Production of Duke Ellington’s The Nutcracker to Highlight Black Excellence, History and Triumph

Entrepreneur and Community Leader Terry P. Mitchell will be making a special appearance in the role of Mother Ginger along with her two year old daughter as of the Bon Bons.
Ballet Afrique, Austin’s first all-Black en pointe dance company, is excited to present Duke Ellington’s: The Nutcracker Suite in a 7 p.m. performance on Saturday, February 19 at The Paramount Theatre. The production, which is set in Harlem during the Harlem Renaissance period of the 1920s and 30s, promises to be a grand spectacle of opulence and a positively joyous treat for the entire family. 

The young dancers will take patrons on a journey of resilience as the talented ballerinas of Ballet Afrique tell the story of Claranette’s family’s resilience, triumphs, and magic through the Great Depression and amid Jim Crow, all set to the score of Duke Ellington.

Local entrepreneur, philanthropist, co-founder of the Black Leaders Collective, and native Austinite Terry P. Mitchell will join the cast in the iconic role of Mother Ginger. In an extra special treat, Mitchell’s two-year-old daughter is also cast as one of the bonbon dancers.

It took a whole village – every mama, every volunteer, every donor to get these kids to where they are

The performance will be a special one as it is the last for the Umoja – Ballet Afrique’s youth performing group – before they head into college. 

“It took a whole village – every mama, every volunteer, every donor to get these kids to where they are,” says Founder and Artistic Director China Smith. “For the past 13 years, Austin has been pouring in support of Ballet Afrique, and this is the result. We did it. We did it as a community. And this is the time – come, and let’s send them off together.”


In addition to serving as a send-off celebration for some of the dancers, it represents triumphant persistence as this performance will be the third time since December of 2020 that Smith and her team have attempted to mount the show.

Originally slated for The Moody Amphitheater in Waterloo Park – the performance has been rescheduled twice before due to weather and Covid concerns. “We are grateful to the community, our sponsors, and the Paramount Theatre who have joined forces to ensure that ‘the show must go on!’” said Smith.

“I am immensely proud of the all-hands-on-deck approach my team took in order to be able to transition this show to our stage on such short notice. We were struck by Smith’s month-long dedication to providing her deserving students with a proper send-off. It’s an exciting opportunity and we look forward to possibly working with Ballet Afrique in the future.” said Jim Ritts, the CEO and Executive Director of Austin Theatre Alliance.

Tickets are onsale online.


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