- Associated Press - Saturday, November 14, 2015

AUSTELL, Ga. (AP) - The Ballethnic Dance Company, celebrating 25 years of excellence in the metro Atlanta arts community, will present “Urban Nutcracker,” Nov. 19 to 22.

A full-length ballet with an ethnic twist, Ballethnic’s “Urban Nutcracker” has become a local tradition. The production is always presented the weekend before Thanksgiving and has become the first “Nutcracker” ballet of Atlanta’s holiday season. This year’s production will continue the tradition Ballethnic patrons have come to expect, but in a new venue.

“Ballethnic is delighted to announce that the company will perform this 22nd season of the full-length ‘Urban Nutcracker’ at the Riverside EpiCenter in south Cobb County,” said Ballethnic’s Co-Founding Director Waverly T. Lucas II. “We are thrilled to have the opportunity to utilize this beautiful, contemporary facility for producing ‘Urban Nutcracker.’”

In the past, the holiday ballet has been performed at Georgia Tech’s Ferst Center, but scheduling conflicts made it necessary for the company to find another venue, Lucas said.

“Urban Nutcracker” is Lucas’ adaptation of Tchaikovsky’s ballet. Set on Atlanta’s historic Sweet Auburn Avenue in the 1940’s, the show offers a celebration with culturally-relevant characters such as Reggae Ragdolls, Arabian dancers, the Black Russians, Mother Spice and her tumbling Spice Drops, the bubbly Coca-Cola Pas de Six and Brown Sugar and her Chocolatier.

This year’s event will feature two dancers in the Chocolatier role: veteran Ballethnic company member Savery Morgan and guest artist Frederick Davis, an alumnus of Dance Theatre of Harlem.

Beyond staging “Urban Nutcracker” as a holiday tradition, Ballethnic’s upcoming production also celebrates its 25th year as a member of Atlanta’s performing arts community.

“The company observed this achievement with a gala program back in May, followed by several smaller anniversary events,” said Co-Founding Director Nena Gilreath. “So, we are especially pleased to close out this milestone year by performing ‘Urban Nutcracker’ in a new space.” Show patrons also will get a chance to see the beginnings of a new set being designed for Act I, she said.

“Urban Nutcracker” has a story line similar to the original “Nutcracker” ballet, but the characters differ.

In the first act, Sarah - traditionally, Clara - receives a nutcracker doll as a holiday gift from her uncle, Professor Isaac. She later dreams the nutcracker becomes a handsome prince. Act I ends after a dance by the Snow King and Queen against a snowy backdrop. In Act II, Sarah’s dreams take her on a journey to the “Land of Sweet Auburn Avenue.” There, she and the young prince, Leroy, are greeted with delightful gifts and entertained by a six-pack of Coca-Cola dancers on pointe, leaping Black Russians and Spice Drop Tumblers. The queen of Auburn Avenue is Brown Sugar - traditionally the Sugar Plum Fairy. She and the Chocolatier present Sarah and Leroy with an grand pas de deux followed by a finale with all the dancers.

The show will run Nov. 19 at 7:30 p.m., Nov. 20 at 8 p.m., Nov. 21 at 2 and 8 p.m. and Nov. 22 at 2 p.m.

To purchase tickets, visit www.brownpapertickets.com. Tickets are $30 for senior citizens, students, children and groups of 10 or more. General admission tickets are $40.

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