Debbie Allen's mind started reeling when she saw a young girl with natural dance talent.
"I wish I could take her back to Los Angeles with me," said the Tony award-winning dancer and actress as she taught a workshop in Chester. "We have got to find a way."
Allen is holding a two-day workshop at Brainerd Institute as a kick-off "celebration" for the Vivian Ayers Allen "Workshops in Open Fields" program, which starts Monday. Brainerd was established after the Civil War in 1866 as a school for children of freed slaves. Ayers Allen, 94, graduated from the school in 1939 — the year it closed.
Allen was on Broadway and starred in the hit show "Fame" during the 1980s. Brainerd's beauty, she said, inspires her to dance in its open fields.
Digital Access for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
"I love dancing out here in the elements," she said. "This feels so creative ... this campus has a spiritual tenet that is alive and well and when you come here, you connect to it."
All who attended seemed to connect.
Twelve-year-old P.J. Duncan of Lancaster attended the workshop and said he hopes to move to L.A. or New York City to "make it big one day" as a dancer.
“I never knew the stuff I could do until people actually told me," Duncan said. "They sat me down and told me how good I was and then I realized that God gave me that talent, so I’m going to use it."
"Dance Free Day" continues Sunday 1 p.m. - 5 p.m. at Brainerd Institute, 115 Marquis Street, Chester. Everyone ages four and up can participate. The dancers from the academy will teach ballet, jazz, tap, African and hip hop. There is no admission cost.
The Workshops in Open Fields preschool literacy program starts June 4. The hours will be 9 a.m.-noon, Monday-Thursday, through June 28 at Brainerd. There is no admission cost. Participants can attend each week or as needed. Register in person on the morning of the program, or contact Pete Stone at 803-899-4391.