Ballethnic is a professional ballet company that creates visibility for Black and Brown dancers who, in spite of proper training, are overlooked. We are making a radical shift in the access of classical and contemporary ballet in Atlanta – in studios, on stage, behind the scenes, and among audiences, dance professionals, and students. For more than 30 years, Ballethnic has distinguished itself from other black professional ballet companies by its unique and authentic praxis of blending ballet with African dance concepts and placing the movements sur la pointe. We have worked to change the landscape of classical ballet by increasing artistic opportunities through our Dance Company, Ballethnic Academy of Dance, Youth Ensemble, and Danseur Development Project. We are one of the most prolific creators of critically acclaimed ballets in the Southeast and have developed diverse dance audiences across the country. Our ultimate goal is to see a fundamental change in the number of Black and culturally diverse dancers in mainstream ballet companies around the world.
Ballethnic Dance Company Inc. (pronounced bal-eth-nik) began with the love story of a young couple Nena Gilreath and Waverly T. Lucas II, who met in New York City while dancing with Dance Theatre of Harlem. Expanding their relationship from the studio and the stage, they believed that using one’s God-given talent could impact the community and the world.
More than three decades ago, they traveled throughout communities in Metropolitan Atlanta and the Southeast with their vision that there needed to be a professional Black-led Ballet Company in the South that could represent the possibilities of a professional career for many overlooked and undervalued citizens. They believed that the community needed another alternative for Black dancers and dancers of other ethnicities.
They were often not afforded access in companies once token spots were filled by hiring one or two black dancers. Sharing their vision through their commitment to excellence, many community members took notice and soon joined as supporters. On January 15, 1990, after consulting with Louis Johnson and Dr. Richard Long, the couple successfully launched the second Black-founded professional Ballet Company and the first by a Black female. Creating another vehicle in the U.S. for dancers of color to be at the forefront.