Study in 'Contrasts'

Appalachian Ballet program ushers in spring with high-energy flourish

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By Suzy Smith
Blount Today

Dancer, ballet teacher, Maryville college student, and now, 20-year-old Megan Bledsoe can add choreographer to her list of accomplishments.

Bledsoe, a Blount County native, choreographed one of the eight pieces featured in the Appalachian Ballet’s "Anniversary Waltz," which debuts on Saturday, March 24, with a 7:30 p.m. performance followed by an elegant reception. An additional performance only will be held at 2 p.m. on Sunday, March 25.

"It has ballet steps, but has a jazz feel," Bledsoe described. Her piece has been named "A Complimentary Contrast."

Bledsoe’s desire to arrange this piece began with her love of a song composed by former Governor’s School for the Arts classmate Anton Preslicka. He performed the piece at the school’s talent show. Three years later, Bledsoe still had the song
in her head when she started experimenting with dance steps to accompany the music.

"Complimentary Contrast" is one of the eight short pieces that are featured in the Appalachian Ballet’s 35th anniversary performance. The entire ballet performance is scripted to last one hour. This will be the ballet company’s last performance at Wilson Chapel, the Maryville College theater, before the building is torn down to make room for the new civic arts center.

"Everything is high energy," said Amy Moore Morton, the director of the Appalachian Ballet, a non-profit organization. For the Saturday evening performance, the audience will enjoy an extra feature.

After the last piece, "The Anniversary Waltz," 20 ballerinas in white tutus and white gloves will dance out of the theater and into the courtyard where the Smoky Mountain Jazz Orchestra will be pick up playing the "Tennessee Waltz." In the courtyard, a fundraising party titled "Dancing under the Stars" will follow the evening performance.

Dr. Fred Tolhurst and his wife, Jane, will teach patrons the Fox Trot and champagne, hors d’ourvres and dessert will be served.

Other short pieces in the spring production include "Skimming, Skirting and Skating," which was choreographed by Angela Hill and composed by her husband, Andre Hayter. Morton described the piece as edgy. She said the dancers love it because they have the look of supermodels.

"The audience will enjoy it because the music makes you feel like dancing," Morton said of "Rhythm Move," a high energy arrangement choreographed by Morton. She said the percussion sounds gives an ethnic feel to the piece.

"Sea Life" was choreographed by Laura Gagnon who was inspired by the underwater life she viewed while on a cruise. The dancers, in turquoise costumes, bring the modern piece to life.

"Swift Flourish," choreographed by Adam Hougland of New York, is also featured in the spring production. Although the music is classical Bach, the piece is contemporary with high-powered, non-stop aerobic energy, according to Morton.

Morton, who has been artistic director of the ballet company since 1997, choreographed the short piece, "In the Shadows," which has been chosen to be performed at the national festival, Regional Dance America.

"This will be the only time in my life that I’ll get to participate in a national event," Bledsoe said. She said thousands of dancers from all over the country are congregating in Pittsburg for Regional Dance America to take classes and
perform. "It’s a big deal for all who are going."

Bledsoe started taking ballet classes from Jan Valenti at Van Metre School of Dance, the home of the Appalachian Ballet. Now, Bledsoe is teaching ballet classes in the same classroom where she began her lessons. Valenti serves as the technical director of the "Anniversary Waltz."

"It’s fast-paced and keeps me on my toes," Bledsoe said of the spring production.

Another dancer who will be on her toes throughout the performance is 17-year-old Jennifer Cardwell who will be dancing in five of the pieces in the "Anniversary Waltz."

"I like doing contemporary ballet," said Jennifer, who has been dancing for 12 years. "I like getting out and doing something different."

The senior at Alcoa High School said she enjoys ballet, tap and jazz.

"I try to have fun every time I dance," Jennifer said of her dedication to dancing.

To purchase tickets to the "Anniversary Waltz," call Appalachian Ballet, 865-982-8463. Tickets are $20 with a $5 discount to students. The "Dancing under the Stars" party after Saturday’s performance is $40, which includes a ticket to Saturday’s
performance. Limited tickets are also available at Blount Today.

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