"The Hot Chocolate Nutcracker documentary is about young people seeing an image of themselves that propels them to want and go further," Debbie Allen tells PEOPLE

By Christina Dugan
November 12, 2020 01:15 PM
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Debbie Allen is a woman of many hats, but her latest move is bringing ultimate joy.

In an exclusive first look at her upcoming documentary Dance Dreams: Hot Chocolate Nutcracker, a Shondaland production premiering Nov. 27 on Netflix, the actress and producer, 70, takes viewers on a magical journey of what life is like preparing for a large production at the Debbie Allen Dance Academy.

"As a young girl, The Nutcracker was so important to me," Allen, who is celebrating the 20th anniversary of DADA this month, says in the trailer. "I decided to take it on with different styles of dance and music and make it fun."

"This is about woman power," Allen tells her students. "Women rule the world. I don't care what they say ... Every day is not just a rehearsal for Nutcracker, it's a rehearsal for the rest of your life."

Credit: Courtesy of Netflix ©2020

Speaking of woman power, Shonda Rhimes, a longtime supporter of DADA and Allen, was thrilled to be a part of the inspirational tale.

"Debbie is a choreographer, a dancer, a director, an actor, a producer, a writer," Rhimes, 50, tells PEOPLE. "She's been on Broadway, she's been in movies, she's been on television. If there's something to be done, Debbie has done it. She's just an extraordinary person and I'm really proud to know her."

Credit: Courtesy of Netflix ©2020

"Getting to tell the story of how powerful a force Debbie Allen is in the lives of kids is incredible because when I was a kid I got to see somebody who looked like me, doing all these amazing, powerful things and it made me feel like it was possible," she continues. "She was one of the women, one of the female forces in the world out there who made me feel like I could be whatever I wanted to be. I hope that when people watch the documentary, they will see the power and the force and the magic that is Debbie, the way I get to see it every day."

For Allen, inclusivity and creating opportunities for others has always been a priority. Former Scandal producing-director Oliver Bokelberg, who is making his feature documentary directorial debut with Dance Dreams, started filming rehearsals in 2016.

Credit: Courtesy of Netflix ©2020

"I had been seeing what these classes were doing for my daughter because they brought her so much confidence, and I was really intrigued to find out what had caused this," Bokelberg tells PEOPLE. "Once I took my camera in that room, I quickly saw that there was something really exciting here, and it became addictive to be in there."

"I spent every Saturday and Sunday for the next couple of months at the school and I soon realized that this was worth sharing, that it was important for people to see," he continues. "By looking through your camera, you get this tunnel vision, you see these beautiful moments and the passion, the power and the love that's there. That is what is bringing out these strong and beautiful performances. We have a couple of moments in the film when Ms. Allen gives these powerful speeches as she's teaching the kids and I realized that those were worthwhile life lessons for everybody."

And that's the exact message Allen hopes to get across.

"That's what the Hot Chocolate Nutcracker documentary is about — young people seeing an image of themselves that propels them to want and go further," Allen tells PEOPLE in this week's issue. "When I'm training these young people, I expect them to get out in the world the way my mother expected me and [my siblings]. All of us get out here and do something and be productive. That is the character education that instills the creativity."

Allen continues, "We have to have an incubation for creativity. A space that's open so people can think of something that they're not just getting from the internet or from television, that they're actually ingesting something that's now ready to come out in their way of doing it: creativity, confidence, being able to take criticism, deal with pain, and also to understand the freedom and the unlimited journey of your energy. How far it can really go."

Dance Dreams: Hot Chocolate Nutcracker premieres Nov. 27 on Netflix.