Ballethnic Dance Company

Nena Y. Gilreath

  • 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 Arts by 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.

Waverly T. Lucas II

  • 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.

Karla D. Tyson

  • Company Member

    Karla D. Tyson began dancing at the age of five at Ballethnic Academy of Dance in East Point, GA under the direction of Nena and Waverly Lucas. She specializes in classical ballet, pointe, and partnering, but is also trained in jazz, tap, modern, lyrical, African, and hip hop. Ms. Tyson has performed in Ballethnic’s two main productions: The Urban Nutcracker and The Leopard Tale. In March 2009, she was featured as the first ever Quick Gem in Ballethnic’s premiere of Jazzy Sleeping Beauty. Before becoming a professional, she was an apprentice at Ballethnic Dance Company for two years, performing such roles as Brown Sugar (also known as the Sugar Plum Fairy) in The Urban Nutcracker, at just 16 years old, and other various company roles. She was selected to the Governor’s Honors Program in the summer of 2005 as a dance major and later earned her college degree in Accounting from The University of West Georgia. Ms. Tyson was once a back-up dancer for Cymia Telleria, a young artist with Cash Money Records, where she traveled to New Orleans and Miami to perform. She has also traveled to Barbados to teach ballet master classes. Ms. Tyson was chosen to go to Las Vegas, NV to participate on the hit TV show, “So You Think You Dance” in season 8. She was also featured in VOGUE online as one of the ballerinas at rapper Cardi B’s baby shower. For 5 years, she lived in Long Beach, CA, where she was a member of the prestigious Los Angeles Laker Girls for three seasons. Upon her return, Ms. Tyson is now a choreographer, assistant director, and teacher at Gift of Dance Studio and has returned as a professional ballerina, currently in her fourth season, while also assisting rehearsals at Ballethnic Dance Company.

Calvin Gentry

  • Company Member

    Calvin Gentry is an Atlanta native began his dance training at Atlanta DanceWorks in Stone Mountain Ga. He furthered his studies on full scholarship at Atlanta Ballet Centre for Dance Education, School of American Ballet in Nyc and Houston Ballet Academy. Calvin began his professional career with Atlanta Ballet where he danced for two seasons. In 2002, Calvin joined Ballethnic Dance Co. in East Point, Ga. dancing and bringing ballet to diverse audiences through out the metro area and the Us. In 2006 he joined Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo traveling through The states and abroad. In 2010 he returned to Ballethnic and embarked on teaching young dancers through out the metro area. He has taught at Ballethnic, DanceMakers of Atlanta, Georgia Dance Conservatory, Phusion, and British Academy of Performing arts. In 2013 his choreography was chosen for the South East Regional Ballet Association gala performances. His choreography and teachings have reached dancers and audiences in NYC, Washington DC, and Akron Ohio.

Kaila Carter

  • Company Member

    Kaila Carter was born in Washington D.C. and began dancing at a young age. In her youth, she took classes at various studios and spent her summers studying at intensives, including, but not limited to, The Rock School, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Dance Theater of Harlem, and the Paul Taylor Dance Company. For high school, Ms. Carter attended Duke Ellington School of the Arts where she majored in dance and was under the tutelage of skilled and dedicated teachers such as Charles Augins, Sandra Fortune-Green, and Katherine Smith. At Ellington, Ms. Carter was given the opportunity to perform with artists such as Patti LaBelle and Smokey Robinson, among other experiences. During this time, she was also given the opportunity to be a founding member of a pre-professional dance company by the name of Visions Contemporary Dance Ensemble, now known as Katherine Smith Contemporary Dance Ensemble. Ms. Carter is an alumna of Butler University, graduating in May of 2019 with a Bachelor of Science in Dance/Arts-Administration and a minor in creative writing. At Butler, she participated in full length ballet productions, like The Nutcracker and Swan Lake and in contemporary roles such as Little Blue Devil by Susan McGuire and Catching Shadows by Cynthia Pratt. While pursuing her degree, she was also able to grow choreographically and was given many chances to show her work in front of different audiences, which included a piece of hers being featured on Europe stages. Soon after graduation, Ms. Carter was also chosen to participate in Dance Canvas’ choreography 2019-2020 showcase for emerging artists. Currently, Ms. Carter is excited to be participating in her second season with Ballethnic Dance Company, where she is a company member and teaches ballet to young students.

Lauryn Alexis Lawrence

  • Company Member

    Lauryn Alexis Lawrence was born and raised in Atlanta, GA where she was first immersed in the arts at the tender age of three years old. She began her training at Norma’s Academy of Dance in East Point while also participating in Spelman College Dance and Drama Summer Program. After her matriculation with those two programs she found Ballethnic Dance Academy where she committed herself fully in African, Ballet, Pointe, Jazz, and Tap. While at Ballethnic she was apart of the Ballethnic Youth Ensemble, participated in their two signature ballets, The Urban Nutcracker and The Leopard Tale, as well as Jazzy Sleeping Beauty and Flyin’ West. She was also the recipient of the Spirit of Imani Award and Scholarship. During her high school matriculation she was accepted into and granted a scholarship to participate in The Dance Theatre of Harlem Summer Intensive Program for two years straight. Upon graduation from Our Lady of Mercy, she got accepted to and attended Spelman College where she graduated in 2019 with a Bachelor of the Arts degree in English. During her time at Spelman College, Lawrence received a full scholarship from the National Alumnae Association of Spelman College, won first attendant to Miss Kappa Alpha Psi, and joined Morehouse College’s Dance Team, Mahogany N Motion, becoming their co-captain. During her senior year at Spelman she was the YOU Awards International honoree in the category of Fine Arts. This year she approaches her 2nd year continuing her work with the Ballethnic Dance Company.

Kareem Best

  • Company Member

    Kareem Best is a native of Baltimore began his training in ballet at Peabody Institute of John Hopkins University under the direction of Barbara Weisberger and Melissa Stafford as an Estell Dennis Men’s Scholarship Recipient. From there he attended Carver Center for the Arts and Technology where he worked with teacher’s Stephanie Powell, Maria Royals and Elizabeth Ahern continuing his studies in Ballet and Modern. While in Baltimore Kareem also trained at Morton Street Dance Center where he met dance mentor Algernon Campbell and trained in Ballet, Modern, Jazz, African and fusion styles of dance. Throughout his training Kareem attended Summer Intensives at Dance Theatre of Harlem, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre, Joffrey Ballet, BalletX and Philadanco. Kareem received his BFA in Dance at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia where he also danced with The Philadelphia Dance Company “Philadanco” Second Company “D2”. While In Philadelphia Kareem danced and performed in works choreographed by Donald Lundsford, Douglas Becker, Lewis Johnson, Milton Myers, Gary Jeter, Anthony Burrell and Tommie Waheed Evans. As an independent artist Kareem has taught and Choreographed at Royal Performing Arts Center, Morton Street Dance Center, Carver Center for The Arts And Technology, Studio A Modeling and Dance, Ballet Nouveo, The Philadelphia High School of Performing Arts, and Philadanco D2 and D3. Kareem has also facilitated and directed arts after school programs in the Philadelphia public school system as the project manager and teaching director of The Association for the Advancement and Integration of Design (AAID). Over the past year Kareem has produced Collaborative Projects both in Philadelphia (“Kareem Best and Friends Presents an Evening of Dance” Concert Series 2019 in collaboration with Performance Garage, Marquice Furr, Philadanco D2, Rachel Byers and Barnel Anderson) and Las Vegas (“Come Together” Summer Intensive 2020 In collaboration with Free Spirit Dance Studio) with his project based collective A Vision Beyond Confinement (AVBC). This is Kareem’s first season with Ballethnic.

Jewanda Lanier

  • Company Member

    Jewanda Lanier is a native of Dallas, Ga, and a proud graduate of Point Park University. She began dancing at the age of 5 at her preschool and then continued her training at Cobb Community Dance Theatre. Once reaching 7th grade, she decided to further her studies at Georgia Dance Conservatory. While there, Jewanda was cast as the Gold Jewel in Sleeping Beauty, one of the 4 Little Swans in Swan Lake, and Polichinelle in Nutcracker for 2 years, to name a few. Prior to attending Point Park, Jewanda performed for the Martin Luther King Jr. Monumental Celebration in D.C., with choreography by T. Lang. In this work, she portrayed the youngest of the four little girls killed in the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963. This piece was also shared for the Tribute to Joseph E. Lowry’s 92nd birthday celebration at the MLK International Chapel in Atlanta, Ga alongside Jamie Foxx, Chris Tucker, Tyler Perry, and various known celebrities. While studying at Point Park, Jewanda has had the pleasure of working with and performing works by Jim Cooney, Helen Simoneau, Mark Burrell, Kiesha Lalama, Ruben Graciani, and many other artists of numerous styles. She also was given the opportunity to perform for The Children’s Hospital’s 125th year celebration. After graduation, Jewanda was cast as Lisa in the musical Mamma Mia! for Royal Caribbean, as well as entertaining through their theatrical display of Blue Planet. In addition to Mamma Mia!, other musicals Jewanda has been a part of include Footloose (Wendy Jo), Fame (Carmen Diaz), and Legally Blonde (Greek Chorus). Outside of dance, Jewanda has been sighted competing on some pageant stages, receiving the titles of Miss North Georgia State Fair, Miss Blairsville, and Cobb’s Talented Miss to name a few. Jewanda is excited for the opportunity to share her joy of dance in her first season with Ballethnic.

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