Blum breaks out

Appalachian Ballet senior dancer adds choreography talents to spring show

Chandler Blum prepares for Appalachian Ballet’s spring production.

Photo by Leslie Karnowski

Chandler Blum prepares for Appalachian Ballet’s spring production.

Taking a break from rehearsals for the spring production are, from left, Eamon Felton-Curtis, Megan Bledsoe (kneeling), Kristin Palacios, Anna Edens, Emily Pickett as the White Duck, Mika Yoshida (in blue), Katie Henckel, Alexandra Bowen, Anne Souder as Peter, Olivia Miller, Nichole Jones, Brittany Blum as the Wolf and Caroline Anglim as the cat.

Photo by Leslie Karnowski

Taking a break from rehearsals for the spring production are, from left, Eamon Felton-Curtis, Megan Bledsoe (kneeling), Kristin Palacios, Anna Edens, Emily Pickett as the White Duck, Mika Yoshida (in blue), Katie Henckel, Alexandra Bowen, Anne Souder as Peter, Olivia Miller, Nichole Jones, Brittany Blum as the Wolf and Caroline Anglim as the cat.

Rehearsing a scene from Peter and Wolf are, from left, Anne Souder, Brittany Blum and Mika Yoshida.

Photo by Leslie Karnowski

Rehearsing a scene from Peter and Wolf are, from left, Anne Souder, Brittany Blum and Mika Yoshida.

Practicing a scene from the Peter Pan dance portion of the spring production are, from left, Kristin Palacios and Heather Wilcoxon.

Photo by Leslie Karnowski

Practicing a scene from the Peter Pan dance portion of the spring production are, from left, Kristin Palacios and Heather Wilcoxon.

Practicing a leap are, from left, Emily Pickett, Anne Souder and Ashley Smith.

Photo by Leslie Karnowski

Practicing a leap are, from left, Emily Pickett, Anne Souder and Ashley Smith.

Megan Bledsoe, Caroline Anglim and Helena Pound stand en point during rehearsal for the Appalachian Ballet Company spring show.

Photo by Leslie Karnowski

Megan Bledsoe, Caroline Anglim and Helena Pound stand en point during rehearsal for the Appalachian Ballet Company spring show.

Brittany Blum has to have a few butterflies in her stomach as March 7 and 8 approach. The senior dancer with Appalachian Ballet Company has done spring show’s with the company before, but the 2009 production is a little different.

First, ABC’s artistic director Amy Moore Morton has put together a family-oriented show, with Peter Pan, Peter and the Wolf, classical excerpts and a new industrial-techno piece called “Cryptograms.”

But what will have Brittany on her toes -- both figuratively and literally -- is that she will debut two pieces that she choreographed for the program.

Morton says she is very proud of senior dancer Brittany Blum’s work in the ballet. “She’s only 18 years old. She’s choreographed two pieces for the program. One is a group dance that she’s called ‘Virulent,’ “ Morton said.

The director said Blum is a planning to become a pre-med student at the University of Tennessee and that influenced the group dance “Virulent.” “She has choreographed this piece about an infectious virus. She’s blending the two worlds of dance and her studies. It’s a contemporary interpretive modern piece,” Morton said, “and it is five minutes long. It’s aerobic and organic and exciting to watch. I’m just so proud of her to choreograph something so sophisticated.”

Morton has put the piece on the first half of the program. Also on the agenda for the Spring Show are “Peter and the Wolf,” a classical piece called “Pathways,” excerpts from “Raymonda” and some surprises.

Actor David Dwyer will narrate Peter and the Wolf, Morton said.

What stands out to Dwyer most about Appalachian Ballet’s spring show - besides the grace and beauty of the dancers - is the cost of the tickets this year.

“This year, with the economic downturn and uncertainty that’s happening, I’m thrilled to death to see Amy lowering the prices of tickets. She’s doing her part,” he said of Appalachian Ballet Co.’s artistic director Amy Moore Morton. “The audience needs to do their part. Instead of waiting for the recovery to happen, they can participate in that recovery. I’m thrilled with Amy’s approach to this. She’s making this very affordable and available. For an event at the Bijou, it’s the most affordable event I’ve seen.”

The spring production is called “Peter and the Wolf and other Works.” A brass ensemble of the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra will perform for the production. The event is scheduled for 8 p.m. March 7 and 2 p.m. March 8 at the Bijou Theater in downtown Knoxville.

Dwyer will narrate the “Peter and the Wolf” part of the performance.

“I’m going to have so much fun narrating. What a collaboration -- with symphony and the dancers,” he said. “Anytime you bring artists together, and they collaborate, it’s a joy.”

Morton said this spring’s production differs from the 2008 production of

“Giselle,” which was more sophisticated in nature. “I think doing a story ballet of ‘Peter and the Wolf’ with a narrator and live music is something that’s very appealing to children. Last year we did ‘Giselle,’ which was more sophisticated,” she said. “It isn’t diminishing the quality of what were trying to do. We’re making it more appealing to children.”

Morton said the dancers also are practicing a classical piece called “Pathways” she choreographed in 2000 to the music of Vivaldi. “It’s light and spring-like,” she said.

Morton just finished choreographing another piece called Cryptograms that she’s proud of and ready to see in production. “I’ve done a new work I just completed two days ago -- a 9-minute piece by composer Robert Moran,” she said. “It’s a very difficult piece of music called ‘32 Cryptograms for Derek Jarman.’ You get into secret code words and it comes back to computer lingo.”

Morton said that in the process of creating the piece, she started thinking about different music and choreographed it so that the bodies of the different dancers represent different letters. “I use movement using the alphabet,” she said.

The director said the dancers move across the stage like patterns that move across a computer screen when it is being defragmented. “It’s very industrial looking. There are no personalities with the dancers. It’s a contemporary work, but it is en point,” she said.

One piece will include the entire Appalachian Ballet Company. It is a Peter Pan dance with the Lost Boys. “This dance will involve all of our members from our 10-year-olds up,” she said. “Then the rest of the show will be performed by our senior company members.”

Morton said the dancers will also perform excerpts from a classical ballet called “Raymonda.”

“Like I’ve done in lots of spring concerts, every 5 or 6 minutes you see something completely different,” Morton said. “For people new to the ballet world or who like a certain style of dance, they’re going to get just such variety.”

The director said “Peter and the Wolf” ends the production in a strong way with a story ballet. “It’s been 15 years or more since we did ‘Peter and the Wolf.’ I wanted to focus on doing a few thing that would be fun for kids and bring the family out to the ballet,” she said.

Morton was enthusiastic about the brass ensemble from the Knoxville Symphony performing with the dancers. “Sande MacMorran will be conducting. He conducted our ‘Nutcracker’ and is our music director,” she said.

Each season the Appalachian Ballet competes regionally and competition influences the pieces Morton chooses for the Spring show. “A lot of our spring concert is influenced by what we would like to adjudicate for Southeast Regional Ballet Festival. We’re required to show two ballets under 10 minutes to be performed at the festival,” she said. “That usually starts guiding what I’m thinking about.”

Morton said this year she wanted to show classic and contemporary pieces which led to the Pathways and Cryptograms pieces. “We’re showing two styles of dance,” she said.

The director said she wanted to give Blum an opportunity to choreograph, and she knew she wanted a piece that had all dancers. “That’s how Peter Pan came about. I had been planning Peter and the Wolf for several months. We decided that would be fun,” she said.

As for the narrator, it is not his first time to volunteer to help with a ballet show. Dwyer said he always happy to support the Appalachian Ballet Co., and that Morton often recruits him to help with productions. “She usually gets me on stage for comedic roles. I’m not much of a dancer,” he said. “If they need a big strong guy to toss her around, they call me.

The actor said Blount County is lucky to have the ballet company. “It’s not just promoting art but providing training for young potential dancers,” he said. “Not every one who dances goes on and dances professionally but the conditioning and discipline they learn is incredible, and the beauty is a double payback for the community and the dancers.”

Tickets for “Peter and the Wolf and other Works” are $16.50 for adults and $11.50 for students and seniors. Tickets are available at Tickets Unlimited by dialing 865-656-4444 or by calling the Van Metre School of Dance, home of the Appalachian Ballet Co., at 865-982-8463.

Morton said there are also group rate discounts. For every 20 tickets purchased, two additional tickets are free, she said.

“We’re trying to encourage Girl Scout troops, Sunday School classes and other groups to come and enjoy the show,” she said. “This is such a family-friendly kind of show.”

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