As Ballethnic Dance Company celebrates twenty-two years in the Atlanta arts community, it returns for its 20th annual presentation of the highly acclaimed “Urban Nutcracker.”

Ballethnic is a classically trained, culturally diverse ballet company that merges traditional ballet with the artistic influences of other ethnic cultures, especially African American. The Company always stages “Urban Nutcracker” — a twist on the traditional ‘Nutcracker Ballet’ — the weekend before Thanksgiving. It will run November 15 –18, at Georgia Tech’s Ferst Center for the Arts.

Urban Nutcracker is an imaginative and colorful adaptation of Tchaikovsky’s ballet by Waverly T. Lucas II, Ballethnic’s Co-Founder and Co-Artistic Director. Set on Atlanta’s historic Auburn Avenue in the 1940’s, the ballet showcases Atlanta’s African American community. While the production keeps its classically-based tradition, Mr. Lucas’ choreography continues Ballethnic’s signature style of blending classical ballet with jazz, modern, African and other ethnic dance.

Lucas and his wife, Co-Artistic Director Nena Gilreath, introduced this distinctive dance form to Atlanta in 1990, when they created the Ballethnic Dance Company.

“After leaving New York’s Dance Theatre of Harlem, we decided to take our combined artistic experiences to Atlanta and establish a company, “Ms. Gilreath said. “We knew that Atlanta’s rich cultural history, its many academic institutions and its thriving business community would provide fertile ground for developing a distinctive performing arts organization.”

Ballethnic’s Urban Nutcracker offers a fast-paced and upbeat Nutcracker performance that engages audiences of all ages, races and cultures. The production features the traditional Tchaikovsky score along with adapted music by L. Gerard Reid. A multicultural cast of professional artists and young dancers perform the ballet; pre-apprentice students from the Ballethnic Youth Ensemble and talented elders from the H. J. C. Bowden Senior Center in East Point dance in the production.

The storyline is similar to the original Nutcracker; however the characters differ.

In the first act, Sarah (traditional, Clara) receives a nutcracker doll for a holiday gift from her mysterious uncle, Professor Isaac; 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”; there, she and her young prince Leroy are greeted with delightful gifts and striking performers: 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 (dance with two), followed by a colorful finale with all the dancers.

To purchase VIP tickets and all other tickets, contact the Ferst Center Box Office at (404)894-9601. For more information, go to www.ballethnic.org.

Photo: Kris Roberts/Sirk Photography. Brown Sugar and her Chocolatier (Sugar Plum Fairy and the transformed wooden Nutcracker, in the traditional ballet)

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