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Release Date: 11.09.2017 | Location: All Metro Atlanta | Organization: Ballethnic Dance Company

Ballethnic's "Urban Nutcracker" Returns to Its Roots at Morehouse College

Atlanta's 'Traditional First Holiday Nutcracker' Moves to December This Year

Atlanta’s acclaimed Ballethnic Dance Company will present “Urban Nutcracker” December 8 through 10 and, in so doing , make an historic return to the Martin Luther King (MLK) International Chapel at Morehouse College. Now an Atlanta tradition, this colorful and imaginative adaptation of the classic European “Nutcracker” was first staged at the King Chapel in 1991.

“We’re excited about returning to Morehouse to again mount Urban Nutcracker, " said Ballethnic Co-Founder and Co-Artistic Director  Waverly T. Lucas II.  “It was at Morehouse where we first presented our ethnic twist on this 19th century European ballet, which we set on Atlanta’s ‘Sweet Auburn’ of the 1940’s.”

The MLK Chapel provided the larger stage needed to produce the “Nutcracker,” such that, we could engage African- American youth and children in performing the popular Christmas ballet, Mr. Lucas said.  “Up to that point, local Black youngsters who were interested in dancing the children’s roles had limited opportunities to join Atlanta’s other established ballet companies.”

In Mr. Lucas’ original 1991 choreography of Urban Nutcracker, he used excerpts from the ballet’s Act II.  By 1993, he also had choreographed Act I to create  the full- length ballet.  Traditionally, Ballethnic’s production has been performed the  weekend before Thanksgiving – making it the first ‘Nutcracker’ ballet of  Atlanta’s holiday season.  However, this year the ballet will be staged in  mid-December.

Nena Y. Gilreath, Ballethnic’s Co-Founder and Co-Artistic Director, explains the change from the long-term November date, saying “ We were given a special opportunity by the Morehouse leadership to bring Urban Nutcracker back to the King Chapel and we  wanted to take advantage of that.”  Staging this year’s performance on the campus returns the Company to its roots and underscores its importance to this community, she explained.

“We’re also heartened to return to Ballethnic’s first major production venue, after  coming through both periods of growth and set back,” Ms. Gilreath noted.  “Our theme for the 2017-18 season -- From Grit to Grace – celebrates where we are now. The fact that we’ve been able to overcome substantial challenge and build a viable professional dance company for Greater Atlanta is significant.”

In keeping with Ballethnic’s return to its roots at Morehouse, this year’s Urban Nutcracker cast will feature a number of outstanding graduates from the Ballethnic Academy of Dance who moved onto successful careers. This talented group includes: Karla Tyson, who recently moved back to Atlanta from Long Beach, CA after performing two seasons as a ‘Laker Girl’; Chadrick Jones, who has performed as a guest dancer throughout metro Atlanta and the nation; A. Laila Howard, author of the recently published book, The Fairy Tell Within, who will be completing her fifth season with Ballethnic; and Terell Venn, who grew up at Ballethnic from age three, and is now completing his dance apprenticeship and assisting with the Ballethnic Danseur Development Project for young males.

Also, as alumni of the world-class Dance Theatre of Harlem (DTH), Ms. Gilreath and Mr. Lucas are excited that DTH star performer Alicia Mae Holloway and her dance partner, Italian-born Saverio Pescucci, will join this year’s Urban Nutcracker cast.


About the Ballet 

Urban Nutcracker is Waverly T. Lucas’ adaptation of Tchaikovsky's ballet. Set in Atlanta's historic Sweet Auburn community of the ‘40’s -- the production offers a soulful celebration with whimsical characters such as Reggae Ragdolls, the sultry Arabian dance, the spins and leaps of the Black Russians, Mother Spice and her tumbling Spice Drops, the bubbly Coca-Cola Pas de Six, and the elegant Brown Sugar and her Chocolatier.

While the contemporary ballet remains true to its classical tradition, Mr. Lucas’ choreography showcases Ballethnic’s signature style -- blending classical ballet with jazz, modern, African, and other ethnic dance. This unique and engaging style creates a fast- paced and upbeat performance which captivates audiences of all ages and cultures.  The production is set to the traditional Tchaikovsky score along with adapted music by L. Gerard Reid.

Urban Nutcracker features a multicultural cast of aspiring and professional artists, including students from the Ballethnic Youth Ensemble and senior citizens from the H.J.C. Bowden Multi-Purpose Center in East Point.

The storyline is similar to the original Nutcracker; but the characters differ.  In the first act, Sarah (traditional, Clara) receives a nutcracker doll for a holiday gift from Professor Isaac, her  mysterious uncle; she later dreams that the nutcracker becomes a handsome prince.  Act I concludes after a beautiful dance by the Snow King and Queen, against a scenic snowy backdrop. In Act II, Sarah’s dreams take her on a journey to the “land of Sweet Auburn Avenue” where she and her brother Leroy are greeted with delightful gifts and entertained by a bubbly six pack of Coca-Cola dancers on pointe, leaping Black Russians and Spice Drop Tumblers. The queen of Auburn Avenue is Brown Sugar (traditional, Sugar Plum Fairy). She and the cavalier Chocolatier present Sarah and Leroy with an enchanting grand pas de deux, followed by a colorful finale with all the dancers. 


Urban Nutcracker is sponsored in part by the Fulton County Arts Council, WSB-TV Family 2 Family, Georgia Certified Development Corporation and the Chestnut Family Foundation.


 Performance Dates and Tickets

  Friday, December 8 –          8 p.m.  Final Dress Rehearsal/ Community Performance

  Saturday, December 9 –      2 p.m.  Matinee;  8 p.m. Opening Night  Performance

  Sunday, December 10 –      3 p.m.  Final Performance

 $15 for dress rehearsal performance; $30 for children and seniors (and for groups of 10 or more); $40 for general admission; $60  for Opening Night with VIP reception.

 Purchase Tickets via EventBrite on the Ballethnic web site at www.ballethnic .org.


About Ballethnic Dance Company
Ballethnic Dance Company is a classically-trained, culturally diverse ballet company that merges traditional ballet with the artistic influences of other ethnic cultures, especially African American. Ballethnic -- Atlanta’s first and only African American- founded, classically- trained professional ballet company --produces unique and exciting dance performances locally and nationally. Ballethnic was founded in 1990 by Nena Gilreath and Waverly T. Lucas II, a husband-and- wife team, and both former dancers with the Dance Theatre of Harlem and the Atlanta Ballet. The company’s goal is to inform, educate and entertain through dance.  Ballethnic Dance Company, including its Academy of Dance, is located in East Point, GA.

For more information about other productions and the Academy of Dance, visit



Main photo above (Professor in cape and the prone Chocalatier) taken by Kris Roberts. 

Contact Info

Contact Name: Gwendolyn R. Davis

Company: CommunityWorks! public affairs

Phone: 770-996-6387

Cell: 404-762-1416