In 1990, classically trained prima ballerina, Nena Gilreath and choreographer Waverly T. Lucas II turned old classrooms in an unused East Point school into staging areas where young black children learned ballet. Both Gilreath and Lucas are former Dance Theater of Harlem performers who have traveled the world showcasing their craft. They founded the Ballethnic Dance Company to bring the artistry and discipline of dance to children of color in urban Atlanta communities.
The culmination of each year’s classes is traditionally a uniquely Atlanta performance called the “Urban Nutcracker.” It’s an elaborate production danced by Ballethnic students. This is the 26th year Gilreath’s and Lucas’ endeavor has nurtured classically trained dancers who delight and impress all types of audiences.
Lucas, Gilreath and those they’ve trained, have performed in many high-profile venues such as at the 1996 Cultural Olympiad and the Lincoln Center’s Out-of-Doors series. The dance company has received the National Choreographers Award, the Charles Loridans Award, among other accolades and has been featured in ESSENCE Magazine. Both Ballethnic Dance Company founders continue to expand their range of influence. Gilreath is a sought-after speaker and teacher while Lucas choregraphs works all over the country.