East Point renames street to honor Black-owned dance company

East Point City officials, residents, and visitors celebrated the unveiling of Ballethnic Way on June 28, 2024. (Photo Courtesy of Alex Amos)

Credit: Alex Amos

Credit: Alex Amos

East Point City officials, residents, and visitors celebrated the unveiling of Ballethnic Way on June 28, 2024. (Photo Courtesy of Alex Amos)

Local Black-owned studio Ballethnic Dance Company and the City of East Point held a celebration event for the renaming of Cheney Street to Ballethnic Way on June 29.

City officials and community members celebrated the occasion by parading down the newly named street and into the Ballethnic studio with an energetic marching band leading the way. Further commemorating the new name, Ballethnic hosted a ceremony that included live performances from dancers of several generations along with testimonies from parents and supporters.

East Point residents and visitors from varying parts of Atlanta participated in a parade, marching to celebrate the newly named Ballethnic Way on June 28. (Photo Courtesy of Alex Amos)

Credit: Alex Amos

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Credit: Alex Amos

At the end of the ceremony, a special surprise awaited the company’s dancers as one audience member arose and offered to donate $500 to the studio. Following the initial donation, nine others matched it - pledging a total of $5,000 to the studio.

“The turnout was incredible— I didn’t know what to expect,” co-founder of Ballethnic Dance Company Nena Gilreath said. “Having dancers from every generation, parents, supporters, and donors made this special.”

Founded in 1990 by Gilreth and her husband, Waverly Lucas, Ballethnic has served Atlanta for over 30 years by not only shining a light on Black and brown dancers but also making classical and contemporary ballet accessible to underserved communities.

Throughout its rich history, Ballethnic has drawn critical acclaim from many popular names in the entertainment industry including the likes of the musical duo Chloe and Halle Bailey and actor Harrison Knight, who have all previously danced at the studio.

“I’ve been working with Nena and Waverly for almost 30 years,” ballet, pointe, and rehearsal coach Lydia Mitchell said. “I’m so proud of what the two of them have accomplished. I’ve seen so many generations come through this school. So many of them go off to college to become doctors and lawyers and it all comes from the discipline of dance.”

In addition to the milestone of the street renaming, Gilreth said she has much more in store for Ballethnic including performing an urban version of the classical piece “The Nutcracker” for Morehouse College, traveling across the world to teach dance, and participating in the International Association of Blacks and Dance.

“I thank the community for embracing us when we were young people with an idea and for ushering and lifting us up,” Gilreth said. “I want to thank the business people who gave us advice, the teachers, and the educators. It’s been a remarkable, divine mission.”


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Credit: Marietta Daily Journal

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Credit: Marietta Daily Journal

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