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Ballethnic Celebrates 33 Years With New Original Works at the Alliance Theatre August 25th - 27th

Jazzing: Memoirs in Jazz. A new original work from Ballethnic will be performed this weekend, August 25th - 27th
Jazzing: Memoirs in Jazz. A new original work from Ballethnic will be performed this weekend, August 25th - 27th

Ballethnic is one of the oldest professional ballet companies in the region, and they are collaborating with East African dancers in Tanzania. The founders of Nena Gilreath and Waverly Lucas spent weeks in Tanzania teaching their form of ballet to dancers, young adults, and children. This was not a one-way exchange. They also learned about the significance of Tanzania's traditional dance and music. This exchange will be presented to our community at the Alliance Theatre on August 25th - 27th. The performances will include original works Sanctity and Jazzing: Memoirs in Jazz.

I asked Nena Gilreath to share why they chose Tanzania. She spoke about the Africulture Dance Troupe in Tanzania that reached out to them through a colleague. She and her husband, co-founder Waverly Lucas, accepted the invitation and traveled to Bwagamoyo, Tanzania. They spent weeks learning and teaching.

They taught the Tanzania dancers their form of ballet and found the students to be receptive and curious. Gilreath says they were ready to learn. She mentioned that their class started with meditation involving stretching and setting intentions. Tanzania is on the continent's Eastern side, and she mentioned that their dance style differed from the West African dance she had previously studied.

I asked what surprised her about the traditional dances and music in Tanzania, she spoke about their stage being outside and made of concrete, which they had to get used to using. She also spoke about the energy of their dance. She shared that their students were surprised by the use of feet in ballet.

Ballethnic will celebrate 33 years of providing dancers in our community an opportunity to launch professional careers. They rely on the support of volunteers of all ages. A capital campaign to raise funds is ongoing as they plan to renovate their space in the coming months.

For more information and tickets to this weekend’s performances, go to Ballethnic.org.