Matthew Brush, Courtesy Jacob Jonas

Nigel Lythgoe put his foot in his mouth last year. He and Debbie Allen were on a panel at The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, and Lythgoe started saying that what the Los Angeles scene needed was a dance festival. "I was shouted down and told, 'Well, we have got a dance festival!' " recalls the "So You Think You Can Dance" producer, with a laugh.

He apologized, but he knew that if he hadn't heard of it, the festival probably wasn't getting the publicity it deserved. So he and Allen started hatching a plan to launch their own.

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Dancer Voices
Lee Gumbs Photography, Courtesy SILLAR Management

I come from a lineage of survivors: African Americans who endured the brutality of slavery, Native Americans who survived forced genocidal migration, and my Jewish grandmother who escaped the Holocaust. My ancestors' enduring spirits live inside of me, giving me an indelible foundation of strength and compassion.

On the bookshelves my mom filled in our one-bedroom apartment in inner-city Washington, DC, sat a book called To Be Young, Gifted and Black, written by Lorraine Hansberry. Those words were aspirational, and empowered me to imagine a place beyond our limited conditions.

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Dancers Trending
From left, Ethel Merman, Lin-Manuel Miranda and Debbie Allen. All Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

January 16 might as well be a Broadway holiday. Three gigantic names were born on this day, in 1908, 1950 and 1980, and they represent three distinct eras of powerhouse musicals. Without them, there'd be no belting Reno Sweeney, no "Fame"-ous Lydia Grant and no rapping Alexander Hamilton. Happy birthday to these indelible superstars.

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