Mayor Patsy Jo Hillard


Description of Organization

Ballethnic is a classically trained, culturally diverse ballet company that blends traditional ballet with the artistic influences of other ethnic cultures especially African American. Founded in January, 1990 by dancers Nona Gilreath and Waverly Lucas, Ballethnic's goal is to inform, educate, and entertain through dance. In addition to producing ballet performances of artistic excellence, the company seeks to introduce children in minority neighborhoods to the art of dance with the hope of providing alternative forms of entertainment and activity to youth at-risk.

The company consists of nine (9) professional dancers including the two co-founders who are both former dancers with the Dance Theater of Harlem and the Atlanta Ballet, a dance academy with over 100 students, and approximately 10 adjunct, part-time instructors. It has been in operation 10 years.

Impact on Youth

The ambitious artistic and community centered efforts of Ballethnic Dance Company have had a positive impact on thousands of Atlanta's young people. Through public performances of Urban Nutcracker, a holiday spectacular, and The Leopard Tale, Ballethnic's signature ballet, Ballethnic has been able to instill in children an interest in culture and to offer them new outlets for expression and enjoyment. Over 100 students participate in Ballethnic Academy of Dance and a majority of them perform in the professional productions of The Leopard Tale and Urban Nutcracker. School performances of these two productions guarantee that is will be seen by a diverse audience of young people throughout the Atlanta community.

Ballethnic Academy of Dance is a major component of the Company's mission. It supports all of the company's outreach programs by allowing those programs to feed into its curricula, which consists of courses from ballet and African dance to etiquette and hygiene. The Academy offers a nine (9) month curriculum and a five (5) week summer session.

Ongoing outreach programs are:

I ) Danseur Development Project - offers activities to young men and provides strong, reliable adult males as mentors.

2) Creative Outlet For Youth - a program designed to instruct boys and girls age 6 to 12 in ballet and equip them with a productive outlet for their energies.

3) B-2-Y is a project which takes Ballethnic Dance Company directly into local schools to teach, educate, inspire and perform. Students are recruited for other programs such as Danseur Development and Creative Outlet for Youth during these visits.

The Academy has a lower than market rate tuition to make it more affordable. Work-study opportunities are also available for students whose families cannot afford the full tuition and for students who require full scholarships. Children of a wide range of ethnicities and socioeconomic backgrounds select Ballethnic Academy of Dance for their training and the Academy focuses on the full development of its students. Disciplined lives, sound bodies and focused minds are the proven benefits of its education.

Ballethnic Youth Ensemble is a pre-professional training program for young people ages 6 to adult. Its mission is to provide a more professional study of dance for youth who, because of their talent and potential, require an advanced level of instruction. Participants in this program will develop the skills that are necessary to become professional dancers by undergoing intense training, exercising self-discipline, exemplifying commitment and performing in public.

Of the Danseur Development Alumni, one has a contact with the Cleveland Ballet, one has opened a martial arts school, and one has received a dance scholarship for his college education. In addition to participating in lecture demonstrations, mini performances, and Ballethnic's professional productions, students in Creative Outlet for Youth also attend at least three (3) professional art productions a year to broaden their artistic exposure.

Supporting Art Organizations

Ballethnic Dance Company is supported by the Metropolitan Arts Fund, the Fulton County Arts Council, and Georgia Council for the Arts. Impact on Arts Education

Ballethnic Dance Company is Atlanta's only professional ballet company whose co-founders are African American and seeks to provide performance opportunities to those who, in spite of proper ballet training, are often overlooked in the majority of ballet companies because of race or ethnicity. Ballethnic's energetic and entertaining repertoire includes choreographs ranging from spiritual to sassy, and from solemn to sensual. Ballethnic Dance Company has impacted the Atlanta community, this country and peoples throughout the world as they tour with the message that all cultures own and benefit from the arts when they are shared. The words, "I never knew a little girl like me could be a ballerina," of co-founder Nena Gilreath, are still the words and thoughts of too many of our children. Ballethnic instills in all of the children it touches the knowledge of the their ownership of the culture of dance, classical music, and the world of the arts.

Unlike special programs targeted for the serious minded dance student, Ballethnic Academy of Dance invites all to participate and appreciate the results of having professionals as teachers. Its approach to training is based on instilling values that build inner strength, character and self-esteem. This nurturing environment creates trust and productivity. Its standards of excellence generate high expectations from both students and teachers. The superb training and discipline evidenced by its students as they progress and perform with other programs and/or companies establishes Ballethnic Academy of Dance and it's approach to dance education as a model for designing a program of education in the arts. There are approximately 100 students at Ballethnic Academy of Dance. In November 1999 more than 2000 school children will attend the special productions for schools of Urban Nutcracker and see approximately 60 children from the greater Atlanta community perform with the professional dancers of Ballethnic Dance Company as well as many adult dancers from the city and visiting professionals. Many more children will also be entertained and become enthused with the arts as they attend performances with parents and friends. These numbers are also typical of productions of The Leopard Tale which take place annually in February.

Organizational Goals

More administrative support is needed for the organization to maintain itself and grow. Currently, one full time staff person, two part-time staff members and volunteers man the office. We plan to expand personnel in the areas of database maintenance, performance bookings, and marketing thereby generating the additional funds to sustain the additional personnel and subsequently produce more total revenue to support the company's programs.

Funding Mechanisms

Ballethnic Dance Company is a non-profit, charitable organization primarily funded by foundation grants and corporate sponsors. We also depend on in-kind contributions from the parent organization, volunteerism for backstage help during production and in-kind trade-offs for media sponsorship to help market our programs. We are continuously applying for grants to help stabilize the organization with a current emphasis on strengthening the administrative arm of the company.


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The United States Conference of Mayors

J. Thomas Cochran, Executive Director
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