Review by Jason Godbey, Creative Director, Behind the Rabbit Productions
Legendary performer/choreographer/director/producer Debbie Allen formed the Debbie Allen Dance Academy (DADA) a non-profit dance school in Los Angeles, California when her daughter was told she would never be a dancer by a dance teacher. In creating the school, she created a space for children to learn the art and craft of dance. To raise money for the school she created her own version of Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker ballet which she called Hot Chocolate Nutcracker.
Dance Dreams: Hot Chocolate Nutcracker follows the show from auditions to performance. It’s a unique show which encompasses a wide variety of dance disciplines and theatrical styles. Kids ages four and up are allowed to audition, and includes young students as well as professionals.
The documentary is also the story of Debbie Allen, her history coming up as a young dancer experiencing her own struggles growing up in a ballet system that rejected Black girls. She rose above the prejudice to become the legend that she is. If you’re a generation X kid, you’ll remember Ms. Allen as the dance teacher in FAME who told students who wanted fame that they would need to start paying in sweat. Watching this film is a realization of how close that character is to the woman herself.
We also hear the stories of the students of the academy some of whom start as small children and do the show every year, and they are amazing, talented, and inspired. Through the rehearsal process we see them become more confident. Debbie Allen teaches with the same discipline and drive that she was taught, a professional work ethic her students will take with them for the rest of their lives.
Dance Dreams: Hot Chocolate Nutcracker is a film of how art and having the discipline in a craft like dance or music or acting can not only make students great artists but great human beings.
This film reminds us why we love art and what art does for the world. As 2020 comes to an end, and so many of us have faced adversity, this is the film the world needs. If you’re looking for a feel-good documentary to inspire you and get you through the winter, I highly recommend it. Dance Dreams: Hot Chocolate Nut Cracker is currently streaming on Netflix.