Blue Jeans and Ballet

Destination is Big Band era with a troupe of jeans-clad dancers

Kimmy Allen, left, and Caroline Anglim practice on the grounds of Maryville College in preparation for the Blue Jeans and Ballet performance at McArthur Pavilion on Thursday, Sept. 24.

Photo by Jolanda Jansma

Kimmy Allen, left, and Caroline Anglim practice on the grounds of Maryville College in preparation for the Blue Jeans and Ballet performance at McArthur Pavilion on Thursday, Sept. 24.

They’ve endured weeks of preparations and intensive rehearsal practice, but, perhaps the most important consideration for the ballet dancers in the Appalachian Ballet Company’s upcoming performance is finding the right pair of blue jeans.

“The biggest challenge is to find the right pair of jeans that allow them to move,” said Amy Moore Morton, artistic director of the Appalachian Ballet and choreographer of Blue Jeans and Ballet performance.

Anne Souder, senior company dancer with Appalachian Ballet Company, said the real test when searching for the right pair of blue jeans is if you can do the splits in them. Souder said she knew she found the right pair when she could do the splits in the dressing room of a local department store.

“We’re not used to being constricted by the material,” Souder said, as they usually dance in tights or dance-friendly costumes.

For Souder, who has been dancing for 13 years, the Blue Jeans and Ballet performance is one that she really enjoys.

“The setting and the interaction with the musicians is why I love this performance,” Souder said.

Blue Jeans and Ballet will take place on Thursday, Sept. 24, at 6 p.m. at McArthur Pavilion on the Maryville College campus. The evening includes a harvest barbecue dinner of grilled chicken and vegetables catered by Maryville College dining services. Randy Burleson of Aubrey’s will provide wine. As the diners finish their dinner, their attention will be directed to the beautiful setting by the Pavilion, where the dancers will be joined by the big band music of The Streamliners, directed by Mike Spirko.

This is the third performance of Blue Jeans and Ballet in an outdoor setting. The idea was born of necessity when the amphitheater at Maryville College was demolished to make way for the new, under-construction Clayton Center for the Arts. That necessity has proven to be a fan-favorite as the public is introduced to ballet that is different from what they may perceive as traditional.

“When they tore down the amphitheater, I said, ‘If we’re going to have to think outside the box, we can dance outside the box,’” Morton said.

Souder said the performance is fun for the classically-trained dancers because they are outside and barefoot. Also, she added that they feel connections with all three elements, the dancers, the musicians and the audience members.

“This performance is much more audience-oriented,” said Brittany Blum, soloist with the Appalachian Ballet Company. “We like them to have an experience and not just attend a show.”

Morton said the Blue Jeans and Ballet has created quite a following with audience members. She added that one couple who comes to the performance every year is coming home early from vacation to make sure they are back in time for the event. Also, another couple who attend every year is altering their travel plans to make sure they do not miss the performance. “That means a lot to me and the company,” Morton said of the community’s dedication to this event.

Over the last several weeks, Morton has worked closely with Spirko to come up with 11 pieces of music for the performance. Morton said after the big band genre of music was determined, she got songs like, “Chicago,” “New York, New York” and “Chattanooga Choo Choo” in her mind. The theme, Trains and Destinations, evolved from there.

“Amy has a gift for choreography,” Blum said. She said it is interesting how one dance is so different than the next.

Senior Company dancer Kelsey Helton said the Blue Jeans and Ballet performance is beneficial because it helps her learn how to dance with live music.

“The practices are extremely hard, but fun,” Helton said. She said the dancers have to come to rehearsal prepared to learn new things since they have to pick up the new steps and combinations quickly to learn the new pieces.

To find out more about Blue Jeans and Ballet or to order tickets, contact the Appalachian Ballet Company at 865-982-8463. Tickets are $50 and are also available at Blount Today through Monday, Sept. 21, from Sherri Gardner Howell.

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