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The Sweet Way Dance Legend Debbie Allen Inspired Beth’s Storyline On This Is Us

Beth Pearson teaches Stacey on This Is Us.
(Image credit: NBC)

This Is Us fans saw a beautiful story in its most recent episode, “Our Little Island Girl: Part 2,” in which Beth Pearson’s journey came full circle. The future scenes showed that Beth became an accomplished dance teacher who valued her dancers as full people, providing support far beyond the stage they performed on. Eboni Freeman, who co-wrote the episode with the amazing Susan Kelechi Watson, knows a thing or two about that, as she drew parallels between Beth and her own former dance teacher — living legend Debbie Allen.

These days Debbie Allen might be best known for playing Catherine Fox on Grey’s Anatomy (which she also executive produces), but among all of her acting, directing, and producing credits, teaching dance and choreography has always been a passion, and in 2001, she opened the Debbie Allen Dance Academy in Los Angeles, which Eboni Freeman attended. Freeman spoke to People about her personal connection to Beth’s story:

I think that when I was [at Debbie Allen Dance Academy], what you come away from it is that you're part of that family, whether you made it or you don't and I think for any students who have been a part of that academy and who have gotten to know Miss Allen, just know that she cares about you beyond whether you made it as a dancer. She's proud of all of her students and whether you're a doctor now, whether you're in law school or working as a writer. I think that part of the story, I found quite personal to my life and especially the relationship that Beth ends up developing with Stacey.

That attitude definitely manifested itself into Beth Pearson’s story, as “Our Little Island Girl: Part 2” showed how Beth took in a new student, Stacey, and supported her, even after Stacey fell during a performance. It was the support Beth hadn’t received as a young dancer, and she taught that her students couldn’t disappoint her and that they belonged. 

This episode was a continuation of Season 3’s “Our Little Island Girl,” which showed Beth confronting her mother — played by Debbie Allen’s sister, Phylicia Rashad — for taking away her dream of dancing. Part 2 showed Beth getting closure with her former dance teacher and realizing that she could contribute just as much to the world of dance from the wings as she could on the stage. What a perfect tribute to Debbie Allen.

We’re a third of the way through This Is Us’ final chapter, and already our favorite Pearsons’ stories are starting to wrap up. Milo Ventimiglia was featured heavily in “Don’t Let Me Keep You,” a heart-wrenching episode that showed Jack dealing with his mother’s death. Now we’ve learned how Beth came to have her own dance studio. 

Don't worry, though, and there are still plenty of mysteries yet to unravel, like what happens to Kate and Toby? Do Deja and Malik stay together? I need to know! This Is Us returns at 9 p.m. ET Thursday, March 8, on NBC. Be sure to check out our 2022 TV Schedule to see which shows are premiering soon.

Mom of two and hard-core '90s kid. Unprovoked, will quote Friends in any situation. Can usually be found rewatching The West Wing instead of doing anything productive.