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Gwinnett Ballet Theatre’s production of “The Nutcracker” performs on weekends from Dec. 6-22 at the Infinite Energy Theatre in Duluth. Ballerina Andrea Solis pictured as Sugar Plum.

One of the region’s favorite holiday traditions began in the early 1980s when Gwinnett Ballet Theatre presented its first edition of “The Nutcracker.”

Many years later, the production is bigger and more beautiful than ever, featuring GBT’s own Professional Ensemble and a host of prominent area personalities performing the coveted role of Mother Ginger.

GBT’s “The Nutcracker” will be offered Dec. 6-22 on Fridays at 7:30 p.m., Saturdays at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m. in the Infinite Energy Theater in Duluth. Tickets are available through

This year’s production marks the inaugural year of GBT’s professional ensemble. The new ensemble is comprised of 10 professional and collegiate dancers. Three of the professional ensemble members: Jewell Ellis, Brianna Mack and Anika Lewis are alumni of GBT and are currently studying at Kennesaw State University.

New ensemble members Andrea Solis and Charly Gioino will be performing the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy. Gioino, a Lawrenceville native, is excited to return to perform in her hometown after graduating from the University of Cincinnati and dancing with the United States International Ballet in Wilmington, N.C.

The role of Cavalier will be performed by professional ensemble member Rilley Jacob and guest dancer Isaiah Franklin.

GBT professional ensemble dancers Yewon Hwang, Zachary Pritts, Molly Tyndall and Njema Williams will also be featured dancers.

This production also welcomes the elegant ballerinas of International City School of Ballet, returning to perform “Waltz of the Flowers” during the first weekend, Dec. 6-8.The Gwinnett Ballet Theatre Orchestra under the direction of internationally acclaimed conductor Predrag Gosta will accompany the dancers on the final weekend.

One of the favorite scenes in GBT’s Nutcracker occurs when Mother Ginger takes the stage in Act II. Starring as Mother Ginger will be a different local celebrity every show, a group of characters put together by GBT dancer mom and board member Amy Bray.

“We have a fantastic group of special guest star Mother Gingers this year, representing a wide array of business leaders, elected officials, and community partners,” Bray said.

“We are especially excited to have Jennifer Bennett, a stage 4 cancer survivor, as a guest through our sponsor Northside Hospital Gwinnett. We are so happy to give her this chance to perform in front of an audience during a professional ballet performance.”

Other Mother Gingers include Tim Krajec (Newton Federal Bank), Kelly Kelkenberg (Mayor Pro Tem of the City of Duluth), Gregg Kennard (Georgia State House Representative and NSPIRE Outreach pastor), Eric Provitt (PwC), Rick Strawn (Paradigm Security Services), Bobbie Menneg (Beyond the Ribbon), Linda Schoepf (Little Caesar’s), Lisa Clarke (ATL Search Group, Jennifer Hendrickson (Georgia Gwinnett College Foundation), Shelly Schwerzler (Gwinnett County Public Library Foundation), Greg Whitlock (The Whitlock Group Insurance Agency and Duluth City Council), Jace Brooks (Gwinnett County Board of Commissioner) and Jay Dennard (Northside Hospital Gwinnett).

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Holley Calmes is a freelance writer and public relations consultant specializing in the arts. Email her at hcalmes@

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