Ballethnic Dance Company
Ballethnic Dance Company was founded on January 15, 1990 by Nena Gilreath and Waverly Lucas. This Black ballet company and Academy is located in East Point, Georgia. Ballethnic combines African derived dance elements with modern ballet. Ballethnic offers a community-centered program to underserved youth and amatuers and professionals at all stages of their career. Lucas and Gilreath have trained and danced professionally with Dance Theatre of Harlem and The Atlanta Ballet.
Currently, Gilreath serves on the faculty of the University of Georgia’s Dance Department and is the Program Director of East Athens Educational Dance Center. Lucas is not only the resident choreographer of Ballethnic but is also an ethnochoreologist and is passionate about his in-situ research practice. They have dedicated their lives to making space for people to move, grow, and thrive from all different backgrounds and levels of ability.
Ballethnic Dance Company and Academy is located in a large, fire-engine-red building at the end of a cul-de-sac called Ballethnic Way. Interestingly, the building is rumored to have been built by a Delta airlines pilot, which seems destined since Ms. Nena dreamed of creating a space “where the sky was the limit.” Just being here makes you think about how spaces remember, and our bodies never forget.
Ballethnic Dance Company is the only Black Ballet Dance company founded by a Black woman in the southeast region of the United States. Their efforts to engage underserved Black boys through programs like the Danseur Development Project; Roundtable of Extraordinary Gentlemen; a program that focus on training in classical dance and changing narratives that keep boys from pursuing dance professionally.
The founders have cultivated many relationships and have collaborations with different dance companies and choreographers from all over the world including Baba Chuck Davis and Dance Africa; Cleo Parker Robinson; International Association of Blacks in Dance; Jacob’s Pillow; Lincoln Center; Kennedy Center; Illuminarium Atlanta, etc.
In their archive, there are over 1000 differently formatted audiovisual files on BETA, VHS, DVD, CDs, portable drives, and a server.
This project is a result of a DANCE/USA Archiving and Preservation grant awarded to Ballethnic Dance Company, which offered funding support for an archivist to help establish an archive over the course of 3 months. Dr. shady Radical was assigned to Ballethnic Dance Company and worked directly with Mr. Waverly Lucas to execute the project. Although the grant funded project ended in August 2022, Dr. shady Radical continued working with Ballethnic as the company archivist.