Dance/USA to Honor Debbie Allen, Carla Perlo, Mary Verdi-Fletcher, Lula and Erwin Washington at Annual Conference in Los Angeles

February 14, 2018

CONTACT: Johanna Tschebull

Washington, DC – Dance/USA, the national service organization for professional dance, is pleased to announce the 2018 Dance/USA Honorees. Nominations for Dance/USA Awards are accepted from the entire dance community. Final selections, recognized for their outstanding achievements and contributions to the dance field, are voted on by the Dance/USA Board of Trustees. The 2018 Honorees are:

  • Debbie Allen, executive producer, director, choreographer, author, dancer and actor; and founder and artistic director of the Debbie Allen Dance Academy; who will receive the Dance/USA Honor Award.
  • Carla Perlo, Founding Director Emerita, Dance Place, who will receive the Dance/USA ‘Ernie’ Award.
  • Mary Verdi-Fletcher, President/Founding Artistic Director, Dancing Wheels Company & School, who will receive the Trustees Award.
  • Lula Washington and Erwin Washington, Co-Founders, Artistic Director and Executive Director, Lula Washington Dance Theatre, who will receive the Dance/USA Champion Award.

The 2018 awards will be presented on Wednesday, June 6, 2018 during the Opening Night Celebration, which kicks off the 2018 Dance/USA Annual Conference, being held June 6-9, 2018 in Los Angeles, CA.

The Dance/USA Annual Conference is the country’s broadest gathering of dance professionals, offering expertise from industry leaders, networking with peers, skill-building professional development, discussion on important issues facing the field, and more. Early Bird Rates for the 2018 Annual Conference are available until March 23, 2018. Register for the Conference here.  

“This year’s Honorees have all had a significant impact on the field of dance and truly represent the diversity of our art form,” said Dance/USA Board Chair Michelle Ramos. “We look forward to celebrating them in Los Angeles this June.”

Allen is an award-winning director/choreographer who has choreographed the Academy Awards a record ten times. In a career that spans three decades, Allen’s name is synonymous with dynamic energy, creative talent and innovation. For her vast body of work, Allen has earned three Emmy Awards, a Golden Globe, five NAACP Image Awards, a Drama Desk, an Astaire Award (for Best Dancer), and the Olivier Award.  She holds four honorary Doctorate degrees and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Read more here.

Perlo has made a lifetime commitment to the fields of dance, youth education and community revitalization through the arts. She is co-founder of Dance Place in Washington, DC and for thirty-six years served as its visionary Founding Director. In August 2017, Perlo transitioned to Director Emerita, in which she remains on Dance Place’s teaching faculty, youth program staff and serves as a consultant.  Perlo’s own role in consulting extends to various dance companies, independent artists, for-profit corporations and nonprofit organizations.  Read more here.

Verdi-Fletcher has been a pioneering force in the development and success of physically integrated dance worldwide for over 3 decades. As one of the first and foremost professional wheelchair dancers, she has worked with such esteemed artists as Donald McKayle, David Rousseve, Dianne McIntyre, Dennis Nahat, Keith Young, Ben Vereen and Christopher Reeve.  After the 1980 inception of the Dancing Wheels Company, now in its 37th season, Verdi-Fletcher realized the dire need for training and career advancement for dancers of all ability levels, which ultimately lead to the creation of the multi-arts Dancing Wheels School in 1990. Read more here.

Lula Washington began her illustrious career in dance at age 22, entering UCLA’s dance program after discovering modern dance at Harbor Community College. Washington went on to found Lula Washington Dance Theatre with her husband, Erwin Washington. Today, the company’s influence reaches near and far, tours nationwide and internationally, while teaching inner-city Los Angeles students. Her voice and vision give the Company its unique style and focus and she has long tackled serious social issues in her work. Read more here.

Erwin Washington is the co-founder and Executive Director of Lula Washington Dance Theatre. Erwin encouraged his wife Lula to pursue her passion in dance and then supported her in achieving her dream by raising the funds and handling the business aspects of her organization. When Lula chose to add guest choreography to her repertory from Donald McKayle, Donald Byrd, Rennie Harris, Anthony Burrell, and Kyle Abraham, among others, it was Erwin who handled the financial and business arrangements. Read more here.

Freed of London is proud to exclusively sponsor this year’s Dance/USA Honor Award presented to Debbie Allen.

About the 2018 Dance/USA Annual Conference
Dance/USA will host its 2018 Annual Conference in Los Angeles, CA from June 6-9. 500 dance professionals including executive directors, artistic directors, emerging arts leaders, artists, agents, company managers, presenters, development and marketing staff, and more will convene in Los Angeles for networking, enriching training sessions, and discussion on important issues facing the field. Conference planning is shaped around issues of equity and justice, community and collaboration, audience development, and preservation and legacy.

Programming at the Conference will be a mix of discussion-based sessions and practical breakout sessions. Dance/USA’s core values of equity, inclusion, and diversity will serve as a lens by which the design of all topics and sessions will pass through. This includes, but is not limited to the diversity of voices being presented, addressing the needs of the diverse group of Conference attendees, and program designs that allow for active discussion

The 2018 Annual Conference will be campus style to showcase the beauty of Los Angeles’ local arts venues including The Colburn School, The Music Center, and USC Glorya Kaufman School of Dance.

Dance/USA is grateful to the following: The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, The Harkness Foundation for Dance, The Max and Victoria Dreyfus Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, and The Shubert Foundation.  Additional thanks to 2018 Annual Conference Sponsors: The Ahmanson Foundation; The Annenberg Foundation; Anonymous; Arts Insurance Program; Michael Becker; Bloch; Capacity Interactive; Center Dance Arts; Cheng Family Foundation; City of Los Angeles, Department of Cultural Affairs; DeWitt Stern Group; The Flourish Foundation; Freed of London; G. Schirmer; Gabriella Foundation; Grand Performances; The Harkness Center for Dance Injuries; Harlequin Floors; Office of Councilmember Jose Huizar, City of Los Angeles, Council District 14; KMP Artists; Kate Hutter Mason; Los Angeles County Arts Commission; Performing Arts Readiness; Princess Grace Foundation- USA; The Ralph M. Parsons Foundation; Felicia Rosenfeld; Sony Pictures Entertainment; UCLA Department of World Arts and Cultures; Tamica Washington-Miller; and Renae Williams Niles. Special thanks to our Official 2018 Host Venues and Partners: USC Glorya Kaufman School of Dance, The Music Center, The Colburn School, and Dance Resource Center.

About Dance/USA
We believe that dance is essential to a healthy society, demonstrating the infinite possibilities for human expression and potential, and facilitating communication within and across cultures. We are committed to honoring, nurturing and advancing dance through the lens of diversity, inclusion and equal opportunity in all aspects of our programming, services and organization.

Dance/USA is the national service organization for the professional dance field. Established in 1982, Dance/USA sustains and advances professional dance by addressing the needs, concerns, and interests of artists, administrators, and organizations. By providing national leadership and services, Dance/USA enhances the infrastructure for dance creation and distribution, education, and dissemination of information. Learn more about Dance/USA by visiting our website,

Skip to content