Debbie Allen, BR performers give honor in ‘Derek’s Song’

World famous choreographer Debbie Allen and 120 area dancers closed out a phenomenal four-day dance performance this weekend honoring the love of music and life of the late Derek Gordon former CEO of the Greater Baton Rouge Arts Council.

Derek Gordon

Derek Gordon

Before his passing in September 2012, Gordon was one of the top arts administrators in the country who returned to his hometown and helped to revive the Baton Rouge Arts Council by presenting  world-class jazz performances and other educational opportunities. In 2006, he and Allen created a community dance residency which annually presented the talent of local dancers and performers to the city.

This year, Allen’s team delivered “Derek’s Song- Here’s to Life” to a packed audience who gathered, nightly March 13 – March 17, in the at the BRCC Magnolia Performing Arts Pavilion. Like Allen, many of the young performers knew Gordon as a mentor and lover of everything dance, art, and music. Allen, who is a Port Allen native, has received multi-Emmy Awards and a Golden Globe and currently holds the distinction of having choreographed the Academy Awards a total of ten times.

“(Gordon’s) really the reason why I am who I am today, because that’s who I initially started dancing with five years ago,” said Jeremy Williams, 18, of 2oon Squad. “If it weren’t for him, I wouldn’t be taking the path I am today, and I just thank him for bringing Mrs. Debbie Allen down here. I’m truly honored to be part of this show and paying tribute to his life, and I thank Mrs. Allen for coming down here even after he’s passed away. This really and truly gives a lot of kids the opportunity to dance and display their talent.”

Jeremy Williams

Jeremy Williams

Nine-year-old Payton Poole, who also was very excited about the event, agreed that it was a great opportunity.

Payton Poole

Payton Poole

Many of the participants said they hope taking part in this production may lead to an opportunity to enroll at the Debbie Allen Dance Academy in California this summer.

“I would think that anybody who participates in this production has a good chance over someone who (Allen) has never saw dance before, but everyone has to turn in an audition tape to be on file,” said Alyseia Darby, 20, a dancer with Of Moving Colors Productions.

The show included 20 acts many of Gordon’s favorite songs and dance routines including songs like Tin Tin, Duck Time, Smooth Criminal,  Broadway Baby, Church, and Don’t Stop the Music. Aniya Dunn, 9, of Danse Noir Studios said, “I like working with Ms. Debbie Allen because she pushes you to do better and all of that, and she inspires you to do other things.”

Aniya Dunn

Aniya Dunn

Participants said it has taken a great deal of hard work to pull this production off. They have practiced for the past three weeks, and some of them were dancing simultaneously in other productions as well, yet all agreed that this has been an amazing experience and they are honored to have taken part in it.  The performance was a collaboration between the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge and the Baton Rouge Community College.

By Francheska Felder
Contributing Writer

Felder is publisher of SwagHer Magazine.

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