On her toes

Maryville teen brings experience, new ideas to 'Nutcracker'

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By Jody Poling Cartier
For Blount Today

The fairy tale ballet "The Nutcracker" is a Christmas tradition embraced by millions around the world. For East Tennessee audiences, the pivotal role of Clara is being brought to life this year by 14-year-old Anne Souder of Maryville.

A lifelong resident of Maryville, Anne has studied ballet since she was 6 years old with the Appalachian Ballet Company. She knew almost at once that ballet would play an important role in her life.

"I really took to it right away," Anne says. "My sisters took dance as well. I was attracted to ballet from the first. I’ve learned since then that ballet is sort of the training ground for all other types of dance."

So how does a 14-year-old handle taking on such an important role in a timeless classic?

That was a better question when Anne was 12. This is her third year dancing the part of Clara for the Appalachian Ballet Company. In that time, she has grown comfortable in the part although it remains a challenge, this year especially. Clara is a role usually danced in traditional ballet slippers, but for the second season in a row, Anne will be dancing this year in pointe shoes - that is, on her toes.

Her teacher, Amy Moore Morton, also adjusted the choreography this year so that the role would continue to challenge Anne to stretch her abilities.

"What is important for people to know is that dancing looks really easy because that is how we are supposed to make it look," Anne says. "In reality, you put a lot of time into it and sometimes have to sacrifice other things. Like with any other sport, you have to practice every single day and keep in shape, but it is also an art."

Like other athletes, ballerinas sometimes injury themselves, yet continue "playing through the pain." In early October Anne broke her hand when she fell in physical education class at school. The full diagnosis of the injury wasn’t made until about a
month later. So "Clara" will have a cast on her arm for this year’s "Nutcracker."

Anne says her favorite scene in the ballet is the party scene at the beginning of the ballet.

"There is a lot of dancing with my friends who are the party girls. It is the most lively scene in the show, and I really enjoy that," she says.

Anne is the daughter of Colette and Steve Souder. Her mother shares what she considers to be a pivotal moment in daughter’s life - one in which her future in dance became evident to her parents.

"When Anne was just 2 years old, a group of families got together and decided to put on a talent show. Anne was a very shy child, usually hiding behind my legs whenever there was a crowd in the room, so I was not sure how she would react to performing in front of so many people," Colette Souder says.

"She amazed me. There was this shy, timid girl, still in training pants, dancing her little heart out to the full three minutes of "I Just Can’t Wait To Be King" from The Lion King!

" The music started, her nose went up in the air, and she just seemed to know exactly what to do. That was when I felt for the first time that she might well have been born with a very special gift for dance."

Anne is a freshman at Catholic High School in Knoxville. Regarding the role she envisions ballet playing in her future, Anne says, "I definitely see myself dancing throughout my college years. You never know what other interests may come up along the way. I don’t know if I will make it professionally - I hope so. I’ll just have to take it one step at a time and see what develops!"

The Appalachian Ballet Company, headquartered in Maryville, is a member of the Southeastern Regional Ballet Association.
Originally chartered in 1972 and now under the artistic direction of Amy Moore Morton, the company performs major productions and repertory shows annually.

Anne will perform in the Tchaikovsky’s masterpiece on Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 4 and 5 at the Knoxville Civic Auditorium. Times are 8 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday.

Tickets can be purchased in advance through Tickets Unlimited at 865-656-4444 or through Appalachian Ballet at 865-982-8463. There is a $5 discount for seniors and students.

Ticket prices are: In advance - $35, $30 and $20; at the door - $40, $35 and $25. Group rates start at $10. For more information, call 865-982-8463.

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