Jonesboro ladies fulfill childhood dream

Teens dance in Atlanta Ballet’s Nutcracker

Jonesboro residents Hannah Graham and Raven Bates appear in the Atlanta Ballet’s Nutcracker. (Special Photo)

Jonesboro residents Hannah Graham and Raven Bates appear in the Atlanta Ballet’s Nutcracker. (Special Photo)

JONEBSORO — Jonesboro residents Hannah Graham and Raven Bates are fulfilling childhood dreams as dancers in Atlanta Ballet’s Nutcracker.

Graham, 16, plays the roles of an infantryman and dream fairy in the 2013 production playing to loyal crowds at Fox Theatre Atlanta. Bates, 18, is an infantryman as well.

It is Bates’s first role with Atlanta Ballet in the Christmas-time classic. She studies at the Atlanta Ballet Centre for Dance Education midtown studio, where Graham is a pre-professional student.

Both have been dancing practically all their lives and are “at-home” on stage.

Graham, a junior in Georgia Cyber Academy, has a little more experience. She has spent the last handful of years with Atlanta Ballet. She has been dancing since she was six.

She said she was inspired to dance after seeing a performance of Nutcracker in Idaho with her father. She was 5 then, but knew immediately she wanted to be a ballerina.

“I was such a little girl when I saw the Nutcracker,” said Graham, who thrills tykes who look at her performances with wide eyes as she did.

“You can see the first few rows (from the stage),” she said. “The kids, they have a great energy. It pushes me to do my very best when I’m on stage.”

Bates is a recent graduate of Citizens High School, a long-distance institute based in Orange Park, Fla. She said she was first introduced to ballet at 3.

“I loved dancing,” she said. “It’s very structured, and I was a kid that loved structure.”

She has been dancing about eight years total with breaks in between. She trained between age 7 and 12 at Fayette Ballet, a studio and dance school in Fayetteville.

Bates credits the studio’s owner and artistic director Beverly Williamson with being key to her success thus far as a dancer.

“She has been key to my dance education and is very important to me,” she said.

Bates took a three-year break from ballet but performed two years with another studio before she successfully auditioned for Atlanta Ballet in June 2012.

“It’s been fun for me,” she said. “I love being on stage. I love performing. I’ve always felt at-home performing and at-home dancing.”

Tickets for Atlanta Ballet’s Nutcracker and other Atlanta Ballet productions are available at www.ticketmaster.com.