Karla Tyson, 32, remembers well the early days of her ballet training when she and fellow young dance students performed in the ensemble cast of Atlanta-based Ballethnic Dance Company’s “The Urban Nutcracker.”
Her favorite part of each performance of the African American-inspired and Atlanta-focused adaptation of the classic Tchaikovsky ballet was when prima ballerina Nena Gilreath would take to the stage as Brown Sugar, with her husband and fellow lead, Waverly Lucas, as the handsome Chocolatier at her side.
The sight of Gilreath twirling gracefully across the stage in a rust, marigold and chocolate-colored tutu ensemble, her mahogany-colored skin glistening under the stage lights, would literally take her breath away. The standing ovations and encores audience members gifted Gilreath afterward, Tyson remembers, were “definitely inspiring.” She says it was validating and made her believe as an African American, I can be a ballerina too.
“Watching her, I definitely knew I wanted to do ballet,” recalls Tyson, a Henry County resident. “I wanted to be just like Ms. Nena.”
This month in her fifth reprisal in the lead role, Tyson, a Ballethnic graduate, hopes to recapture some of that same “Black ballerina magic” that Gilreath so effortlessly commanded during her 13-year tenure. For the first time, the signature production was recorded at the Legacy Theatre in Alpharetta without a live audience and streamed virtuallySaturday, Dec. 19 at 7:30 p.m. It’s yet another COVID-19 casualty that forced the cancellation of all previously planned festivities in celebration of Ballethnic, metro Atlanta’s first and only African American-founded “classically trained, culturally diverse” school. It’s the professional dance company’s 30th anniversary year, which officially wraps up Jan. 15.
https://www.dancedataproject.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/Screen-Shot-2019-12-17-at-12.41.18.png5321018dancedatahttps://www.dancedataproject.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/DDP_logo_Primary.pngdancedata2020-12-10 15:07:292020-12-10 15:07:29AJC: When will Black ballerinas take center stage?