Houston's Urban Nutcracker Photo: Perfect Silhouette Photography

Dance veteran Traci Greene is no stranger to the performing on big stages.

Her work has taken her all over the world and want to expand her love for dance and the arts to other young women of color who look like her.

So, Greene along with her non-profit organization Culture Arts Initiative Inc., will produce Houston’s Urban Nutcracker taking a unique spin on the original on December 16-18 at the Stafford Centre.

The production is more than just your regular holiday show, it’s a city-wide fundraiser to help underrepresented and underserved students pursue a professional career in dance.

Kaelyn Hager, a 14-year-old freshman at The Village School

“I wanted to do something that will showcase the talents of young dancers in the city, Greene said. “There are a lot of opportunities presented to them but funding is difficult, and its discouraging. Minority dancers have challenges that a lot of people didn’t have, so I started this non-profit to make their dreams possible.”

The production celebrates Houston’s diverse communities, culture and historical landmarks like Emancipation Park/Third Ward, Uptown Galleria district, Texas Medical Center and Montrose.

About 130 dancers have been casted from a city-wide audition. The show introduces a wide variety of dances including ballet, contemporary jazz, and hip-hop. One dancer who will be returning this year is Kaelyn Hager, a 14-year-old freshman at The Village School, a pre-kindergarten through 12-grade private day boarding school in the Energy Corridor.

Kaelyn’s journey into the world of dance began at the age of 2 years old. Her mother would sign her up for ballet, jazz, and tap classes. Eager to pursuit her dream of one day opening a dance studio, she attended The Village School which exposed her new opportunities such as her enrollment in dance classes in collaboration with Julliard School in New York. Hager credits the school and her coaches helping her balance the demands of her academics and demanding dance rehearsal schedule which ultimately prepare her for as a supporting cast in the Houston Urban Nutcracker.

“I’ve been doing the Houston Nut Cracker since it started in 2018. The experience has been amazing and there is so much diversity in the dance scenes,” Hager said. “As a dancer of color, I feel a sense of responsibility. A lot of young dancers who look like me are looking up to me. So, no matter how hard it gets I have to remember that I’m doing something that is brings a good reputation for us.”

The Culture Arts Initiative has awarded over $50,000 to underrepresented dancers across the nation through its scholarship awards programs. Greene encourages the community to come out to support the youth and invest in their dreams.

“I’m just glad to be put into the position to give these youth something that I didn’t have,” she said. “This production is bigger than me, these kids are our future.”

Laura Onyeneho covers the city’s education system as it relates to Black children for the Defender Network as a Report For America Corps member. Email her at laura@defendernetwork.com

I cover Houston's education system as it relates to the Black community for the Defender as a Report for America corps member. I'm a multimedia journalist and have reported on social, cultural, lifestyle,...