Ballet in Central Mississippi: The Magical Journey of the Mississippi Metropolitan Ballet


The state of Mississippi has long been renowned for its cultural diversity and soulful rhythms. The artistic landscape in Mississippi is rich in the realms of music, literature, and visual arts. Names like B.B. King, Eudora Welty, and Walter Anderson have become synonymous with our state.  As for the performing arts, and specifically dance, it is hard to compete with states like New York, who boast the Great White Way, the Metropolitan Opera, and two of the greatest ballet companies in the world: the New York City Ballet and American Ballet Theatre.  But, Mississippi holds its own! The USAIBC (United States International Ballet Competition) is the most respected and renowned ballet competition in the world, and is held in Jackson every four years.  Truly, the WORLD of ballet descends upon Mississippi every time the Competition rolls around.  But what about the years in between the IBC?  Luckily, central Mississippi has an abundance of local dance talent, and the Mississippi Metropolitan Ballet has been contributing to that portion of our artistic landscape for the past 30 years. 

The early '90s marked a pivotal turning point for the world of dance in Mississippi. Ballet MIssissippi, a professional company since its inception by Thalia Mara in the mid-1970’s, ceased to operate as a professional company and left a void in the dance landscape of our state.   Cherri Barnett, a former professional dancer with Ballet Mississippi, recognized the need to continue to bring quality dance performances to central Mississippi. Barnett and Mayor Mary Hawkins Butler established the Madison County Cultural Center on Main Street in 1992, and soon after Barnett founded the Madison Civic Ballet, which provided young dancers with opportunities to explore the enchanting world of dance through education and performance opportunities. 

Another former professional dancer with Ballet Mississippi, Jennifer Beasley, took the helm of the young dance company in 1997.   She inherited a small and dedicated dance school, but she also carried with her an unwavering commitment to the art of ballet. In 1997, the organization underwent a transformation when Beasley renamed the company as the Mississippi Metropolitan Ballet, and additionally established the affiliated dance school, the Mississippi Metropolitan Dance Academy.

Jennifer Beasley steered the Mississippi Metropolitan Ballet on a remarkable journey. Together with Artistic Associate Crystal Skelton, who joined MMB's staff in 2002, they have tirelessly worked to craft well-trained dancers and deliver high-quality dance performances to audiences of all ages. Their dedication, passion, and relentless pursuit of artistic excellence has laid the foundation for something truly magical.

The Tradition of MMB’s "The Nutcracker"

Mississippi Metropolitan Ballet has consistently presented productions that bring joy, emotion, and artistry to central Mississippi audiences. However, it is during the holiday season that MMB truly captivates hearts. Their annual presentation of "The Nutcracker" emerged as a beloved tradition, a symbol of the magic and enchantment of the season.

Originally a German tale, “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King”, by E.T.A. Hoffman, the story follows the wondrous journey of Clara, who receives a Nutcracker as a gift at her family’s Christmas Eve party.  Later that night, her Nutcracker is magically revealed as a handsome Prince, who leads her through an enchanted forest and on to the Kingdom of Sweets. This tale was later made into a full-length ballet, originally choreographed by Lev Ivanov and Marius Petipa, with the score arranged by the very famous Russian composer, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. The ballet's story, a timeless tale of holiday wonder, has continued to captivate audiences worldwide.

Before moving the performance to its current home at the Jackson Academy Performing Arts Center, MMB performed “The Nutcracker” at the Madison County Cultural Center for a number of years.  However, as time passed, MMB had grown in size and the dancers required more space. The transition to Jackson Academy in 2010 has been a positive experience for the Mississippi Metropolitan Ballet. The partnership with JA has  given MMB the space to grow and develop their rendition of “The Nutcracker” in order to make it an even more special event for metro area  audiences. 

 “The Nutcracker is the perfect way to ring in the holiday season and to introduce audiences to the power and beauty of classical dance.  At the heart of Mississippi Metropolitan Ballet's mission is our quest to share the magic of dance with the people of our community, and to encourage a love of the arts in the hearts and minds of our audience members,” says Artistic Director Jennifer Beasley.  “We are so proud to have presented our annual production of The Nutcracker to our community for the past thirty years; it is both our most important outreach tool, offering many in our community their first exposure to the ballet, but also a time-honored holiday tradition. It is just not the holiday season without The Nutcracker!”

Expanding the Tradition - The Land of Sweets

After years of offering a festive tea party following its matinee Nutcracker performances, MMB now offers an immersive post-performance experience, the "Land of Sweets," to audiences. Following the two matinee performances, guests can step into Clara’s world and get up close and personal with costumes, sets, and the beloved characters from the ballet, including Clara herself, the Snow Queen, the Rose Queen, and the Sugar Plum Fairy. Attendees can capture these magical moments through character photo opportunities, ensuring lasting memories of their enchanting journey. Additionally, they will receive a miniature Nutcracker as a cherished keepsake.

The "Land of Sweets" experience concludes with "Spanish" hot cocoa and light refreshments from Nothing Bundt Cakes. This delightful addition to the traditional Nutcracker experience is the perfect holiday activity, offering parents a chance to introduce their children to the arts in the most magical, festive way. 

Join MMB for a spectacular journey into the world of ballet enchantment! “The Nutcracker” is at Jackson Academy Performing Arts Center on December 2nd with performances at 2 pm and 7 pm, and the magic continues on December 3rd with performances at 2 pm and 6:30 pm.  Step into Clara’s shoes and embark on a journey through the fantastical Land of Sweets following each matinee performance (tickets sold separately from performance tickets.) 

For more information on ticket sales, please visit our website at or call 601-853-4508