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Kids From Fame icon honoured by Zeta

Feb 24 2007

Robin Turner, Western Mail


CATHERINE ZETA-JONES has not only got an acclaimed Oscar above her fireplace, she has now decided to start her own annual award scheme.

Tonight, in a black-tie ceremony on the island of Bermuda where she is bringing up her two children, the 37-year-old actress will hand out the first Catherine Zeta-Jones Award for Legends in Dance.

The Swansea-born Hollywood actress will present the award personally to Debbie Allen, known to British audiences for starring as Lydia Grant in the dance movie Fame and the subsequent 1980s TV series of the same name.

Debbie Allen, 57, is now an acclaimed choreographer and producer who teaches young dancers in her own academy. She is receiving the award as a sign of her backing for the National Dance Foundation of Bermuda, of which Catherine is an active board member.

Tonight's ceremony at the Fairmont Southampton Resort on Bermuda, hosted by the actress, will raise funds for the foundation.

Catherine's work with the foundation is a mark of her life-long love for dance.

She joined a troupe at her local Catholic church in Swansea when she was a child.

As a teenager, she gained dance roles on the London stage in Annie and Bugsie Malone and, as an 18-year-old, appeared in the West End in 42nd Street as Peggy Sawyer.

When she prepared for her Academy Award-winning role (Best Supporting Actress) in the 2003 movie of the musical Chicago, she asked to have a 1920s-style bob so her face could be seen and no-one could miss the fact she was doing her own dancing.

She now awards scholarships in her name for young dancers at the end of each National Dance Foundation of Bermuda's intensive programme.

Speaking about her choice of Debbie Allen as the first to receive the first Legends in Dance award, Catherine told the Bermuda-based Royal Gazette, "I am thrilled Debbie is able to join us in Bermuda and delighted she is the first recipient of this award.

"She continues to be one of the most respected, relevant, and versatile talents in the entertainment industry today.

"As a talented and successful actress, director, producer, author, choreographer, singer, and dancer, Debbie continues to redefine herself as an accomplished artist.

"Her multi-faceted career all started with her passion for dance and her career path is a shining example of the different directions dance can take you."

From now on, the Zeta-Jones award will be made annually to the man or woman "who has made an important and lasting contribution to dance on the international stage".

Debbie Allen's extensive career began on Broadway in the 1970s when she received instant recognition for her role in the musical Purlie.

She has received a host of awards since, then including two Emmys, a Golden Globe and a Tony nomination for her work as an actress.

The sister of actress Phylicia Rashad (best known as Claire Huxtable, the on-screen wife of Bill Cosby in the long-running Cosby Show) Debbie Allen has undertaken extensive film work, including the DreamWorks film Amistad, which she produced.

She is also one of the most sought-after director/producers in the television industry.

She was the star of the movie Fame (1980), and the TV series of the same name which ran from 1982 to 1987, in which she played a teacher.

She famously told her students in the series, "You've got big dreams? You want fame? Well, fame costs. And right here is where you start paying... in sweat."

The cult of Fame
Debbie Allen kicked off each episode of the US show Kids From Fame, with the words, "You want fame? Well, fame costs and right here's where you start paying...in sweat!" The hugely popular series was a five-year spin-off of the eponymous 1980 movie. It followed the trials, tribulations and successes of students at the New York High School for Performing Arts.

The theme song, Fame, was also a major hit for singer Irene Cara.


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