Appalachian Ballet Nutcracker

Eamon Felton-Curtis, a 17-year-old senior at Maryville College, is balancing school, dance and applications to medical school as he participates in the Appalachian Ballet Company’s “The Nutcracker.” Dancing the “doll” to his marionette is Anne Souder.

Photo by Jolanda Jansma

Eamon Felton-Curtis, a 17-year-old senior at Maryville College, is balancing school, dance and applications to medical school as he participates in the Appalachian Ballet Company’s “The Nutcracker.” Dancing the “doll” to his marionette is Anne Souder.

Admissions officials from med schools across the country could get a look at one of their candidates next month is what they no doubt would consider a different venue: Dancing the parts of the Nutcracker King and the marionette.

Eamon Felton-Curtis, a 17-year-old Maryville College senior from Madisonville, will be dancing the part of the Nutcracker King and the marionette at Appalachian Ballet’s annual production of “The Nutcracker.”

The Appalachian Ballet dancers will perform the Nutcracker at 8 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 6, and 2 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 7, at the Knoxville Civic Auditorium. Tickets are $35, $30 and $20 in advance and $5 more at the door. For tickets, call 865-982-8463 or Tickets Unlimited at 865-656-4444.

Eamon has a lot on his mind this December. In addition to “The Nutcracker,” Eamon is studying for his finals that will finish his bachelor of arts in biology and pre-med. In addition, he is busy applying to medical schools and preparing for interviews at those schools..

“I really am very much amazed at his dedication to dance, do school fulltime, and pursue pre-med,” said Appalachian Ballet director Amy Moore Morton.

Eamon was home-schooled by his mother, Sabrina Felton-Curtis, through middle school and high school, so he says he was able to get ahead in his studies and graduate high school in 2005. Shortly after, he received an associate’s degree in science from Hiwassee. In 2006, he decided to attend Maryville College.

“The price is high but the quality is very good,” the young senior said.

Once at Maryville, he discovered Van Metre School of dance because he was looking for a dance studio close to his school. He participated in the Nutcracker as the marionette one year following his admittance to Maryville College, and he says he takes his hobby seriously.

Eamon said he started dancing when he was 11 at his mother’s request as a way to socialize with local kids his age. While going to Maryville College, he has participated in many of the seasonal productions directed by Morton.

Over the summer, he attended a summer program in Stockbridge, Ga., for the Atlanta Festival Ballet, where he attended dance classes every day. Eamon said the classes this summer also helped him improve as a dancer. “I’m doing a lot better in the Nutcracker this year than I did last year,” he said.

Morton also attests to his improvements. She said he has improved on his strength, jumping and acting. “He’s showing a little bit more of his personality which is nice to see,” Morton said.

Morton directs students from all over East Tennessee and with a variety of backgrounds. Three dancers in the Nutcracker are college students. Megan Bledsoe is also a senior at Maryville College, majoring in child development with a teacher’s licensure. In between student teaching and teaching classes at Van Metre School of Dance, Bledsoe is rehearsing her Nutcracker part as the Chinese dancer. Other dancers have full-time jobs, families and curfews, but they still find time to dance. “It’s really a huge commitment on the part of the dancers,” Morton said.

Eamon practices his hobby at least four times a week throughout the year. He said his ultimate dream is to be a surgeon, and he spends most of his time at Maryville College preparing for his career in the medical field.

During this busy time of the year, Eamon said he sometimes feel the stress of all the activities, but he has his mother for inspiration. Eamon said his mother supports him as she has all of his life, pushing him to reach for his goals despite the amount of stress he faced. “Since she home-schooled me, she pushed me a lot,” Eamon said. “She pushed me to create this internal drive to be getting stuff done on time and to reach for achievement.”

The show

The storyline of “The Nutcracker” is a timeless classic that remains the same each year, but the Appalachian Ballet production always has changes and surprises to keep the production fresh for rerturning audiences, said director Amy Moore Morton.

Morton said that in almost every act, there are noteworthy additions and improvements in the various performances. “Audiences can expect to see new set and scenery pieces, new costumes and new dancers,” Morton said.

In the first act, audiences should be taken aback by the new character Morton calls “the crazy aunt.” There is also a change in height among the mice found in Clara’s room. Tall adult men are replacing pre-teenage boys. Compared to Clara’s tiny stature, the enormous mice will “enhance the scene even more,” Morton says.

Ted Seymour, Marlon Atoe and Beth Everitt are the professional dancers who will be performing “The Nutcracker” with Appalachian Ballet. Beth, who will dance the Sugar Plum fairy, is a professional dancer in Houston and is an alumni of the Appalachian Ballet Company.

As a result of the availability of these dancers, Morton developed new choreography to match their professional abilities.

Other dances with changes in choreography include the Chinese dance, due to the abilities of the dancers at Van Metre School of Dance. For this particular performance, Morton couldn’t decide between dancers, Megan Bledsoe and Mike Yoshido. The Chinese dance usually only incorporates a soloist, but Morton readjusted the choreography so both dancers could do the dance together. Morton says, “Bledsoe and Yoshido look very compatible dancing together.”

Other changes include: new props in the snow scene, an elegant chandelier, fancy character costumes in the new Russian Corps dance, and a “revamped” soldier dance.

As for herself, Morton said it has always been her goal to make the Nutcracker ballet exciting every year that she wears the director’s hat. “It’s nice to see it all come together,” Morton said. “It’s very gratifying.”

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