African American Ballerinas Star as Sugar Plum Fairy in Gwinnett Ballet Theatre’s...

African American Ballerinas Star as Sugar Plum Fairy in Gwinnett Ballet Theatre’s “The Nutcracker”

Rachael Graham and Sasha West - Photo credit: Holley Calmes


Historical First for Gwinnett Ballet Theatre’s “The Nutcracker”

The 2017 Gwinnett Ballet Theatre production of “The Nutcracker” features two African American Ballerinas devoted to dance.  Enter below for your chance to win two tickets to the performance.

Gwinnett Ballett Theatre's Nutcracker

Rachael Graham

This is a historical first in the thirty-six-year history of Gwinnett Ballet Theatre’s much-loved production of the holiday performance that two young African American ballerinas will star in the lead role of the Sugar Plum Fairy.

Gwinnett Ballet Theatre's Nutcracker

Sasha West

Gwinnett Ballet Theatre is a nonprofit, School and Performance Organization.  Their mission is to educate and empower young artists by providing the highest quality dance instruction, performance experiences, community outreach, and collaboration with other nonprofits and community organizations.

Gwinnett Ballet Theatre

Rachael Graham, 15, and Sasha West, 16, have devoted their entire young lives to fulfilling their dreams of becoming professional ballerinas.  To say the girls are excited about achieving the lead role of Sugar Plum Fairy in “The Nutcracker” is putting it lightly.

Graham was speechless when she discovered her Nutcracker casting. “Finding out that I was Sugar Plum was kind of surreal. I didn’t expect to be even considered for that role. I was in the Chick-Fil-A ordering line when I saw the cast list, so by the time I got to the cash register to order, I couldn’t even make words come out of my mouth; I was so shocked!”

West was also ecstatic when she found out that she got the role “I was extremely excited, grateful, and also very nervous for the opportunity to be performing such a big lead role.”

The Gwinnett Ballet Theatre is proud to announce that this is most diverse production to date as Rachel and Sasha are two of several African American dancers with lead roles in “Nutcracker.”  This year’s production also features African American ballerinas in such prominent roles as “Snow Queen,” “Arabian” and “Dewdrop.”  GBT is proud of the continuing growth of diversity in their student body as it expands each year.

Gwinnett Ballet Theatre


Graham and West will be performing this coveted part, among other lead roles, in Gwinnett Ballet Theatre’s “Nutcracker,” December 1st – 17th at the Infinite Energy Theater in Duluth.

Four performances are presented Fridays through Sundays, plus outreach shows. Please call 770-626-2464 for details on outreach shows.


Click HERE to purchase tickets or call 770-626-2464.

Don’t miss out on this spectacular holiday performance that is fun for all ages!

Rachael Graham is an Honor Student in her sophomore year at Providence Christian Academy where she is Student Council President of her class. West is a sophomore at Brookwood High School where she is an Honor Student and a member of the National Beta Club. How these young women manage scholastic achievement with their dance schedule reflects their commitment.  One does not receive the role of “Sugar Plum Fairy” without hours of disciplined training and mental focus.

“A typical day for me includes taking ballet and other dance classes from 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Monday through Friday,” says West. Preparing for Nutcracker, some of this time is given to rehearsals.

Both young women follow the same schedule, and Saturdays are no different. Dance classes are 9:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Then it’s time for rehearsals until 6:00 p.m.

Graham says, “I don’t usually begin my homework until at least 8:30 p.m. on weeknights, which calls for long nights and late hours.”  Even though their schedules are tough and the hours are long, neither of them would change one thing.  They are truly devoted to ballet and academic achievement.

Both young ladies plan for a future in dance. They have already been selected for and participated in, prestigious national summer programs. West spent the past two summers at American Ballet Theatre in NYC. Graham studied at Charlotte Ballet and was accepted at Alvin Ailey as well as numerous ABT programs nation-wide.

“I definitely want to pursue dance as a career,” says West. She has her sights on Pacific Northwest Ballet or continued study at Julliard. “My dream job would be to teach and choreograph all forms of dance in Los Angeles,” she says. Graham hopes to travel with a touring company and says, “My ultimate dream is to perform on Broadway!”

Both offer advice for young dancers of all backgrounds. “Go for it! Stay true to yourself,” says Graham. West says, “Put your heart into every moment and never doubt your capabilities!”

I have no doubt that these two talented and beautiful young ladies will achieve whatever goals they set out to accomplish.

Want to attend a performance of the 2017 Gwinnett Ballet Theatre’s production of “The Nutcracker?”  Click HERE for more details.

For more information on Gwinnett Ballet Theatre, please visit their site HERE.