how to…
you know, I don't know how to say it.

And sometimes, like,
I have so much emotions inside of myself,

and the only way I can get my emotions
or my fear or my anxiety out

is through dance.

[Giana] Ready?

[Bollywood music playing]

[Debbie] Breathe!



You're the most beautiful people
on the planet.

Once again, it's about the mirror.

The most beautiful beings on this Earth.

[shouts] Bop!



-And one.
-[Cathie] The head, one person moving.

The whole rhythm,

this whole thing has to feel like
one person moving.

[Debbie] Look up!


[Jalyn] I wanna be in "Bollywood" so bad.

I've been trying to get in "Bollywood"
for the longest.

I know every step, but, you know,
I'm too young to be in "Bollywood."

[Debbie] Upper body!

When we go to a different country,

that allows
for new choreography, new costumes.

It allows for a new part of the story.

[Debbie] Back.


Wherever you go,

you have an aura of superiority
and beauty and power.


This is about women's power.

Women rule the world!
I don't care what they say.


Bop. Where am I?

Ta, ta, ta!

Ta, ta!

It's in the eyes, all of it.

you would think it would be my favorite,

it's everybody's favorite.

It's something you, like,
dream about being in until you're in it.

It's five minutes
of straight full-out dancing,

and there's no time to breathe.

[Debbie in background] One. One.

-[Cathie clapping rhythm]
-[Debbie] And jump! Power!


Power! Bop!

[music stops]

[Debbie] And stay forever.

Stay. Stay there. Breathe. Stay.

Practice holding it.

It's good for you.

It's getting better, ladies.

Okay, break. Getting better.

Listen to me.

You're going much wider than you need to.
You're killing yourselves.

Okay, breathe,
then we're gonna do "Egypt."

Just breathe. Breathe.

You have two minutes.

Okay, so, Miss Nicholas.

Okay, we're really gonna be okay,

but they're just raggedy.
Too raggedy for me right--

I can't-- uh, '"Fairyland,"
I'm-- I'm not feelin' it. No.

So I'm adding, in yellow,
things that we're going to rehearse.

Okay, now, I gotta go terrorize
the fairies, I'm sorry.

[piano playing "Fairyland" music]

Because I came from DADA,

I didn't realize how big of a deal
that I was a Black girl who does ballet.

[Debbie] Lovely!

[Kylie] Like, the world
is so different from DADA. [chuckles]

'Cause, where I come from, we all do it,
and we were all good.

[Debbie] Lauren Anderson,

who was the first Black ballerina
in a major ballet company,

came here a year ago.

And a one, and two,
pas de cheval, enveloppé.

I never thought, "I wanna be
a ballet dancer," not at the age of seven.

I just thought it was fun
taking the classes.

So I just really didn't realize
the impact of being African American

and a principal dancer.

And I found out there weren't very many.
There weren't any at that time, really.

Unless you were in Alvin Ailey
or Dance Theatre of Harlem.

But I just wanted to dance.
That wasn't my big focus,

that I wanted to be
the first Black anything.

I just wanted to dance.

Plié, one, and stretch.

[lively ballet music playing]

When I first saw April,

I thought, "Wow!
Where did that come from?"

That's somebody
that's born with everything.

[Debbie] Yes!

Love it.

What I need is something that sustains.
I feel like it's…

I want it to be lighter.

[scats softly]

[April] I don't think I ha--
necessarily have a ballet body right now,

as of this moment… [chuckles]

…because my legs
are just a little bit overdeveloped.

[Debbie scats rhythmically]

And when you get really serious, you start
looking at yourself in a certain way.

Chaîné, chaîné, chaîné,
chaîné, chaîné, chaîné, chaîné.

Stop on a dime.

And stay.

But when I'm in the ballet world,
mostly everyone is pretty thin.

In high school,
I really had no problem with it,

and then you realize
that maybe you should look at it,

because everybody else looks
at weight and…

Everything matters.
Everything is so particular in ballet.

She might not have the perfect legs
and feet. I didn't.

Most people don't.

Most people that do ballet
do not have perfect legs and feet.

It's something you've worked for.

Turnout you've worked for.

You don't-- don't just come out going,

Some people do,

but most of us don't.

[soothing music playing]

There have been times
where I was so down on myself

about my body and just, like, so, ugh,

like, negative and insecure about it.

But… [exhales]

I had to stop playing the victim…

towards myself.

There was a moment where I realized,
like, "Look, if I wanna do this,

I have to figure out
what's gonna work for me."

But what was hard was understanding

that the craft that chose me
was not created in my image,

and that was a really hard realization.

But, at the same time,
you know, this craft chose me.

I have no choice but to do it
and to give it my all.

-[classical music playing]
-[Debbie speaking indistinctly]

[Debbie] You know, in Russia, they…

x-ray the children's feet
and their backs and their bodies

before they even accept them.

Well, I mean, that's the world of ballet.

[dramatic music playing]

In a opera, uh, they will select
only children who have voice.

They cannot make a voice. It is gift.

Same things with a ballet facility.

They have to have certain physiques
for that.

You cannot make it.

The Kirov
and the Russian method is important.

It is the technique
that I love the best to teach.

And that's why we have Madame Giana
who's from the Bolshoi.

But the dance world is evolving,

so I'm reinventing a bit,
for the teachers,

what their mission is
and how they go about it.

I want the spirit of the dance.

That's not something
you can take a picture of.

That's something you feel and you see.

You experience.

One, two. Not bad.

One, two. One, two.

Okay, not that bad. Go back.

It actually helped.

It looked better.

I'm sorry, Madame Giana,
it looked better.

No, no. I disagree.

-Because they look like this.
-I disagree.

-It's okay. It's all right.
-It's "Oh!

-[dancers laugh]

It's all right. Five, six.

They're just practicing.
Six, seven, eight.

And one, and two, and one, and two,

and one, and two.

Some of you, uh, don't have the timing,
and you're a little stiff.

You know, you've gotta relax.

I'm sorry, but I have to just say
what I'm seeing right now

because, um, we don't have a lot of time.

And either they're doing it right
right now, or they're not.

Even though we're gonna clean it,
I know that.

But I know, technically,
if somebody's going like this,

that's not gonna change tomorrow.

Go back, ladies.

Five, six, seven, and eight.

And one, and two, and one, and two,

and one, and two, and one, and two.

Much better!

And two, and one, and two.

Much better! Much better!

Sorry, Madame Giana, it's better.

Okay, go back to the beginning.

It's better. You know it is.

[classical musical playing]

[Debbie] The teachers are so vested
and so dedicated to these young people.

They go home with them.
They give them food.

They'll scold them
if they need to pull them together.

You know, we go in.

We're raising--
we're helping to raise these kids.

I grew up in Houston, Texas.
Everything was segregated.

You know, white water fountain only,

colored bathroom…
We had experienced all that.

There was a great dance school,

but I was not allowed to go
because I was Black.

But I was very serious early on.
I knew I really wanted it and…

My mom always says
that, when I was eight years old,

I said to her,
"Mom, I'm trying to be a dancer.

How am I gonna get there
if I don't have lessons?

I need real lessons, Mom.

Real lessons."

At 14 years old,

I was recruited
by Madame Tatiana Semenova,

who came from the Mariinsky school.

I was so excited, I had to get up,
I had to go way across town.

My Uncle Lloyd would take me,
and I-- if I had to take a bus back,

it was two or three buses
to get back home.

And, uh, Madame Semenova
really embraced me in class.

It was a Ford Foundation grant
that paid for all of my classes.

I was a full scholarship student.

And when I danced,

it was a big deal because the board
didn't know that I was there.

I was there probably six or eight months

before the board knew
there was a Black kid in the school,

and some of them did not like it.

But Madame Semenova pushed me,

she scolded me, she humiliated me,

and she loved me.

[classical music playing]

All right,
welcome to "the hell that is Chantel."

-Here we go, so…
-[kids laughing]

I grew up as a foster kid.

This is the one thing
that saves somebody like me.

For somebody else to see and invest in me

and say, "We see what it is that you want.

We're gonna help you do this
and get you from point A to point B,"

I feel like that, in itself,
is the biggest thing that changed my life.

Boom, boom. Sit, sit. Boom, up!

Where you at?

I don't know.

If you do this bang again,
I'm about to be…

Elijah, go get me, um,
go get me a little rubber band, please?


[Elijah] Looks so cute, though.

[chuckles] Shut up.
Shut up, Elijah. Five…

Five, six, seven, cross.

Cross and sit, sit.

-I was an understudy, but I came--
-Yeah, Griffin…

Miss Chantel said
I could be in "Candy Cane," so…

Yeah, he was first an understudy,
but then he started trying to dance.

He's tr-- trying really, really hard,
and then he ended up being in the show.

"Candy Cane" is fun. It's hip-hop, so…
you just hype and fun and full out and…

Yeah, "Candy Cane" is really fun.

"Candy Cane," it's an all-boys scene,

and it's hip-hop, and hip-hop's
one of my favorite styles, so…

Unfortunately, I can't be in it,
but it's my favorite scene.

"Candy Cane" is for the boys.
"Fairyland" is the girls.

You gotta have the--

You know, DADA has always had
more boys than any school.

It's because I'm pushing them
and I want them.

And I have to--
I have to have something to give them.

[Chantel] Olivia, go in the center.

Scoot back, back up.

[female dancer]
My favorite scene would be "Candy Cane."

It's, like, the only hip-hop in the show.

It's all boys.

Six, five, behind him.

Are you going to put the girls in?
Going to put the girls in?

Yeah, I'm doing that.

-I'm gonna get in trouble, but whatever.
-[chuckles] Okay.

Da, da, da. Cross, cross, up, down.

So I need-- Yes!

I need to see cross, up…
That's almost like a élevé.

Over my dead body.
No girls in "Candy Cane." [laughs]

-Yeah, that's not happening. No girls.
-It got around.

It almost happened, though,
but, you know, it's okay.

-I'm in everything else, so…

Sorry, girls. You know,
it's only us, you know. [giggles]

-[hip-hop music playing]
-[Debbie] Yeah.



[man] Oh, it's definitely muscle memory.
When you have Chantel Heath

taking you to the depths
of, like, yourself,

you won't forget it too much.

[laughs, vocalizes]

Now run! [laughs]

And one, and two, down, bring it up.


Slide, one, two. Yup, it's--
The whole thing is still there.

[dancers chant]
Who are we? Candy Cane!

[Chantel vocalizing rhythm]

Throw! [vocalizing rhythm]

Turn, and one.

It's no joke, huh?

Some boys fall apart.
Some boys don't make it. I mean…

You know, they're like, "Oh, my God.
That was hard, that was hard."

I know, sit down.

Just a second.

What I know is, if I was doing it, I'd be…

still dancing right now
'cause the song would still be on.

Let's get it. All right, show's on!
Let's go!

But I tell them,
"Keep coming back, keep coming back,

because one of these days,
you're gonna get it."

I don't know if everyone sticks with it,

but I know for a fact that, if you
are here longer than a-- a semester,

me, personally, that it's inside you.

Boom, boom, sit, sit! Boom, boom…

I've been walking
through the hall, but actually

in the studio for a class here,
it's been a while.

It's like…
That was a lot of sweat in these floors.

If somebody like lifted up
history out of these floors,

it would be kinda gross, but inspiring.

I played
the first Hot Chocolate Nutcracker

in the first production.

I left my biological family behind
when I was 13.

My mother and my three sisters
moved to Arizona, and I--

My mom made the conscious decision
to allow me to stay here.

So I moved in
with Miss Harris, Mama Harris,

and then I got full scholarship
in dance here.

The first time
I was the Little Nutcracker, it felt like,

"I'm-- I'm one of the principal roles. I--

Oh, cool!"
It was, like, Miss Allen believed in me.

[up-tempo classical music playing]

Now, Ryan Phuong,
he's the Little Nutcracker.

Thank God I did it first
because I would not wanna follow him.


[Debbie] I want it to be magical.
You can't just go over here

and hit fourth position
like a Degas statue,

and go here.


It's the Hot Chocolate Nutcracker, honey.

Alive! It's like,
"Oh, my God, look at him!"

[gasps, sighs] Oh!

It's gotta be that.

Look at me. Stop. Look at him!

You're so busy looking at yourselves.

Play the scene. [gasps]

"Oh, my God, he's moving!

Look at him! [gasps]

Oh, my God, I touched him!
Oh, my God, he's coming!

Oh, my God! Oh, my God! Okay.

-[all laugh]

Oh, my God! Ah!"

It should be like that.

I came here for, like,
an open class, for hip-hop, right?

I think it was Chantel,
she was teaching,

and that was the only thing
I would ever do is hip-hop.

I did not plan on doing ballet
or anything.

This little boy,
I couldn't believe what I was seeing.

I was like, "What?"

[hip-hop music playing]

You put that hip-hop music on,
you would see like this little tornado,

like the little Tasmanian Devil, you know?

[Debbie] He's been every Nutcracker.

He was the Littlest Nutcracker,
and now he's the young prince.

Ryan thought he was trying
to just take some hip-hop classes,

and that's how we reeled him in.

We give them something that they want,

but we teach them, in order to do that,
you gotta get this first.

Ballet, I… You know, it's…

For me, back then,
I thought only girls should do that.

[classical music playing]

I was really terrified to take class.

[Giana] Ballet training, very tough.

Who will go through the ballet training

and finish that ballet training,

they have strong personality
to go further.

And Miss Allen told me,

who she is,

it's because she went through th--
that tough, strong ballet training.

[Debbie] I went to the North Carolina
School of the Arts to audition,

after I'd been trained
by the Houston Ballet Foundation.

I was so hopeful about that,

and they used me in the audition
to demonstrate,

and when it was over,
I went to the man and said,

"Well, I just wanna know, how--
when would we start?

How is this gonna go?"

And he told me
I was not gonna be accepted,

and that I was not right for dance,

and my body wasn't right,
and I should do something else.

And It broke her spirit.

And she stopped dancing for a year or two.

[Debbie] It was very discouraging.

He told me, you know,
"Definitely don't think about ballet.

Just forget it," and, um…

Wow, that was hard.

So when I came back home
and it was time to go to college,

I was accepted to Howard University,

and so I was, like,
"Okay. I have to let the dance go.

I love it, but it doesn't love me."

And it was hard.

My mom just was really brokenhearted
when I got off that plane.

That was the hardest part.

You know, when I got off that plane,

and she was at the airport,
and she met me in tears.

And she said, "Deborah, you failed."

"Deborah, you failed."

[inspirational music playing]

My mom said, "You come home this summer,
you don't go and dance.

I'm gonna save the money
that I've been putting aside

to send you away to dance

and buy a car."

I'm like,
"No! No, Mom, no. No, I want to."

And that was the summer
that I met Martha Graham

and Meredith Monk

and Twyla Tharp

and Alvin Ailey.

It was a new wave of dancers
who were breaking the traditional mold,

doing something new and exciting.

When I saw Alvin Ailey,
it was everything for me.

I was like, "Child, take these snowshoes,
honey, put them somewhere else.

I wanna dance about feelings."

[rhythmic tapping]

I've been trying
for years to f-- figure out

what-- how could I really use
the language of tap in the show.

This year, Savion Glover's coming.

I've asked him to create
a piece called "The Train."

[scatting on drumbeat]

Miss Debbie Allen had an idea early on,

and then she put that idea

in my thought process,
and I was thinking about it

for the whole time,
and then I came back,

and, um, I was ready to go.

And her idea was that, you know,
to get this train thing moving,

to get us from one scene to the next.

[Debbie] Thank you. Thank you!

Beyond the choreography,
I just want them to come out

with a sense of empowerment,

a sense of greatness,
a sense of achievement,

a sense of expression!

This ability to think
about making someone think differently.

[girl] That was just my style.

He just told me
to freestyle at the beginning,

and so I just created my own little thing
at the beginning and end.

I wanna be just available
as a human being,

and I like that exchange,
that allows me to learn from them.

And hopefully, they learn from me.

-[cymbal crashes]

[Debbie] We're gonna have a session--

We're gonna start having sessions
during the week

because, otherwise,
I don't think you're gonna get there,

and I-- I need to rearrange
some of your places.

And they're just
not getting the doll dance,

and I don't want them
to be on stage and not look fantastic.

I just got kicked out of "Dolls,"
like my sister too.

'Cause, um, she wants me
to be in the party scene.

[Eartha loudly] So you've gotta be in it
from the very top.

I can't be a monkey over here like this.

[man] Ooh.

I'm ready for fairies,

so when y'all in that wings,
I want y'all like this.

Ready to go!

I need arms swinging.
What happened to that?

[shouting] And a one, two, three, four.

And a up, up, up, up.

Yes, Tobal!

[all cheering]

I need to make her a monkey. [laughs]

-I'm the-- Yes!
-[male instructor laughing]

[sighs] Come on, girl, get in there.

-[dancers cheering]
-[Eartha laughs]

I got the job of doing "Rainforest,"

and "Rainforest"
is one of the biggest production numbers

in the show.

[tribal music playing]

"Rainforest" is beautiful. Butterflies,

monkeys, panthers.

[panther roars]

When you think about herds of animals
on the plains in Africa,

the migration,
everyone's going in the same direction,

and so there is a--
a journey that's taking place.

Oh, my God, how big is the cast?

You know, I don't wanna say it out loud!

Delorse, my costumer, might slap me.

When she saw the cast of people,

she said, "Miss Allen, really?"
I'm like, "Yeah, Delorse."

[loud chattering]

Shh. No more talking, please.

Who does not have a costume? Hm?

Well, we have a cast of almost 200.

Each person is wearing,
you know, three-- two to three things.

Some kids are wearing five.

Okay, girls.

She went to go get more costumes.

[loudly] I still hear talking. Okay!

We're just… It's a little busy.

Everybody like their costumes?

-[kids] Yes!

[Debbie] That's two people missing.

Oh! One, two. There's two.

-Who's missing?
-[costume helper] JoAnn and AuDrya.

[Debbie] And where are they?

Some lady was trying
to say JoAnn hit her car,

but she didn't,
so they're on their way. [chuckles]

I was eight
when I started at DADA.

This year, I've been kinda like
getting there when I wanted to,

like, just trying to be a teenager,
I guess.

[Debbie shouts] JoAnn!

You don't just walk in my rehearsal.
What happened?

-For what?
-[JoAnn] Speeding.

Stay here.

One, plié.

Go warm up at the bar.

One, plié.

And down, down…

[JoAnn] Whenever I feel
that I let her down, it was very…

[sighs] Like, it got to me every time.

So, I'm like,
"Dang, I can't let her down no more.

We can't have these talks.

The next few talks we have to have
have to be good talks."

[laughs] Like, instead of just
her telling me to get it together.

It takes a lot.

I don't know.
I think it comes down to heart and will

and wanting it for yourself,
wanting something more.



Working your butt off.

I'm trying to help you
learn professional work ethic.

Say "work ethic."

[dancers] Work ethic.

Work ethic.

[dancers] Work ethic.

This should apply
to everything you do in life.

Your homework,
how you do your work at school,

what other jobs

and other career aspirations
that you have.

If you work in the post office,
if you are a teacher,

if you are a maintenance person,

if you work in Washington,

your work ethic must be the same.

If you work with children,
your work ethic should even be better.

Adolescence is difficult,

and it's sort of like
your mind leaves you for a bit

and you're just sort of out in orbit.

You're exploring yourself,
you're exploring things around you,

but the fact that you have something
to go to three or four times a week

and be responsible to

helps you be responsible

with your school work,
your homework, your chores at home,

and it gives you a sense of gratitude.

How do you think
you're going to get where we are?

Where are you trying to go in life?

Every day
is not just a rehearsal for Nutcracker,

it's a rehearsal
for the rest of your life.

You come in here late,

that's where you're gonna be
on your next job, and you're fired.

You walk into a Broadway show late,
you're fired.

The understudy is on.
They don't care how much they like you.

You're not professional.

-Do you understand?
-[dancers] Yes.

Every day is your rehearsal for life,
not just the Nutcracker.

Take it seriously. Make it into something.

We have a lot of work to do.
I wanted to see you…

Look, we're not in a bad place,
but we have literally a month,

which means we don't have a month
'cause we don't rehearse every day.

-So this is your homework.
-Thank you, Miss Allen.

[dancers] Thank you, Miss Allen.

[Debbie shouts]
Don't come to my rehearsal late.

Don't come to any rehearsal late again,
and I mean it.

Thank you. Dismissed.

-[dancers] Thank you, Miss Allen.
-Thank you, Miss Cathie.

-Thank you.
-[Debbie] Yes.

-Thank you.

-Thank you.

Don't come late, AuDrya.

If you're late, just stay out.

-Thank you.

-Thank you, Miss Allen.

-Thank you.


-Thank you, Miss Allen.

-Thank you, Miss Allen.
-More joy. You're beautiful.

No, do you know how beautiful you are?

I don't think you do.

You're so beautiful.

Embody that. Embrace that when you dance.

Go away.


Thank you. Get rid of those nails.

-Thank you, Miss Allen.

Thank you. You'll be doing it.

[Karen] The window of opportunity
to enter in the dance world is small.

You have to do it by a certain time.

You have to pull yourself up

in a way that, by the time
you definitely are out of high school,

you have to be able
to audition and compete.

April, you come from this side of stage,
and you basically tell them all to come.

I auditioned for Dance Theatre of Harlem,

and I wasn't accepted into the company.

Then I was auditioning for other places,

thinking that I would get in
somewhere else,

but it just didn't happen.

Like, as a dancer,

you're always trying
to find the next place to go

or trying to improve.

And sometimes, it feels like,
you know, you're just stuck auditioning

and not getting anything.

So, it's just, like,
the life of a dancer is very hard,

but, like, I can't imagine myself
doing anything else.

[Savoy] I applied to 12 schools.
I would always say, when I was younger,

I was like, "I'm applying for dance.
I don't have to do anything.

My grades don't matter.
Nothing matters.

I'm just gonna dance." And like, no.

Like, it's honestly, like, worse.

So, I'm freaking out a little bit.

It takes so much focus to succeed.

You can't let things get you down.

Whether your teacher is too mean,

or it's too easy,

you can't let it disturb you.

[Eartha] Six, hold. Up!

I need to learn that too…

because I do the same thing still.
You know what I mean?

I-- I-- I don't get a choreography job,
I'm immediately like,

"I'm not good enough. Forget it,"
and I quit.

Up, eight.

We have to work hard at what we do.
I don't care if you're eight years old.

There's eight-year-old actors
and actresses in movies right now

that are doing huge scenes.

You have to be engaged,
it doesn't matter how young.

[jazzy music playing]

I wanted to be, like, a company dancer,

so I wanted to go to school,
train, train, train,

graduate, then, hopefully,
get into a company like Alvin Ailey.

Everybody has that dream.
Everybody wants to dance professionally.

You see that in Savoy.

You see that in April.

You see that in JoAnn.

[Eartha] Sometimes,
you see it in their eyes, like…

Are they gonna make it?
Are they gonna make it?

Come on, girl.
You can make it! You can make it!

And, uh, you know, I know a lot of people
who don't become dancers,

who are incredible surgeons,

but have dance still under their belt.

Well, Steve Jobs took dance class.

He did.

He bailed out of his math class
to go and take dance class.

That says a lot to me.

Like, I wanna go to New York
and go to these schools,

but I don't think I can do it,
then my mom is like,

"Oh well, this Ailey scholarship audition
is coming up in New York, so…"

And I'm, "Wait, am I going? Are we going?"
She's like, "You and Savoy are."

I'm like, "Oh, wow."
So it's just us two, both 17…

…getting on a plane by ourselves

and going to New York
to audition for this school.

And then I went to San Francisco

for LINES.
I felt really comfortable there.

Very comfortable.
So after I got a scholarship

to their summer program, it gave me hope.

"Maybe I can dance in my future."

-[instructor] Good job.

Then after that, they were asking,
um, for, like, payment deadlines,

right after the intensive.

[woman] Housing for a month
in San Francisco is…

because they don't provide housing
at the intensives,

it's just off the chain.

And going to Ailey,

she wasn't awarded any scholarships,

so just for a summer,
to go to Ailey, or…

It was pretty close to,

with tuition and housing,

probably like six, seven grand.

And that's just not…

anything, as a single parent,
I-- I could ever afford.

Yeah, that's when I figured out,

"Okay, maybe dance isn't for me,"

and things went left.

And then I was just like,

"Um, I need to find out
what I'm about to do

for the rest of my life." [chuckles]

[Chantel] See you on Wednesday.

[soft chattering]


[Terry] I started doing aerial
a long time ago, and Debbie was like,

how can we put aerial into the show?"

So, we started flying the Fairy Queen.

This year, Kylie Jefferson and April
were both the Fairy Queen,

but for my shows,
I mostly worked with Kylie.

Kylie's like a big sister to me.
I've always looked up to her.

She graduated from DADA
and went to Complexions,

one of the best
contemporary dance companies.

[Terry] Okay, boom! Hover.

I got into my dream company,
Complexions Contemporary Ballet.

[Terry] Down. Now…

[Kylie] I had been working
with the company for a few months.

I went over my partner's shoulder
for a lift,

and I just remember
hearing something, like, pop.

Crack, something.

It was a loud noise in my rib,

and I screamed onstage.

That was probably
the worst injury that I've ever had.

I came offstage, and I collapsed.

And I was just bawling
and in tears and in so much pain.

I thought it was over.

I kinda almost, like,
wanted it to be over.

I was like, "I don't wanna dance anymore."
My heart was so broken.

In this world,
there's gonna be a lot of pain.

Pain to your body,
but also it can be to your feelings.

But you have to pull up,
and you have to measure up to that.

You have to get-- like the athletes,
you have to stay in the game.

Are you gonna stay in the game?


[shouts] Quiet! Shh.
Quiet! We're starting all over.

Music, go.

[uplifting music playing]

Bounce, bounce, bounce.

Bounce, bounce, bounce, happy.

Happy, right from the beginning.

Character's as important as the dancing.

And that's part of being onstage,
that's part of being a professional

is the entire package

that I'm trying to help them touch
and understand what it is.

[Karen] The party scene
pretty much involves everyone in the cast,

so rehearsing the party scene
is pretty amazing.

[kids] ♪ This is Christmas, ooh… ♪

[Debbie] Yes, Sophia, yes!


♪ We can, can, can… ♪

[Debbie] And up! Down! Down! Up!

[Karen] We don't have enough space here.
We need ten studios, really.

[Debbie shouting]
No talking! There's no talking!

[Karen] We always remind the students

that it's their dream
that we're helping them shape.

It means nothing if they don't respect it.


-[Debbie] You come out…
-[Cathie] Shh! Shh!

Could you all shut up?

My God.

I mean, if I could just fire
some of you right now,

it would make my life easier.

I'm trying to get you ready
for the professional world.

You won't work anywhere
the way you act in this room.

I don't care who you are.
I don't care what your role is.

Talk while I'm working, and you are fired!

If that doesn't mean
anything to you, great.

We'll find out.

We're gonna find out right now.

The rest of this rehearsal,
talk one more time.

You're so disrespectful
to all these professionals here

trying to make this show incredible.

I'm trying to do your bows.


This is how it should sound all the time,
like this.

That's how it should sound, like that.

Miss Allen's nice… to me.

I don't know about all the rest of them
'cause they bad.

She don't know I'm bad.
She know I got in trouble once.

She didn't yell at me, though,
but she like me.

I like Miss Allen. She nice.

[nostalgic music playing]

[Debbie] When Madame Semenova
was teaching me at Houston Ballet,

do you think we would talk?

Do you think I would open my mouth
to speak when she's talking?

Oh, my God, she taught with that cane.
She would whack you.

That's why I taught with a cane on Fame,
in tribute to Madame Tatiana Semenova.

You know, she lived long enough
to see me become very successful

on Broadway and television,

and I remember our last lunch together,

Madame opened a bottle of champagne…

and she told me I had to keep the cork

because that was good luck.
I still have the cork.

We sat, and she pulled out
the programs she had saved,

programs with my name
and other students' names

that she had trained and loved.

And as we were drinking the champagne
and eating,

she says, "Well, you know,
I had to find you-- I had to find you."

I said, "What do you mean?" She says,

"Well, we would not keep the Ford grant
if we did not diversify the students.

I needed to find a Black student."

And I sat there,
and it kind of took me aback

because I was like…

I thought I was chosen
because I was really good,

not because I was Black.

But then I thought about it, and I said,

"I was good."

[Karen] We have two
and a half days in the theater

to get ready for opening night.

[Cathie] Are you on the line?
Are you on the line?

Load-in has to happen first,
then everybody's trying to get-- wonder,

"When are we getting on stage for tech?"

So Miss Allen brings in
the people who fly first,

and then maybe the mice,

and then the smaller groups
get to do what they need to do,

and then the masses happen.

Uh, no, no, no, no.
Where are you going? No.

Straight line. No, no, no.

-[You can't hear it upstairs--
-[Debbie] We need to figure that out.


-[Debbie] Unify us.
-[cast] Unify us.

-Don't divide us.
-Don't divide us.

-Unify us.
-Unify us.

-Don't divide us.
-Don't divide us.

-Unify us.
-Unify us.

-Don't divide us.
-Don't divide us.

-May this ring.
-May this ring.

-Of our power.
-Of our power.

-Of our passion.
-Of our passion.

-Of our joy.
-Of our joy.

-Of our joy.
-Of our joy.




-With Hot Chocolate.
-Hot Chocolate.

-Hot Chocolate.
-Hot Chocolate.

-Hot Chocolate Nutcracker!
-Hot Chocolate Nutcracker!

-Hot Chocolate Nutcracker!
-Hot Chocolate Nutcracker!

All right,
so April is our Fairy Queen today.

Good luck, April!

[cast cheering]

And we're welcoming back Prince--
Kris Nobles as our Prince.

[cast whooping]

All right, sign up
for your theater tickets

and get ready for the show.
I'll see you on the stage.

[Karen] We start what we call
the children's performances.

Whatever theater we're in,

children are invited
from everywhere around Los Angeles

to come in
and see the Hot Chocolate Nutcracker,

so children get to see
the very first performance every year.

[uplifting music playing]

[Debbie] Welcome, you all,
to the Hot Chocolate Nutcracker.

[audience cheering, applauding]

My name is Debbie Allen,
and I'm here to…

[audience cheering]

[Debbie] Thank you.

When you watch the show today,
I want you to think about,

what do you wanna be?

Do you wanna be
one of the dancers up here?

Do you wanna be one of the singers?

Do you wanna design the costumes?

Do you wanna do the makeup?

Do you wanna do the lighting?

There are many opportunities.

-[audience applauding]

All right,
so, I gotta go and get into character.

[in a mousy voice]
I gotta go! I gotta go! I gotta go!

I gotta go get--
get my character together.

I'm running. I'll see you later!

[audience cheering, applauding]

[audience applauding, whooping]

♪ Hang on the mistletoe ♪

♪ I'm gonna get to know you better ♪

-[adult male singer and kids]
♪ This Christmas ♪

[Nicholas] It's Christmas,
and everybody's having the big, fun party,

but then Frankie, Kara's brother,

he gets jealous that Kara
gets the Nutcracker instead of him.

So him and his friends
try to steal the Nutcracker from her,

but then the Nutcracker breaks.

So then, she gets sad, then magic happens,

and she's going
to all these different places.

[solemn music playing]

[Jalyn] I was just really nervous
before I went on,

and my mom was backstage,
helping me get ready.

And she was just telling me,
"Whatever happens, you can't change it,

but, as long as you do your best,
you know it's gonna be okay."

And that's what helped me
get through the show.

What makes me happiest about this place
is to watch their faces.

Some of them
that have never been in theater before

get standing ovations,

and to watch their faces, it's like…

it's unbelievable.

[epic music playing]

[Eartha] You wanna keep growing.

You never feel that you have arrived,
or you've made it,

or there's nothing else left.

Always keep growing.
Open yourself up to greater possibilities.

This is what they take away with them.

[music stops]

[audience applauding, whooping]

[applause fades]

[cicadas singing]

[mysterious music playing]

The process, from September to December,

it's pretty intense

Those students who participate,

I would say, grow tenfold,

in learning their craft,

in becoming a family,

being on stage in front of 1,800 people,

bearing their soul.

Children are not the same
once they do the Hot Chocolate Nutcracker.

They're brand-new.

[Chantel] Some of these kids had no idea
that they even want to dance,

but when they're introduced to it
and fall in love, it's something special.

And then some of them are off on Broadway,
doing things they never thought they could

and I think
that's what the arts does for people.

It can take you
wherever you want to be in the world.

[Bollywood music playing]

[Vivian] As a dancer,
it takes discipline and determination

and the willingness to continue,

no matter how many times you fall down.

[music stops]

Because success
is one step beyond failure.

[percussive music playing]

My dream, dream, dream school is USC.

My audition is in, like, a couple weeks,

so I'm freaking out
a little bit, but, like,

it's cool-- I got a new leotard for it.
My mom bought me a new leotard. [laughs]

-[music stops]
-[audience applauds, whoops]

[rhythmic jazz music playing]

[JoAnn] One day,
I had a long talk with my friend,

and she told me, like,
"You need to teach."

I'm like, "Really? I didn't know."
She's like, "Yeah, that's your thing."

I taught my first class, and it was like,

"Wow, like, I do like to teach.
Maybe I should continue doing this."

[Chantel] The kids forget sometimes
when we're teaching them…

They think that, "Oh, they must be old,"
and, "Oh, they don't do this anymore."

They don't get to see the-- the--
the professional side of what we still do.

So here I am, the teacher one day,

but in that audition,
with some of these major artists,

on tours,

I'm right there in the same playing field
as some of my students.

It's good. It's healthy competition.

[Giana] Some surprises happen
during the teaching years.

Some student
that doesn't look very promising,

through the hard work and open mind,

will jump up.

[percussive music playing]

[hip-hop music playing]

If I ever make my own dance studio,
I want it to be, like,

a dance studio where you can come
and pay how much you're able to pay.

There's a lot of good dancers out there,
and they just-- they're not in dance class

'cause they don't have enough money.

[scatting and percussion playing]

[Savion] They can take this information
and go on and be better dancers.

They can take this information and go on
to be better humans, humanitarians.

It's the learning. It's the teaching.
It's how they receive it.

I want them to just walk out different.

[classical music playing]

[Lauren] I love the way…

it felt to become music.

If you could physically think
of what it feels like to be music,

to physically become music,

that's what it's like dancing.

Like… to become the note
or the instrument or the beat.

-That's what it's like to dance.
-[applauding in distance]

[Kylie] By the end of my recovery period,

Miss Allen called to ask
if I wanted to do the Fairy Queen part.

And I was scared. I was so scared
because I knew that Miss Allen called,

that means I am gonna
have to get back to the real work.

It was hard, but doing Fairy Queen
made me wanna dance again.

Like, I got that… like, that fight back.

I don't know how. I don´t,
like, know what made it,

but maybe
because I had to overcome myself.

I think the biggest sacrifice is…


You spend so much time
training and training and training.

You sometimes just have to sacrifice

the regular middle-school,
high-school life

so when you're 20-something,

you're phenomenal.

[Karen] There's something about dance…

When you know
you're leaving your first dancing school,

and you're getting ready
to go out into the world,

with that wealth of information
that you've been receiving

since you were five years old
or seven years old or eight years old

is no longer just in your head,
but it is in your body.

It's in the way you talk.
It's in the way you walk.

That's when you become a dancer.

When the essence of what it is
and the essence of who you are

come together as one,

that's when you become an artist.

[audience laughs softly]

[applauding gradually intensifies]

This is a lifelong proposition.

It's a marriage.

It is, and it's one that I want to see…

have a continuation.

So that even past my prime
or ability to do what I do,

it will keep going.

'Cause I'm always gonna be
one of those kids.

I don't care if I'm 90.

I'm always,
in my heart, one of those kids

looking for that opportunity,

looking for who's gonna train me,

how am I gonna get to be
who I really know I could be?

Where's my opportunity?

I'm always gonna be
one of those kids in my heart.

["All I Want For Christmas Is You"
intro playing]

So listen to me.
Front line, you're the first ones out.

If you're not perfect,
everything else is a disaster.

You have to be what? Perfect.

[female singer]
♪ Underneath the Christmas tree ♪

[male singer]
♪ I just want you for my own ♪

[female singer]
♪ More than you can ever know ♪

♪ Make my wish come true ♪

♪ All I want for Christmas… ♪

-[female singer holding note]
-[audience applauding]

-♪ Is you ♪
-[song continues]

[Debbie] Five, six, five, six, go,

and one, two, three, four,
five, six, seven, eight.

Two, two, three, four, five, six, seven,

and one.

Five, good!

And one, two, three, four,
five, six, seven, eight.

Two, two, three…

[Jalyn] In ten years,
I wanna be at the Royal Ballet.

It's my dream to go there
and be able to dance on their stage, so…

[Debbie] Five, six, seven, eight.

One, two, three, four, five!


I wanna go to Stanford
and double major in kinesiology and dance.

Ooh, look at you! [laughs]

[Debbie] Two, three, four, five, go.

[Cathie] One, two, three,
four, five, six, seven, eight.

[female student 1]
Hopefully, I'll become somebody

that changes the world, honestly,
'cause I-- I wanna see that happen.

[Cathie] One, two, three,
four, five, six, seven and one.

And five, six, seven…

I wanna be, like, a well-known dancer.

Maybe a choreographer,
but I love to dance.

Like, it's my passion.

[Cathie] One… drop, and here we go.

Probably be a lawyer, or-- and a dancer.

I'll probably have to do both of them
at the same time.

[Cathie] Five, six, next,
and one, two, three, four, five, six…

[female student 2]
In five years, I just wanna be

in the college of my choice, dancing.

I just really wanna be… [clicks tongue]


I wanna have a permanent role on a TV show

or in a movie or something.

[Cathie] One, two, three,
four, five, six, seven, eight.

In five years, I want to travel,

either on Broadway
or with a dance company.

♪ All I want for Christmas is you, baby ♪

I wanna be a lot of things. I wanna be
an author, an engineer, a dancer…

the president
of the United States. [chuckles]

[audience applauding, whooping]

[male actor]
Merry Christmas, everybody!

[electronic dance music playing]

I'm doing Kara for the first show,

and then I'm doing "Bollywood"
for the second show. [chuckles]

[Wayne] I got accepted to be on Broadway

at 20 years old

for the production of The Prom.

I was talking to my mom,
She was like, "We're not surprised."

I was like, "What? Wh-- Why?"
She was like, "We all saw it."

Recently, I started acting.
I'm on a show called Young Sheldon,

and I play, like,
a recurring character called Tam.

This job is killing me.
You wouldn't understand.

You realize I have a job?