Ballethnic Dance Company to make its Kennedy Center debut in June

Nena Gilreath as the Leopardess, Act I "The Leopard Tale."
Photo Credit: Denise Gray photographer/Ballethnic Dance Company.

Credit: Ballethnic Dance Company

Credit: Ballethnic Dance Company

Nena Gilreath as the Leopardess, Act I "The Leopard Tale." Photo Credit: Denise Gray photographer/Ballethnic Dance Company.

Ballethnic Dance Company will make its debut at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., in June. The 31-year-old Atlanta company will perform during “Reframing the Narrative,” a weeklong celebration showcasing Black ballet artists June 14-19.

“It’s a monumental event for us,” says Nena Gilreath, Ballethnic’s co-founder and co-artistic director with Waverly T. Lucas II. Dance Theatre of Harlem (co-founded by Arthur Mitchell), Collage Dance Collective and other Black-identifying ballet dancers from across the United States will also perform. “We all emerged out of Mr. Mitchell’s training and company,” says Gilreath. “After all these years of work, staying true to our mission, it’s a huge opportunity to show our contribution to ballet.”

Ballethnic will perform excerpts from its signature work, “The Leopard Tale,” along with “Sanctity,” a work commissioned by “Baba” Chuck Davis and choreographed by Lucas. Both works use African dance concepts and illustrate the company’s unique spin on ballet.

Ballethnic is the second Atlanta ballet company to perform on the Kennedy Center stage in recent years. Atlanta Ballet performed Yuri Possokhov’s “Nutcracker” there in 2019 to rave reviews.

In addition to the performances, “Reframing the Narrative” will feature programs curated by Theresa Ruth Howard, founder of Memoirs of Blacks in Ballet, and Denise Saunders Thompson, president and CEO of The International Association of Blacks in Dance.

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