‘The Nutcracker’

New Drosselmeyer, set pieces and choreography highlight ballet’s performance

When the phones start ringing, and parents begin walking in to buy tickets at Van Meter School of Dance, Amy Moore Morton and the rest of her dancers in the Appalachian Ballet Company know the weekend they have been rehearsing for can’t be far away.

“I tell you when it’s really exciting is the day tickets for ‘The Nutcracker’ go on sale,” said Morton, who is the artistic director of the Appalachian Ballet. “This past Monday, it was a flurry of excitement as parents were buying tickets, and the phone started to ring. That makes you know the show is close. That is always a fun time. I love seeing new things I create or new costumes Angie Wood makes all start coming together.”

One change this year is the return of Sam Woods, a dancer who was with the company beginning at age 6 and grew up in the company before moving to Nashville. He has returned and will play the part of Drosselmeyer. Woods previously had danced the Snow King and Arabian Prince parts as well as the Little Boy Fritz role.

“We’ve cast him as Drosselmeyer, the magician,” said Morton. “That helped me create new choreography with a different body style and younger man. We’ve changed it up in the Act I party scene with the new magician. We eliminated our marionette dance, which was danced by a male dancer. I’ve changed that up and have two rag dolls - Raggedy Ann and Andy characters.”

Also in Act I, the Ballerina Doll dances with Drosselmeyer. “That way we haven’t lost the element of the big ballerina lifts in Act I, a scene that was nice, and I’ve done a little rearranging of some of the Snowflake scene,” Morton said.

In Act II Morton said there are new Mother Ginger costumes. “They look more like gingerbread cookies. I also have rearranged and re-choreographed part of the Russian dance,” she said.

Guest artists Eddie Mikrut and Christine Rennie, a married couple who are principle dancers with the Nashville Ballet, will dance in “The Nutcracker” as the company’s guest artists.

“They are delightful, a husband and wife team who are super nice and beautiful dancers,” Morton said. “They are very complimentary in their dancing styles. He’s very tall and she’s very petite.”

This year’s Snow King and Arabian Prince is Ted Seymour, who is coming in from Chicago. Ted Seymour danced with Heather Wilcoxon in the 2008 Nutcracker.

Morton said she enjoys making changes to each season’s Nutcracker Ballet.

“It always keeps the parents and dancers and audience sort of watching and waiting to see what new things I’m going to throw at them,” she said. “It keeps it fresh, and I really adapt to the dancers I have. If I have a dancer who is a really strong jumper, I want to switch some things around and put in more jumps. It’s nice to have the artistic license and ability to do that.”

Morton said that for the second year the Farragut High School Choir will be singing during the Snow Scene. “Last year we had eight voices, and this year we have over 20 voices. We’re not putting them in the orchestra pit. We’re putting them on the floor beside the orchestra pit,” she said. “The volume and sound will be so much prettier because the audience will be able to hear them better.”

Seymour High School students also are putting their carpentry skills to use for “The Nutcracker.” They are building a new sled and clock set pieces for the production.

“Ron Blaydes is a teacher there, and his daughter dances. The Art and Shop classes are building them,” Morton said. “They are much needed because of the wear and tear on the old ones.”

Sam Wood said he hasn’t danced in two years but he’s enjoyed getting back into dancing, and he’s excited about the Drosselmeyer role.

“It’s a part I’ve always admired,” he said. “There’s something to be said for the more technical pieces, but Drosselmeyer really incorporates the strength required for ballet but there is so much more pantomime and acting as well. And, I get the impression it is everyone’s favor part because it is mysterious and fun.”

The Appalachian Ballet Company will present the annual holiday tradition “ The Nutcracker” on Dec. 5-6 at the Knoxville Civic Auditorium.

This production is the only Nutcracker in Knoxville with live music by the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra.

The Appalachian Ballet Company will present two public shows at 8 p.m. on Dec. 5 and 2 p.m. on Dec. 6 at the Knoxville Civic Auditorium. School matinees are set for Dec. 3 and 4. For tickets, call 865-982-8463 or 865-656-4444. Ticket prices are in advance - $36, $31 and $21, which includes a $1 restoration fee. Students and seniors receive a $5 discount. Tickets at the door are $41, $36 and $26. Group rates are available for 10 or more.

The Appalachian Ballet’s production of “The Nutcracker” is accompanied by the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra.

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