Renowned alumni and master artists join New Ballet Ensemble to celebrate 20 years of NutRemix

Alumnus Lil Buck among the guest artists returning for 20th anniversary presentation of Memphis holiday staple, a modern, Memphis-centric retelling of Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker”

For two decades, New Ballet Ensemble & School has entertained audiences with a modern, Memphis-centric retelling of Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker.” This year, the organization celebrates its 20th annual production of NutRemix™, presented by Nike, at the Cannon Center for the Performing Arts on Nov. 26 and 27.

This modern retelling of Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker, NutRemix™️, set on Beale Street, transports audiences to a magical world! Experience a fusion of dance, featuring ballet, hip-hop, West African and Congolese dance and drumming, Memphis Jookin and American tap. Memphis dancers of all ages bring the story to life with the accompaniment of the Memphis Symphony Orchestra & Big Band. We’re pleased to announce this includes the return of Lil Buck dancing his original role of the Memphis Angel! Join this one-of-a-kind production that all ages of the family will enjoy!

Conceived by Katie Smythe, New Ballet CEO and Artistic Director, along with the original cast of New Ballet Ensemble students, the production of NutRemix continues to evolve year over year. This year’s performance continues to touch on the division and confusion that is felt across the community in light of recent violence with a focus to heal through the power of dance. Following its tradition of presenting a wide range of world cultures through dance and music, the 20th production of NutRemix adds Congolese dance and drumming, performed by West African-trained dancers and students from the Refugee Empowerment Program. Additional styles include hip-hop, American tap, flamenco, Memphis Jookin and West African dance.

“Twenty years ago, we created something new for Memphis with the intention to break embedded stereotypes associated with different cultures, while adding the dances embraced by a wide diversity of community members,” Smythe said. “We were building a new dance work for everyone! Presenting this year’s production during Thanksgiving weekend is an opportunity for our organization to express gratitude to Memphis audiences for embracing this uniquely local production for 20 years.”

ACT 2 Sunday

In celebration of the 20th anniversary performance, several New Ballet alumni are returning to Memphis to perform, including Lil Buck who originated the NutRemix role of the Memphis Angel and is credited to globalizing Memphis Jookin, Broadway dancer Maxx Reed who originated the role of Rat King, New York artist Kamryn Vaulx, Mike Hicks formerly of Out Loud Artistry (Memphis) and many more.

Additionally, nearly 100 students, from age six to young adults, are cast in NutRemix, including those enrolled in New Ballet’s Pathways program in partnership with Memphis-Shelby County Schools. Also joining them onstage are the professional members of New Ballet’s Performing and Teaching Artist roster as well as Professional Apprentices. Accompanying the dancers are the Memphis Symphony Orchestra and Big Band and African drummers from New Ballet’s core group led by John Washington, including Memphis favorite, Ekpé Abioto.

NutRemix is a major component of New Ballet’s mission to provide equitable access to a professional standard of dance training. The production enables student artists to participate in a public production accompanied by a live orchestra for thousands of ticket-buying audience members. This opportunity allows young dancers to experience the world of dance in a very tangible way.

The 20th production of NutRemix takes place on Saturday, Nov. 26 at 5:30 p.m. and Sunday, Nov. 27 at 2:30 p.m. at the Cannon Center for the Performing Arts, located at 255 N. Main St. in Downtown Memphis. Tickets range from $25-40 and are available through Ticketmaster.

Families celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday in Memphis are welcome to purchase group sales tickets for $15 per ticket for groups of 10-49 people and $12.50 for groups of 50 or more. Group rates are also available for other community and student groups by calling 901-726-9225 by Friday, Nov. 11.

New Ballet offers a virtual, on-demand performance for schools, featuring a fast-paced, condensed version of NutRemix designed specifically for young audiences. To help educators actively engage students, New Ballet provides pre-performance teacher’s guides with information on composers and choreographers, prompts to promote critical thinking about the performance, and a range of activities to maximize students’ understanding and appreciation of the performance. Schools can also schedule an interactive question-and-answer session with the performers. Teachers can contact New Ballet at 901-726-9225 for pricing info and to register their classes.

Sponsors and Partners

NutRemix is presented by Nike, with additional support from Madison Pharmacy, the First Horizon Foundation, ArtsMemphis, the National Endowment for the Arts and the Tennessee Arts Commission. About New Ballet Ensemble & School Professional performing and teaching artist Katie Smythe founded New Ballet Ensemble & School in 2002 to address the inequitable dance landscape existing in her hometown of Memphis, Tennessee. The organization has developed into a robust arts education institution centered on dance and culture as mechanisms for as well as social and cultural change. In addition to conservatory-level dance education, New Ballet is committed to whole child development, combining arts and creativity with academic support, mental wellness services and Creative Youth Development. Through enrichment activities, mentoring opportunities and partnerships in Memphis, a youth’s experience at New Ballet drives their self-direction, academic achievement and career success. New Ballet’s approach has received national recognition, including the honor of the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award, presented by then-First Lady Michelle Obama in 2014 to reward the country’s best Creative Youth Development programs. For more information, please visit

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