St. Maarten’s Faith Peterson: Dancing for Debbie Allen, a Dream Come True

Arts Saves Lives Foundation, Founder Nicole DeWeever, Dancer Faith Peterson, Associate Director of DADA Vivian Nixon WIlliams, and Founder of Debbie Allen Dance Academy, Debbie Allen - (ASL Photo

PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten (August 2, 2023) – Local dancer Faith Peterson recently had a dream come true after experiencing four intensive weeks at the Debbie Allen Dance Academy (DADA) in California.

The 20-year-old was given a coveted scholarship after being spotted during the Art Saves Lives Foundation’s 2022 Summer Intensive in St. Maarten. Vivian Nixon Williams, an Associate Artistic Director at DADA and the daughter of Debbie Allen, was one of the teaching artists for the annual program, which celebrated its 10th year this past July.

Peterson, who is about to begin her studies at the Lucia Marthas Institute for Performing Arts in the Netherlands, said the experience was transformative.

“Seeing the challenges, both physically and mentally and overcoming them over the four weeks of the intensive is what made it a life changing experience for me,” Peterson shared.

Faith, who trained locally at National Institute of Art-NIA, participated in Ballet, Jazz, Contemporary, Modern Dance, Hip-Hop, Tap, Musical Theater, Dunham and REP (Repertoire/Choreography) over the course of the program.

“We had masterclasses from Abby Lee Miller from the Abby Lee Dance Company and from the cast of Tina: The Musical. Being taught and trained by Darrell Moultrie, Michaela DePrince, Adji Cissoko and Christopher Huggins was a dream,” added the dancer. “They were tough, but it was because they cared and they wanted us to work hard, which we surely did. Each was different and had their own unique touch and they gave me valuable tools that I can apply in my artistic career.”

The time at DADA gave Faith a taste of the life she wants to have as a professional dancer. Not only in the time that must be given to sharpen her skills, but she learned useful techniques, tips and advice that will advance her career and help her stand out in a room full of other professionals.

“This program has also strengthened my discipline, focus, drive, and work ethic significantly,” she added.

Another student from the 2023 ASL Summer Intensive will receive a scholarship for the 2024 DADA program.

Receiving the scholarship to the Debbie Allen Dance Academy is no small deal, said Nicole DeWeever, Founder of Art Saves Lives Foundation. “It was such a wonderful opportunity for Faith, as well as what this means for our organization. I would like to extend my gratitude to Mrs. Debbie Allen and Mrs. Vivian Nixon Williams for the scholarships provided to our students from St. Maarten.”

St. Maarten Dancer Faith Peterson and acclaimed dancer and producer Debbie Allen after the 2023 Debbie Allen Dance Academy Summer Intensive in California. (ASL Photo)

The ultimate experience for Faith was meeting and performing for Debbie Allen.

“It was a dream come true meeting the incredible Debbie Allen. Her children’s book “Dancing in the Wings” has been a staple in my motivation for dance and now my developing artistry. I read that book every night and to have this experience of attending her intensive and to be trained by her was an absolute privilege. It truly felt like a full circle moment,” recalled Peterson.

“She was there daily and taught the Musical Theater class. She works so hard, and she pushed me to work even harder. She is such an immense inspiration and what I aspire to be as an artist.”

An all-white celebration closed out the summer dance intensive. “Performing in the finale was the most liberating experience for me. My personal journey of growth was huge and to showcase it and all the hard work I did during that time was the greatest feeling. I have never felt prouder of myself, and I hope that I made my community that supported me throughout this entire experience proud too.”

Ms. DeWeever said it truly takes a village to raise an artist. She was able to travel to California to see Faith perform in the finale. This was made possible with the support of Karleen Hemrick, and Maud Arnold of Chloe and Maud Foundation, who hosted Faith and Nicole at her home.

“I was so proud sitting in the audience witnessing Faith onstage shining her beautiful light. Faith is exceptional and focused. When speaking to Mrs. Debbie Allen and Mrs. Vivian Nixon Williams after the show they seemed to be very happy and impressed with her talent. Mrs. Allen said Faith needs to come back,” DeWeever said proudly.

“I would like to acknowledge National Institute of Arts for the wonderful training that Faith received preparing her for such a prestigious program. Also, her supermom Selene Derby for raising such an intelligent, gracious, humble and talented young lady. Faith Peterson most definitely has a very bright and promising future. It truly excites me to think of how infinite the possibilities are for her.”

Learn more about Art Saves Lives Foundation at

About Art Saves Lives Foundation
Art Saves Lives Foundation is a cross-cultural exchange between youth in need and experienced practicing artists who seek to use their talents for positive change. Each summer the foundation coordinates a Summer Intensive which caters to over 180 children. This collaborative project selects renowned artists from around the world who use the arts to introduce participants to global and local traditions and empower them with the life skills necessary to effectively deal with the demands and challenges of everyday life. The Summer Intensive also provides guidance for young artists with aspirations in pursuing a career in the arts.

Source: gmediaPR by Goldenmedia LLC

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