I had the incredible opportunity to attend the highly anticipated performance of The Nutcracker at the Paramount Theatre, and I must say, it was an absolute marvel. The energy and excitement in the theater were palpable, and it was no surprise that all tickets for this performance were completely sold out. China Smith, Ballet Afrique’s founder and artistic director, is amazing!
This year’s rendition of The Nutcracker was truly a wonder to behold. The production featured an exceptional cast, with notable individuals from our community taking on key roles. Shuronda Robinson CEO of Austin Woman Magazine, brought Mother Ginger to life with her captivating presence. Chas Moore, from the Austin Justice Coalition, portrayed the Rat King with a commanding and dynamic performance. And Eric Byrd, the esteemed president of Austin’s Black Professional Alliance, mesmerized the audience with his portrayal of Trombone Charles. The blend of traditional ballet, contemporary dance, and African dance showcased the immense talent and versatility of the performers. It was a visual feast that transported us to the vibrant era of the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920s and 1930s. The incorporation of Duke Ellington’s jazz versions of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s iconic “Nutcracker” songs added a unique and captivating twist to the performance.
It was a visual feast that transported us to the vibrant era of the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920s and 1930s.
Beyond the sheer entertainment value, this production served a greater purpose. It highlighted the importance of Black art and culture, inviting the Austin community to appreciate and celebrate the richness and relevance of these contributions. It posed thought-provoking questions about the consequences of neglecting and undervaluing Black arts and culture.
As I sat in the theater, I couldn’t help but reflect on the significance of providing access to historically inaccessible art forms like ballet. By exposing children to these art forms, we inspire and ignite their passion for participation. It is through experiences like this that we can foster a love for the arts and create a more inclusive and diverse artistic community.
I commend China Smith of Ballet Afrique for her dedication to creating a space where children can access ballet and other forms of dance. Their commitment to making the arts accessible to all is truly commendable. I do not doubt that their annual “Nutcracker” performance will continue to grow in popularity, and I eagerly anticipate the day when it graces the grand stage of Bass Concert Hall. Furthermore, I hope that in the coming years, they can offer students the opportunity to witness the magic of this performance, further expanding their reach and impact.
Tonight’s performance was not just a showcase of talent and creativity; it was a powerful statement. It was a moment for the Austin community to recognize and support the incredible artistic contributions of Black artists. It served as a reminder that we must continue to fund and create spaces where diverse voices and talents can thrive.
Witnessing The Nutcracker performance tonight was a truly unforgettable experience. It reminded me of the immense value of dance and the arts in our community. It is through these artistic expressions that we can connect, inspire, and celebrate the beauty of our shared humanity.Phyllis Everette is the Founder and CEO of Saffron Trust. Follow and support the amazing work of Ballet Afrique online.