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Juneteenth Events for Families: Reframing the Narrative with Ballethnic Dance CompanyJuneteenth Events for Families: Reframing the Narrative with Ballethnic Dance Company

Juneteenth Events for Families: Reframing the Narrative with Ballethnic Dance Company

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For the first time in 31 years of performing, Atlanta’s Ballethnic Dance Company has been invited to perform in Washington D.C. as part of a week-long celebration in recognition of Juneteenth. The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts will present a special performance series, “Reframing the Narrative” featuring Ballethnic Dance Company, Dance Theatre of Harlem and Collage Dance Collective.

 

Curated by Theresa Ruth Howard and Denise Saunders Thompson, weeklong celebration highlights and recognizes the contributions of Black voices in ballet. Black-identifying ballet dancers from across the country will come together for the Kennedy Center world premiere commission from renowned choreographer Donald Byrd.

 

Juneteenth Events for Families: Reframing the Narrative with Ballethnic Dance CompanyJuneteenth Events for Families: Reframing the Narrative with Ballethnic Dance Company

 

June 14–19, 2022

in the Kennedy Center Opera House

with the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra

 

The rallying cry for racial equality in response to the unjust killing of unarmed Black Americans across the country has led organizations like the Kennedy Center to finally acknowledge that our communities needed actions to reflect a commitment to Black lives and to the lives of other underserved groups. This performance series serves as a first step to begin to recognize the legacy of Black ballet artists while working to expand access and examine the Kennedy Center’s programming to become a more equitable theater to meet the community’s needs. As part of this project, a digital resource and learning space on the Kennedy Center’s website will focus on connections between the artists, companies, and legacy of Black voices in ballet.

 

 

The artistry and leadership of Black ballet dancers has shaped ballet throughout the United States and across the globe. The history of Black dancers in ballet is rich, yet many voices and stories have remained untold and unheard. To further amplify Black artistry in ballet and shine a light on these key conversations happening in the field, the Kennedy Center has partnered with two women leading this work in the industry, Theresa Ruth Howard and Denise Saunders Thompson, who have contributed to the curation of two dynamic programs with the aim of reframing the narrative.

 

Ballethnic, one in the trio of prestigious arts organizations that serves the Black community, is a classically trained culturally diverse ballet company that blends traditional ballet with the artistic influences of other ethnic cultures – and has a strong history of using dance to communicate messages of social change in the community.

 

In addition to performing at the Kennedy Center, this year also marks the first time in its three decades that the Atlanta dance company has been invited to appear on the main stage of its esteemed hometown theater – the Alliance – founded in 1968 and known as Atlanta’s national theater and the leading producing theater in the Southeast.

 

This type of inclusion has special significance to Ballethnic, a company that more than 30 years ago was established with the 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 Black dancers and dancers of other ethnicities.

 

Juneteenth Events for Families: Reframing the Narrative with Ballethnic Dance CompanyJuneteenth Events for Families: Reframing the Narrative with Ballethnic Dance Company

 

Ballethnic Dance Company produces unique, exciting, and original ballet performances. The Company was founded in 1990 by Nena Gilreath and Waverly T. Lucas II, both former dancers with Dance Theatre of Harlem and Atlanta Ballet. It is Atlanta’s first and only professional Black-founded ballet company, and the oldest in the South. The co- founders envisioned Ballethnic as a global catalyst for social change through fusion and blending of traditional ballet with artistic influences from diverse ethnicities, especially Afrocentric cultures of the diaspora.

 

Juneteenth Events for Families: Reframing the Narrative with Ballethnic Dance CompanyJuneteenth Events for Families: Reframing the Narrative with Ballethnic Dance Company

 

 

Ballethnic will have two performances during the Juneteenth events:

 

Program A (June 14–16)

Ballethnic Dance Company brings Co-Artistic Director Waverly T. Lucas II’s Sanctity, a 10-dancer ballet with music in collaboration with L. Gerard Reid. Influenced by African dance concepts and originally commissioned by Baba Chuck Davis for the National Black Arts Festival, the piece expresses the importance of collective work of a community by knowing one’s purpose. Dancers contributed to the ballet by creating a statement to serve as a backdrop for their poetic and dance expression providing insight to who they are. Performed to live music onstage, the score was inspired by percussion instruments from American, African, and Hispanic cultures.

 

 

Program B (June 17–19)

Ballethnic Dance Company will perform excerpts from its signature work, The Leopard Tale. Choreographed by Lucas, the work fuses ballet and African dance in a high- energy performance about a tale of survival in the African jungle with an original score by Reid.

 

 

I had the honor of speaking with Nena Gilreath, Co-Founder of Ballethnic Dance Company to discuss more about the upcoming historic performances and more.

 

 

TICKET INFORMATION

Tickets start at $29. Tickets can be purchased on the Kennedy Center website, at the Kennedy Center box office or by calling Instant Charge at (202) 467-4600. Patrons living outside the Washington metropolitan area may dial toll-free at (800) 444-1324. For all other ticket-related customer service inquiries, call the Advance Sales Box Office at (202) 416-8540.

 

 

 

Discover the Kennedy Center on social media:

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@KennedyCenter @kennedycenter @kennedy.center @kencen

 

 

 

Makeba Giles is a Digital Content Producer and founder of Faith Health and Home, a digital space with information and resources for physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being to help families live an inspired lifestyle.

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