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Variety

Disney’s ‘Kiya & the Kimoja Heroes’ Partners With Debbie Allen’s Dance Academy

By BreAnna Bell,

2023-03-24
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When “Kiya & the Kimoja Heroes” first came across Debbie Allen’s desk for a potential partnership, both parties realized what a good fit they could be with their common interests.

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The original action-adventure animated series follows Kiya, a seven-year-old African girl, whose passions in life are dancing and martial arts, which also become her superpowers. Set in the southern Africa-inspired Kimoja City, each 11-minute episode focuses on themes of community, empathy and unity and features African and Asian-lead characters.

When Allen isn’t working on “Grey’s Anatomy,” she’s leading her dance academy and middle school — both of which are based in Los Angeles. She offers a slew of programming aimed at educating kids (some of whom are as young as 3 years old) in academics and the arts. Her academy’s “Hot Chocolate Nutcracker” has become a popular holiday staple. Previously, Allen showcased the preparation process for the big show with members of her dance academy in Netflix’s “Dance Dreams” documentary in 2020.

DADA hosted its inaugural free community block party in February, which included a “Kiya and the Kimoja Heroes” pop-up activation.

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“We had the most amazing block party in the middle of the torrential rains, the ancestors, and God brought the sun out,” said Allen. “That was a divine sign that what we’re doing is good.”

Allen continued, saying of the partnership, “it’s really wonderful, because I think the show Kiya is going to be an inspirational show that will also help other shows get made. She is a black young kid who has powers. It’s all about dancing and martial arts. That’s a fun thing for us to be associated with.”

The executive producer reflected on the growth of her nonprofit, telling Variety “It’s never been anything overnight. It’s been hard work, but work that we love, and we will just keep doing while we can as long as we have breath.”

“I started this without being a nonprofit, I became a nonprofit after six months. Berry Gordy was the first person that gave us a dime, which was in itself, a sign that we need to keep going right on his heels. For over 10 years, Wallis Annenberg has been the grassroots support of us being able to do lecture demonstrations, doing the ‘Hot Chocolate Nutcracker,’ doing everything,” she shared. “Slowly over these two decades, we have built a board of people who are accomplished, but also believe in this mission. We’ve built a community of parents and dance aficionados who support us no matter what we do. We have established a reputation of excellence that allowed me to open a middle school in the middle of the pandemic. Just when they told me ‘no, you can’t do it,’ that’s when I did it.”

“Kiya & the Kimoja Heroes” is currently available for streaming on Disney+.

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