Boston Dance Alliance to honor four dance community leaders at 2023 Gala

Boston Dance Alliance to honor four dance community leaders at 2023 Gala

Boston Dance Alliance (BDA) will honor four leaders from the regional dance community tonight at its annual gala. Three are winners of BDA’s Dr. Michael Shannon Dance Champion Award: dance educator and performer Ann Brown Allen; international tap dance icon Dianne “Lady Di” Walker; and choreographer/teacher and studio owner Deborah Mason. Steve Adelson, long-time proprietor of the Cambridge, Mass. retail institution Teddy Shoes, will receive BDA’s Unsung Hero Award at the event.

The Dance Champion Award honors community members who are over 60 and have dedicated significant time, energy and resources to the artform.  The Award is named for the late Dr. Michael Shannon, a noted pediatric toxicologist who enjoyed a long dance career and performed professionally until his untimely death in 2009. Awardees are nominated by dance community members, and chosen by a panel of previous winners. The Unsung Hero Award honors people whose contributions to dance have been made “behind the scenes”; recipients are chosen by the BDA Board of Directors.

All recipients will be honored at a community fundraising event June 15 at 6:30 PM at the Arts at the Armory in Somerville, Mass. Tickets range from $25 to watch the livestream event feed to $500 for a VIP package that includes a reserved table for five and sponsorship for one dancer to attend free.

BDA Executive Director Debra Cash says the Awards underscore the community- centered vibe that imbues the annual event. “Each year, BDA and the previous Dance Champions aim to honor people whose contributions have been strong and focused on making dance in Boston a stronger, more vibrant sector,” Cash says. “Our list of potential honorees grows larger each year and during deliberations last winter, it was clear that recognizing a single Dance Champion would not do justice to the breadth and depth of talent across our community. Once someone suggested multiple winners, a lightbulb flickered on and everyone agreed, ‘of course…that’s what we have to do!’”

Throughout a four-decade-plus career as a professional dancer, Cambridge resident Ann Brown Allen has performed with a remarkable range of Boston’s major modern and jazz ensembles (including Danny Sloan Dance Company, Peter DiMuro’s Public Displays of Motion, Back Porch Dancers, and Dance Collective of Boston) been a guest artist with numerous ballet companies that has seen her touring throughout New England, in New York and in Europe. A longtime member of the Boston University dance faculty, Allen continues to teach dance and Pilates.

Deborah Mason of East Cambridge, is director of the Somerville-based Performing Arts Center that bears her name (DMPAC). She opened her first studio in 1975, and today, more than 700 students take classes in a wide variety of styles year-round based on the Center’s mission to achieve personal artistic excellence, an appreciation for dance history, and a commitment to diversity fueled by an atmosphere of acceptance. Mason is Artistic Director of the CYDP Dance Company, which gives advanced Center students performance opportunities.

Based in Boston’s Hyde Park, the internationally acclaimed, Dianne Walker also known as “Lady Di” – or “Aunt Dianne” to many of her protegés including Savion Glover – is one of the country’s foremost tap dancers. Her 45-year career has seen her perform on Broadway (a two-year run in the musical “Black and Blue”), on TV (under director Robert Altman), on film (the 1989 dance drama “Tap” with Gregory Hines), and in performances around the world. Walker recently announced the creation of the Dianne Walker Foundation, a non-profit organization for the preservation, restoration and documentation of tap dance.

At some point in their careers, most dancers in Greater Boston have entrusted their feet to Steve Adelson. Adelson is the owner of Teddy Shoes, a family-run specialty dance store that his father Theodore opened as a closeout and factory seconds business in 1957. Adelson, who lives in Peabody, Mass. joined the business in 1978, responding as other dancewear businesses closed or went entirely online. The good will and community he developed with the Cambridge community for four decades helped Teddy Shoes survive pandemic pressures and maintain its footing as a regional dance entity.

Tickets and information about Boston Dance Alliance’s Gala are available at