Productions

Urban Nutcracker 2018 – Cast Bios

Co-Founder / Co-Artistic Director

Mrs. Gilreath is a graduate of the North Carolina School of the Arts where she received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance. She began her career by moving to Atlanta and joining the Ruth Mitchell Dance Theatre.  She later joined the Dance Theatre of Harlem, touring nationally and internationally.  In 1988, Ms. Gilreath returned to Atlanta to dance with the Atlanta Ballet.  Finally, on January 15, 1990, along with husband and choreographer Waverly T. Lucas, II they created Ballethnic Dance Company. She has implemented numerous outreach programs including the BUDDY Project through the Atlanta Project, which served as a model for the existing Danseur Development Project.  Ms. Gilreath currently serves as co-founder and co-artistic director of Ballethnic Dance Company and Ballethnic Academy of Dance. She continues her original role as a dance artist and mentor for many young dancers as well as assisting Mr. Lucas in creating Ballethnic’s unique style. Ms. Gilreath was creative Loafing’s 2000 Best of Atlanta Critics Pick-Best Dancer; she received Atlanta Business League’s Success Against the Odds Award in 2001. She, along with Mr. Lucas, received the 2002 Global Diversity Business Exchange Atlanta Entrepreneur Award. In addition, Ms. Gilreath is a recipient of the 2003 Pinnacle Leadership Award. Nena and Waverly were recently selected as the December 2006 Lexus Leaders of the Artsby Georgia Public Broadcasting. Nena was also recognized in Atlanta Magazine’s December 2006 issue as one of the “Top Twenty Women in Business”. She is also the recipient of the 2007 Charles Loridans Award. She also received the 2008 Atlanta NAACP President’s Award for their positive influence on today’s youth.


Co-Founder / Co-Artistic Director

Mr. Lucas attended Marygrove College in Detroit, Michigan, where he conceived the concept and name for Ballethnic Dance Company. In Ballethnic’s short history, Mr. Lucas has created more than 30 ballets, including four full-length ballets: Urban Nutcracker, The Leopard Tale,  Flyin’ West … the ballet (based off of the Pearl Cleage play) , Epiphany….another Moment of Gospel Ballet and Jazz, and Jazzy Sleeping Beauty, which premiered in Cincinnati, Ohio, September, 2007 and was produced by Ballet Tech Cincinnati. He is the creator of Ballethnicize, an evolving dance/fitness discipline that combines African dance styles with classical ballet. He also established the Danseur Development Project, a dance-training program for young males. Mr. Lucas’ choreography has performed at the 1996 Olympic Arts Festival, the 1997 Lincoln Center Out-of-Doors Concert Series, the National Black Arts Festival, and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Outreach Program. Mr. Lucas choreographed Aida for the Atlanta Opera and Once on this Island and Memphis for the Aurora Theatre and Theatrical Outfit. Internationally, Mr. Lucas has studied West African dance and drumming in Senegal and Brazil and taught at the International Association of Blacks in Dance Conference. He also taught Ballethnicize workshops and gave lectures at the Universidad de Technicale Lisboa in Portugal. In 2003, he presented workshops in Sao Paulo Brazil at the Taina Cultural Arts Center. Due to his faithful commitment towards the arts, Mr. Lucas has received numerous awards and honors including the Princess Grace Scholarship, National Choreographers Award, and the McPheeter’s Medallion Award for Community Service by the Auburn Avenue Research Library. He has been recognized as one of Atlanta’s Community Leaders in the 2002-2003 edition of Who’s Who in Black Atlanta, and a recipient of the 2003 TBS Trumpet Awards for Dancer/Choreographer. Mr. Lucas and Nena were selected as the 2006 Lexus Leaders of the Arts by Georgia Public Broadcasting and also received the 2008 Atlanta NAACP President’s Award for their positive influence on today’s youth. Mr. Lucas’s film credits consist of Miss Evers Boys, Krush Groove, Vision (on BET), as well as several short film projects.


Associate Artistic Director / Guest Artist

Adam L. McKnight (Guest Artist) – Adam’s talents have been showcased in major events with the Atlanta & Knoxville Symphony Orchestras, Atlanta Youth Symphony, Opening & Closing Ceremonies of the Centennial Olympic Games, on TV & Radio commercials for TNT Sports, Black & Decker, ESPN Radio, Cellular One and the Georgia Lottery. As a testament to Adam’s musical ability and vocal talents he arranged, recorded and toured a year with the legendary superstar Sir Elton John. He has also shared the stage with such notables as Patti Labelle, Stevie Wonder, B.B. King, CeCe Winans, Diana Ross, Faith Hill & the Pointer Sisters. Currently, Adam serves on the Board of Governors of the Atlanta Chapter of the National    Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences.  Adam has appeared at The Alliance Theater as co-writer/performer in the original play “Leap”.  Theatrical credits include “Jesus Christ Superstar Gospel”, “Big River”, “Driving Miss Daisy”, “Heartstrings”, “Bubblin’ Brown Sugar”, “Black Nativity” & “Eubie” to  name a few.


Company Member

Karla D. Tyson (Company Member) began dancing at the age of five at the Ballethnic Academy of Dance under the direction of Nena and Waverly Lucas.  As an apprentice at Ballethnic Dance Company, she performed the role of Brown Sugar in Urban Nutcracker at just sixteen years old. Ms. Tyson was selected to the Governor’s Honors Program in the summer of 2005 as a dance major.  She was chosen to go to Las Vegas, NV to participate on the TV show “So You Think You Can Dance” in season eight.  After living in Los Angeles, CA for the last five years while dancing as a Laker Girl for the Los Angeles Lakers for three seasons, Ms. Tyson is excited about her return to the company.


Company Member

Rodney Bridges (Company Member) is a native of South Carolina and relocated to Georgia in 2013. Rodney began taking dance lessons at the age of 13 at Laurinburg School of Dance Arts. After completing his first year, he was accepted into the residential dance program at the South Carolina Governor’s School. He spent two years there before returning home and training at Crystal McInnis School of Dance. After completing high school, Rodney went on to dance for several local companies, projects, and choreographing for several events. After a five-year hiatus, he returned to dance and began dancing for Proia Dance Project. Rodney attributes his success to Stanislav Issaev, Irina Ushakova, Robert Barnett, Katie Ellison, Antonya Drakeford Windham, Crystal McInnis, Brandy Leviner, Jasmine Edney, Sandra Neels, Llyod Whitmore and Alexandre Proia. This is Rodney’s second season with Ballethnic Dance Company.


Company Member

 

Chad Jones (Company Member) Graduated high school in 2006. He trained at Ballethnic Academy of Dance since age ten. He danced professionally with The Georgia Ballet, North Atlanta and Ballethnic Dance Company.  Chad performed Bluebird in the Atlanta premiere of Jazzy Sleeping Beauty in 2009. This will be Mr. Jones third season as a company member.


Company Member

 

Devrae “DJ” Jefferson was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania but raised on the south side of Atlanta, GA. DJ started his training in high school at Tri-Cities Visual/Performing Arts Program. Jefferson received full scholarships to attend summer programs like Metropolitan Ballet Theater and the Alonzo Kings Lines Summer Program. Jefferson has a BFA in Dance from the University Of North Carolina School of the Arts. Since graduation, DJ has danced with Dallas Black Dance Theater Encore and Ballethnic Dance Company.


Company Member

Charity Broussard is a native of Flint, Michigan where she attended the Flint School of Performing Arts throughout high school. Upon graduation, she was accepted to Goucher College as a recipient of the Fine and Performing Arts in Dance scholarship. While at Goucher, Charity was a part of the Goucher Repertory Dance Ensemble, as well as a founding member of Goucher College’s Dancers of Color Coalition. While in the Goucher Repertory Dance Ensemble she worked with many choreographers some of which included Milton Myers, Gabrielle Lamb, Christian Von Howard, and Iquail Shaheed. She recently graduated from Goucher in May 2017 with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Dance Performance, with which she intends to continue inspiring others through dance. Since graduation she has begun working as a dance teacher and recently performed in works choreographed by Iyun Ashani Harrison, founder and artistic director of Ashani Dances, for Ashani Dances FIVE! at the Baltimore Theatre Project in Baltimore, Maryland. This is Charity’s first season with Ballethnic Dance Company.


Apprentice

 

Terrell Venn (Apprentice) a native of Atlanta, GA began his dance training at Ballethnic Academy of Dance at the tender age of five years old.  During his tenure with Ballethnic, Terrell trained pre-professionally and has premiered in two of the company’s major productions, Jazzy Sleeping Beauty and Flyin’ West The Ballet, an adaptation of Pearl Cleage’s play, Flyin’ West. He has also performed several roles in their signature ballet, The Leopard Taleas well Urban Nutcracker.


Apprentice

Imani Nailah Christopher (Apprentice) is a native of Atlanta, GA. She began her dance training at age six with Elevated Places Dance Company, under the direction of Fredrika Wilson. After many years of competitive training, Imani joined Ballethnic in 2015 to study classical ballet. Imani graduated high school in 2017 and is in her first year as an apprentice.


Apprentice

Brandon Avery (Apprentice) spent 12 years of self-instruction in urban dance technique until he joined ClearVision Dance Team in 2006. Avery took his first formal dance technique course at his alma mater, Knox College, and thereafter studied numerous dance techniques (e.g. classical ballet, modern, jazz, kick/pom/stunt, contemporary, bachata, flamenco, aerial fabric/sling) from artists and institutions such as Yanis Marshall, Dereque Whiturs of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, and Chicago Multicultural Dance School. Avery has performed with Ballethnic Dance Company, Red Clay Dance, Nejla Yatkin, Erica Mott, Shalamar, and MTV2. He is in his first season with Ballethnic Dance Company as a company apprentice, and this performance in Urban Nutcracker will be his first time ever participating a Nutcracker production! In addition to his apprenticeship, Avery is a teacher at Ballethnic Academy of Dance, and the founder/instructor of Hips & Heels by Brandon Avery™. Avery is a native South Holland, IL.


Guest Artist

Theresa Freeman-Howard (Guest Artist) is a native of New York and holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Dance Theatre Education and a Master of Science degree in Dance-Movement Therapy.  Mrs. Howard is currently an assistant professor at Kennesaw State University (KSU) and an instructor of African Dance at Emory University. She has instructed dance workshops at Georgia Tech, Gwinnett Technical College and Swarthmore College. She has studied Modern, jazz, ballet, African, Balinese, and belly dancing at the Clark Center for the Performing Arts, Charles Weideman School of Dance, Martha Graham School of Dance, Olatunji School of Dance, and the Dinizulu Dance Studio.  She has performed with Chuck Davis African American Dance Theatre, Joan Miller and the Chambers Arts Players, Eleo Pomare, Rod Rodgers Dance Company, and performed Alvin Ailey’s Revelationsat Herbert H. Lehman College.  Mrs. Howard directs ‘Edeliegba” the H.J.C Bowden Senior Dance Ensemble and instructs children and adults in various dance forms. She is an accredited Yoga instructor and currently teaches at Ballethnic Academy of Dance. She is a recipient of the 2008 Pinnacle Leadership Award, 2007 Winterfest Volunteer Angel Award and the 2006 W.O.M.E.N. Award. This is Mrs. Howard’s 27th season as a guest artist with Ballethnic Dance Company.


Guest Artist

Billy Mims-Goodman (Guest Artist) known for his “signature” role as the Drunken husband, in Ballethnic Dance Company’s Urban Nutcracker production, Mr. Goodman acknowledges not only the formative role that dance has been, but the healing power of it which has helped to save his life and balance the demands of his medical career as a nurse anesthetist. A member of Whole Heart Productions, co-author of “Paper-Thin, Soul-Deep, jewelry maker and aspiring actor, he brings an infectious energy to each interest.  He is grateful for the tremendous opportunity to be part of this esteemed performance & work with such devoted artists of brilliant talent. Mr. Mims-Goodman started his formal education in dance with tap & acrobatics at the age of four while attending Sammy Dyer School of Theater in Chicago, Illinois.  Under the instruction of Jerrel Jordan & Teddy Levy, he became proficient in advanced skills while participating in annual recitals. He acquired jazz training after the age of twelve also with Jerrel Jordan and with his late sister, Brenda Goodman-Calloway.  After a 2-year hiatus, he returned to the stage as a member of the show “Chicago, My Chicago“.  Liturgical dance became his focus during his undergraduate years at Xavier University.  Through participation in Better Family Life’s Black Dance USA conferences in St. Louis, Missouri, he received his first exposure to African, Afro-Caribbean and Dunham techniques.


Guest Artist

Allyne D. Gartrell (Guest Artist) A native of Atlanta, GA, Gartrell brings twenty-five years of experience to the art of dance. A graduate of the DeKalb Center for the Performing Arts in Atlanta. Allyne also attended Florida A&M University and Florida State University where he excelled in Instrumental Music and Dance. As a dancer, Allyne has worked with Joel Hall Dance Theater, Ballet Wisconsin, City Ballet Theatre and for seven years he was one of the Lead Male Dancers for the Internationally known Dayton Contemporary Dance Company, where he served as Company Instructor and Rehearsal Director for DCDC II. While at DCDC, Allyne performed ballets of Alvin Ailey, Donald McKayle, Talley Beatty, Ulysses Dove, and Donald Byrd to name a few. His Broadway credits include; the Wiz, A Chorus Line, Sophisticated Ladies, and his most notable performance as Crown in the National Touring Production of Porgy & Bess.  Allyne also served as Assistant to the Tony Award Winning Choreographer Hope Clark for the production of Porgy & Bess which premiered at the Kennedy Center for the Arts.  In 2006 Allyne choreographed Primary Movements; a Contemporary ballet in collaboration with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, with original scoring by classical composer Jonathan Bailey Holland. Primary Movements became the official kick-off for Dallas Black Dance Theatre’s 30th Anniversary Celebration.  In 2010, Allyne is the founder and Executive Artistic Director of The ATLANTA DANCE CONNECTION, Atlanta’s Premiere Contemporary Dance Company. Addressing the need for an artistic outlet for young artist, the CONNECTION’S mission is to present quality art, entertainment and education in the field of Concert Dance.


Guest Artist

Torrance Smith Jr. (Guest Artist) A native of Milwaukee, WI, Torrance began his studies in dance under the direction of Sandra Jordan, in the Dance Exchange Summer Intensive.  After much hard work, Torrance auditioned for the Milwaukee School of the Arts and was accepted into the Dance Major program, where he would study Ballet, Modern Jazz and African Dance.  Little did Torrance know that he would meet his mentor Mr. Allyne D Gartrell.  Always striving to expand and grow within the art of dance Mr. Smith attended Milwaukee Ballet on Scholarship, DANCE WORKS CONTEMPORARY and studied Traditional African Dance with KO-THI Dance Company under the direction of Ferne Y Caulker. After graduating from MSA, Torrance moved to Atlanta to pursue his dream of dancing and working directly with his mentor.  In August of 2013 Mr. Smith joined the ATLANTA DANCE CONNECTION, Atlanta’s Ambassadors of Dance.  Torrance has danced the ballets of Christopher Huggins, Richard Freeman-Carter, Kevin Jackson and worked directly with Michael Jackson Jr. and Sean Aaron Carmon, of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre.  In 2016 Torrance was appointed Artistic Assistant to Mr. Gartrell. Traveling and teaching all over the country, Torrance has worked with Florida A&M University, Morgan State University, Grambling State University, Middle Tennessee State University and Dance Connection Palo Alto, CA.  Currently in his 5thSeason with ADC, Torrance is the recipient of the 2017 Directors Award for Outstanding Service and Dedication. Torrance is also a member of the Artistic Team of the Tri Cities Dance Department and a Faculty Member of the Norma’s Academy of Dance.


Guest Artist

Sheila Spivey (Guest Artist) has been dramatizing and narrating for 37 years, embracing the soul of each character she portrays. She has graced many stages with her acting abilities. This year marks her 14thseason in The Urban Nutcrackeras “Big Mama”. Big Mama’s storytelling has brought much joy, laughter and excitement to many families who have witnessed The Urban Nutcrackeryear after year! Paralleled to her personal journey in becoming a new grandmother, Ms. Spivey embodies the role of Big Mama with zeal, wholesomeness and a contagious affection for people of all ages. As the thrill of the holiday season draws near, Big Mama would like to wish everyone a happy, healthy and spirit filled holiday!


Guest Artist

Brandon Ellis – Has a career that spans over 29 years of professional experience in dance, teaching dance, choreography, acting, and singing. The Alvin Ailey American Dance Center, Ellis has afforded him the opportunity to tour the world as a principal dancer with Regional modern dance companies such as, Alvin Ailey’s Repertory Ensemble, Dayton Contemporary Dance Company, Philadanco & Complexions.  Teaching, numerous dance workshops, & master classes at universities, public/private schools across the U.S. & abroad.  Currently, a guest artist & teaching staff member at Ballethnic Inc. His theater, television, film & commercial credits include; Tarzan, Carousel, The Color Purple, Dreamgirls, Eurydice, For All My Girls, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Aida, When Men Pray, La Cage Aux Folles, Fox Fall Preview, Metro Mattress, IMDB’s Irrefutable Proof, Black Box, Bikeman, Showtime’s Dannemora, Cosby Celebrates AILEY, & Heroin.  Mr. Ellis has worked for, with, &/or was trained by, Alvin Ailey, Judith Jamison, Talley Beatty, Desmond Richardson, Dwight Rhoden, Donald Byrd, Denise Jefferson, Ulysses Dove, Jasmine Guy, Bill Cosby, Camille Cosby, Phylicia Rashad, George Fasion, Mike Lynch, Greg Braun, Jemel “Jimmy” McNeil, Mariska Phillips, Lacy Phillips, Louis Johnson, Tony Terry, Terrell Carter, Dwayne Boyd & Ben Stiller.


Guest Artist

 

Mona L. Scott (Guest Artist) is a native of Jamaica, Queens, New York. Her dance career began at Bernice Johnson Performing Arts Studio located in Jamaica, Queens, New York. Ms. Scott was the dance captain for Charles Moore African Dancers and Drummers Junior Company located in Brooklyn, New York. She received her B.A. degree in Theatre/Dance from Queens College, Flushing NY and her M.A. Degree in Dance Movement Therapy from Antioch, New England Graduate School, located in Keene New Hampshire. Ms. Scott has taught Tap Dance at Ballethnic over 20 years. She is a published author of three children’s books and a Tap Dance Manual for beginners. She gives thanks to God for giving her talents to share with others.


Guest Artist

 

Brittany Steele (Guest Artist) is a native of Atlanta, Georgia and received her early dance training from Ballethnic Dance Company.  A graduate of Johnson & Wales University in Charlotte, NC with a degree in Hospitality Management, Brittany returned to Ballethnic and her true passion, dance to resume training. Brittany has performed in Ballethnic’s Urban Nutcracker, The Leopard Tale, Epiphany 2, Flying West, Best of Bal ethnic, and has appeared in the premier of Jazzy Sleeping Beauty in Cincinnati, OH. Currently serves as an administrative assistant for Ballethnic, instructor of Hip Hop and Kiddie Ballethnicize. In addition to dancing with Ballethnic, Brittany also serves as the Minister of Dance at College park CME Church in College Park, GA.


Guest Artist

 

Roscoe Sales (Guest Artist)a native of North Carolina,graduated from the North Carolina School of the Arts where he received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance. He was previously affiliated with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre, North Carolina Dance Theatre, Dance Theatre of Harlem, the Atlanta Ballet, Ballethnic Dance Company, and the Metropolitan Opera House. He has performed in ballets such as Giselle, Nutcracker,Porgy and Bess, Swan Lake, The Leopard Tale, Urban Nutcracker and many others.


Guest Artist

Alexandra Newkirk (Guest Artist) is a native to Atlanta, Georgia. Newkirk began her training with Atlanta Ballet at the young age of two years old. Through her years of dancing at Atlanta Ballet and Ballethnic Dance Company in East Point, Georgia, Newkirk began training with Dance Theatre of Harlem; studying under the direction of Arthur Mitchell and Virginia Johnson. After graduating high school, Newkirk began college at Point Park University studying to get her BFA in Dance with a concentration of ballet. After graduating from Point Park University Newkirk has performed many roles such as Liberty Bell, Dew Drop, and the Gypsy from Dracula.


Guest Artist

Trinity Cox (Guest Artist) is a native of Fort Lauderdale, Florida where she began dancing at Parkway Middle School of the Arts, Dillard Center for Arts and Jubilee Dance Theatre. In 2013 Ms. Cox became a founding dance major at Alabama State University, graduating with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 2018. She also attended Howard University for dance, as well as the Dance Theatre of Harlem. Ms. Cox has performed in places such as Ellie Caulkins Opera House, Colony Theatre, El Camino College, Ira Aldridge Theatre, Telfair Peet Theatre and the Alabama Shakespeare Festival. Ms. Cox has teaching experiences in studio classes, the Alvin Ailey foundation and Camp Broadway, she has also instructed and created dance in the Montgomery Public School System. She been the “poster girl” for ASU’s inaugural BFA Program concert and a historic touring production, The Alabama Project. Ms. Cox has been featured in DC Metro Arts for her Ira Aldridge debut performance and featured in Brown Girls Do Ballet’s final curation of the virtual museum, “28 days of dance”. Roles danced by Ms. Cox include Sugar Plum Fairy, Ballerina Doll, The Dying Swan in Tchaikovsky’s miniature: The Swan and Fanny Cerrito in Pas de Quatre.


Guest Artist

Demetrius Tucker (Guest Artist) began his dance training at the age of eighteen. In 2012 he joined the Ft.Lauderdale Florida hip-hop dance team known as Wreckless, who premiered on Americas Got Talent. Realizing his passion for dance Demetrius wanted to broaden his dance vocabulary which lead to him training at The St. Lucie Ballet in Port St. Lucie, Florida. In 2014, he attended The University of South Florida which gave him and eleven chosen students the opportunity as  foreign exchange students to train and showcase set works in Beijing, China. The USF dance program has allowed him to work with choreographers such as Alonzo King, Robert Moses, Kara Davis, and many others. After graduating with a Bachelors of Fine Arts Degree in 2017 Demetrius was hired as a dancer for The Royal Caribbean Cruise Line. Currently he is a company member with The Atlanta Dance Connection while teaching Hip-Hop, Jazz, Ballet, and Modern.


Guest Artist

Antoinette Williams (Guest Artist) was raised in Brockton, Massachusetts and began dancing at the age of four. At Martha Ellen Stilwell School of the Arts in Jonesboro, Georgia, Antoinette studied a curriculum heavily focused on dance history, ballet, modern, jazz, and tap. After high school, Antoinette received multiple dance and honors scholarships at Valdosta State University in Georgia, where she earned her B.F.A in dance. Over the years, Antoinette has continued her training at prestigious ballet intensives such as the José Mateo Ballet Theatre and the Brandon Ballet. Thereafter, she went on to receive her Juris Degree from Florida Coastal School of Law, in Jacksonville, Florida, where she was an apprentice with the East Coast Ballet Company. Despite Antoinette’s disciplinary studies, she has been able to balance both her passions for Law and Dance. Antoinette is excited to be joining Ballethnic Dance Company, Inc., for her first season!


Guest Artist

Hannah Carlin (Guest Artist) is a first-year guest performer with Ballethnic. She is currently a 4th year at the University of Georgia studying Advertising and Dance. Hannah is from Marietta, Georgia and received her previous dance training at Georgia Metropolitan Dance Theater. Since her time at UGA, Hannah has performed in UGA’s Dance Department “Young Choreographers Showcase” and “Spring Dance Concert” every year. She also was a member of Core Contemporary and Aerial Dance Company (2015-2016) and CADE: NCE (2016-2017). Outside of UGA, Hannah has performed at American College Dance Association (2016, 2017) and will be returning this spring to perform a student work. She also has performed in Athens “Small Box Series” and will be performing with Zoetic this summer in “MIXTAPE”.


mdowdellProductions