Debbie Reynolds died two weeks ago, and I’m still mourning the loss of one of the stars from Singin’ in the Rain, one of my very favorite films. If you’ve ever seen that bastion of movie musicals, you know why it’s my favorite: magical, big-production dance scenes; tap dance-offs between Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor; and Reynolds’ pluck and very art-imitating-life story arc of an ingénue who becomes a star.

By now, you’ve probably read about how Reynolds—still only a teenager—didn’t have any dance experience when she was cast in Singin’ in the Rain. (She’d been a gymnast.) Fred Astaire memorably gave her spirits a boost by giving her the honor of watching him rehearse (and sweat, and curse himself, and fail again and again). But “Good Morning” wasn’t the end of Reynolds’ dance film career. She’d go on to hoof it in several films.

Like The Unsinkable Molly Brown, where she hiked up her skirts and really let her hair down (things kick up at the 4:10 mark):

In The Affairs of Dobie Gillis, she danced alongside a young Bob Fosse and held her own. She comes in to dance at 1:53, but honestly, it’s worth watching the whole video to see Fosse do his thing:

Her sublime perkiness (believe me, if anyone can make perkiness sublime, it’s Reynolds) is on full display in I Love Melvin, another film that paired her with O’Connor:

She even grooved while hypnotized in Divorce American Style—and whipped her hair back and forth long before Willow Smith:

But my favorite dance scene of hers will always be this one from Singin’ in the Rain, where she Charlestons charmingly and winds it all up by throwing a pie in co-star Jean Hagen’s face:

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Chloé and Maud Arnold pose with NYCDAF Ambassador for the Arts, Debbie Allen.

Last night, the NYC Dance Alliance Foundation awarded Debbie Allen the 2015 NYCDAF Ambassador for the Arts Award at the annual “Bright Lights Shining Stars” gala. Held at the NYU Skirball Center for the Performing Arts, the event paid tribute to Allen through song, dance and celebration.

Highlights from the evening:

Chloé Arnold’s Syncopated Ladies opened the show with a bang! With ear-to-ear grins, their fierce quintet, set to music by Beyoncé, created a celebratory tone for the entire evening.

Kolton Krouse performs Andy Pellick's Path of Enlightenment.

NYCDA student Kolton Krouse performed a gravity-defying solo choreographed by NYCDA faculty member Andy Pellick. Krouse was later awarded the Adele Astaire College Scholarship by An American in Paris star Robert Fairchild.

Jessica Lee Goldyn and dancers perform "I'm a Brass Band" from Sweet Charity.

Broadway star Jessica Lee Goldyn and a chorus of male dancers performed “I’m a Brass Band” from Sweet Charity. With original choreography by Bob Fosse, this was hands-down my personal favorite from the evening.

Allen's daughter Vivian Nixon performed the role of Anita from West Side Story.

Allen’s daughter Vivian Nichole Nixon made a surprise appearance, reprising Allen’s Tony-nominated role, Anita from Jerome Robbins' West Side Story. Nixon's lively rendition of “America” proved that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

Dancesanity Stars' Karla Choko and Josen Torres showed that salsa can be enjoyed at any age, when they were joined onstage by their young students Nathalie Huiracocha and Felix Monge. The petite duet impressed—they held their own next to the professional duo.

Joe Lanteri stands with 2013 NYCDAF Ambassador for the Arts Catherine Zeta-Jones and her husband Michael Douglas. Zeta-Jones gave the welcome remarks at the top of the show.

Over the past five years, the NYCDA Foundation has awarded more than $17 million in college scholarships to hundreds of young dancers nationwide. Founded in 1993 by executive director Joe Lanteri, the NYCDA convention currently travels to 23 cities each season. Faculty includes Andy Blankenbuehler, Jared Grimes, Suzi Taylor and Melinda Sullivan. Many NYCDA alumni have gone on to have successful careers in dance including, Travis Wall, Derek Hough and Nick Lazzarini.

Photos from top: by Rachel Neville; by Eduardo Patino (3); by Rachel Neville, all courtesy of NYCDA.

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