PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten – Two young St. Maarten dancers have received a rare opportunity to uplevel their skills at the academy founded by award-winning and multi-genre dancer/actor/director Debbie Allen.
Senlly Samuel and Faith Peterson, who attended the 2022 Summer Intensive by Arts Saves Lives Foundation (ASLF) have been awarded scholarships to attend the Debbie Allen Dance Academy (DADA) in California in 2023. Their scholarships cover the tuition for the month-long comprehensive curriculum rooted in techniques of Ballet and Modern with additional classes in Contemporary, Jazz, Hip Hop, African, Dunham, Tap, and Musical Theater.
The dancers came to the attention of the academy through ASLF teaching artist 2022 Mrs. Vivian Nixon, who is the daughter of Debbie Allen and Associate Artistic Director at DADA.
ASLF founder Nicole De Weever thanked Nixon and Allen for the awards stating that both dancers were trained locally at National Institute of Art-NIA and are now studying dance in The Netherlands.
“It speaks volume of the incredible and solid training they both received from director and teacher Arlene Newhouse Halley at NIA. ASLF is extremely proud of this wonderful opportunity for our students,” said De Weever. “Thank you, Mrs., Nixon for acknowledging and recognizing Faith’s and Senlly’s promising and exceptional talent.”
Senlly, now 18, credits the foundation’s annual summer program as one of the main reasons he began to love dance at 14.
“Seeing the amazing professionals being brought to our small island and sharing the same space with them inspired me to work harder and become a part of that community. I never expected to be given such a large opportunity and to be able to learn from others around the world. It was truly shocking to be awarded a full scholarship. The opportunity to be taught by Debbie Allen herself and other incredible teachers is mind-blowing. Art truly saves Lives and allows dreams to come true,” Senlly said.
Faith Peterson, 19, was equally awed by the honor.
“To be granted a full scholarship to DADA’s Summer Intensive is one of the greatest moments in my life. I grew up admiring Debbie Allen and her work, and one of her children’s books “Dancing in the Wings” was my favorite book as a kid. It feels so surreal for me to be noticed by such an amazing artist with a phenomenal reputation in the dance world. It showed that I’m on a good path to my goal of becoming an artist one day and regardless of being from such a small island, that my hard work and immense love and passion for what I do can get me to bigger and better places,” Peterson said. “I plan to give this opportunity the best that I’ve got when the time comes.”
The Debbie Allen Dance Academy has a focus on working with disenfranchised Black and Latino communities using dance, theater, and performance to enrich, inspire and transform the lives of their students. It counts Allen’s sister, actress Phylicia Rashad, showrunner Shonda Rhimes, and actors Denzel & Pauletta Washington as part of its board of directors.
The Summer Intensive is slated for June 26 to July 23, 2023. Alumni include actor Corbin Bleu of High School Musical fame, Chloe and Maud Arnold, who have also been teaching artists at Art Saves Lives Foundation’s Summer Intensives over the years.
Learn more about DADA at www.debbieallendanceacademy.
Learn more about Art Saves Lives Foundation at www.artsaveslivesfoundation.