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Black Ballet Company, Ballethnic Hits a Milestone On and Off Stage [VIDEO]

When did Black Folks decide it was a misappropriation of culture to appreciate and yes even enjoy a good ballet? Cultured and upscale Black folks make it a point to attend and be seen at all of the best events and engage with the right people, but there is a big miss when it comes to supporting the arts, particularly ballet, and more specifically Black ballet companies.

Not taking anything from Alvin Ailey, but Atlanta is home to one of only three Black ballet companies in the U.S. It is also the second oldest Black Ballet company in the country, with Theater of Harlem and Collage Dance Company in Memphis, Tennesee.

When successful Black people talk about giving back it’s a catchphrase for social programs for youth and underrepresented communities, but somehow the arts aren’t given the same weight as those worthy causes, although it is one of the most effective and fulfilling for Black youth.

Ballethnic’s 30th-anniversary performance of The Urban Nutcracker, saw scores of young people and their parents mesmerized and appreciating the art form is one that they can enjoy and even join.

Many of these dancers go on to do great things in the dance world and the arts overall. “Halle and Chloe Bailey are graduates of Ballethnic,” said Nina Gilreath, co-founder of the 33-year old company. “The point is to get the support these dancers need to make a living wage in this grueling dance world.”

The production, held at Morehouse’s International Chapel Dec. 9 through Dec. 11, The Urban Nutcracker was as charming and beautifully choreographed as it was colorful and distinctly diverse.

“As we celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Urban Nutcracker we’re not just commemorating a performance, but a cultural revolution in ballet. We took an American classic and transformed it to appeal to the masses – infusing cultural relevancy and changing the setting to our beloved Sweet Auburn Ave,” said Ballethnic co-founder Waverly T. Lucas II. “Urban Nutcracker is one of the first culturally specific versions of The Nutcracker, which has inspired dozens of ethnic revisions to bring the classic to more diverse audiences.”

Gilreath explained that Ballethnic’s future is bright, but she and Waverly are not taking time to rest on their laurels.

“So, we are working on building and enhancing our campus off Cheney Street and most recently the mayor and the city council of Eastpointe approved that our street be renamed Ballethenic Way. So, we want to enhance our space. Perkinson Will, a couple of years ago did an architectural plan to expand it to make it bigger, more attractive and more conducive. So, when we do a big ballet like this, our studio is not large enough to really accommodate the number of people and that number of classes, and we just want to enhance the whole campus to have an outdoor space, because we do a lot of things already outside. And we just want to beautify and continue to improve our area,” explained Gilreath.

“What I feel is that we have to have an endowment,” added Waverly. “Without an endowment, basically, any of our organizations can postpone. So within the capital campaign, that has to also be connected to an endowment, so that we can have strategic sustainability.”

Recent milestones for the 33-year-old organization include a performance at the Kennedy Center and establishing partnerships with dance companies in East Africa and Canada. Ballethnic will also travel to Amsterdam to participate in the Holland Dance Festival as it continues to train and educate students and communities around the world and reframe the narrative around Black dance.

“Through our capital campaign, we’re going to develop our campus and we’re working on our legacy leadership and succession plan,” said Glireath. “So what we’re hoping is that for us, we’re at a place of expertise, where people want us to come and share the gospel of dance and ballet. We want to put things in place so that the next generation will not have to struggle and be able to make really good – not just living wages – but great wages.”

Immediately following a successful holiday performance of The Urban Nutcracker, Ballethnic was honored to receive a Governor’s Award for the Arts and Humanities.

For additional information on Ballethnic visit: or view video below.

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