Photographer Spills Details About All-Black 'Nutcracker' Ballet Performance


Young ballet dancers practicing at barre in studio

Photo: Getty Images

A photographer snapped shots of the groundbreaking performance of an-all Black performance of "The Nutcracker," a classic ballet dance. Now, she's sharing her amazing photos with the world.

Cielito Vivas spoke with BuzzFeed News about what it meant to immortalize history. Dancers with Chocolate Ballerina Company (CBC) made history as the first all-Black cast to perform the Christmastime special in Philadelphia this past holiday season, according to reporters. The sold-out show was called "The Nutcracker...Dipped in Chocolate."

Vivas, who was born and raised in Philly, says she originally heard about CBC through local news outlets and social media. When she heard about their pioneering performance, she knew she had to document it.

"As I learned more about the dance company and what they were doing for the community, I knew I had to find a way and share their story," Vivas explained. "Their goal is to help break down some of the common barriers to entry into ballet."

Not only did Vivas get to capture stellar moments, but she got to observe the community and back-scene work at play, especially from CBC founders Chanel Holland and Jean E. Pierre:

"Watching Chanel direct, Jean helping out behind the scenes, teachers uplifting the children, and parents volunteering backstage to help things run smoothly was amazing to watch. So many children and adults of all ages were working together to put on a performance that would ultimately be a big moment for Philly. I knew how important it was to see all the brown ballet shoes and tights since there once was a time when only pink shoes and white tights were available. The experience was inspiring."

As for their version of The Nutcracker, Vivas said the dances had classic techniques with music from "Brazil, Egypt, and West Africa along with stilt dancing, gymnastics, and acrobatics." Energized by their unique performance, the photographer hopes she can "create buzz" for the Chocolate Ballerina Company and continue to capture these key moments.

"What Chanel Holland does for the community and the city of Philadelphia is monumental," Vivas told reporters. "I really admire people who give back, especially ones associated with the arts. It’s so important. I hope that this work allows others to learn about the dance company and helps them find ways to contribute."

You can read more about this inspiring story, and see the photos, here.


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