Rock out, fly with Pan

Ballet company combines classical with contemporary at spring show

Anne Souder soars through the air as Peter Pan during an preview of the upcoming performance at the Gala Opening of the Clayton Center for the Arts.

Photo by Jolanda Jansma

Anne Souder soars through the air as Peter Pan during an preview of the upcoming performance at the Gala Opening of the Clayton Center for the Arts.

Blount County “pirates” holding Michael (Colin Ross), John (Olivia Miller) and Wendy (Megan Bledsoe) hostage include Mark Miller George Williams Richard Staley, Scott Hitch, Steve Wildsmith, Bob Hirche and Lance Coleman

Photo by Jolanda Jansma

Blount County “pirates” holding Michael (Colin Ross), John (Olivia Miller) and Wendy (Megan Bledsoe) hostage include Mark Miller George Williams Richard Staley, Scott Hitch, Steve Wildsmith, Bob Hirche and Lance Coleman

Laura Morton dances the part of Tinkerbell in the Appalachian Ballet production of Peter Pan.

Photo by Jolanda Jansma

Laura Morton dances the part of Tinkerbell in the Appalachian Ballet production of Peter Pan.

Appalachian Ballet Company senior dancers end their dance at the gala opening of the Clayton Center for the Arts. The company presented an excerpt from their upcoming production of “Peter Pan and Other Works” at the opening.

Photo by Jolanda Jansma

Appalachian Ballet Company senior dancers end their dance at the gala opening of the Clayton Center for the Arts. The company presented an excerpt from their upcoming production of “Peter Pan and Other Works” at the opening.

Appalachian Ballet Company meets Metallica April 24-25 in a piece choreographed to be classical, hip and powerful by senior dancer Brittany Blum.

If your ticket says “Peter Pan,” don’t worry: This will all make sense.

The Appalachian Ballet Company Spring show at the Clayton Center for the Arts will have two parts. The first 20 minutes features more traditional “ballet-type” works, including a new classical piece choreographed by artistic director Amy Moore Morton and two contemporary pieces by senior dancer Blum.

When the curtain goes up for Act II, however, Pan and the pirates take over. The full ballet of “Peter Pan” will fill the last 70 minutes of the evening. The show features new choreography by Morton for the retelling of the classic “Peter Pan” story, complete with some of Blount County’s own as “pirates.”

With about eight days of rehearsal left before the curtain goes up, Morton still had a smile on her face as the crowd of dancers and community members filed out of Van Metre School of Dance following rehearsal.

“The ballet is done,” Morton said. “I would have liked for it to have been finished sooner so I could polish more, but I certainly think we’re going with momentum into the next eight days with everyone excited and enthusiastic. I think we’re going to peak at just the right time.”

Morton said she started the first of the year when she began teaching her dancers a new classical piece she had just created. “It is a short, 8-minute piece we will open with. And we have learned two contemporary pieces that Brittany Blum choreographed. Between those three short works, that was the month of January,” she said.

Morton said the classical piece is very spring-like. “The music is very light, and dancers are wearing peach and orange long tutus,” she said. “We are a very well-trained, classical ballet company. Even though we’re capable of doing contemporary pieces and stories, the first number showcases how well-trained the dancers are.”

Morton praised Blum for her choreography in the two pieces that follow. “Both of her pieces are very powerful, and I think will be very exciting for the audience,” Morton said.

Blum said she choreographed a piece for the Senior dancers to the Metallica song “One.” The Junior company will dance to a song from the movie “Jarhead” by the group Apocalyptica.

Blum said this is the second time she has choreographed for the company, and she wanted to challenge herself. “One way to challenge myself was that I picked difficult pieces to count to,” she said.

The piece for the Junior dancers is called “Among Our Own,” and the dancers portray aliens disguised as humans. “They end up peeling out of their human skin,” said Blum. “It’s really neat.”

Blum said the piece for the Senior company of dancers is powerful. “I created invigorating, powerful movement that will be really captivating to watch,” she said.

Morton said she chose “Peter Pan” for the company’s first production in Clayton Center for the Arts because it has family appeal. “This came to me last year when we were at the Bijou. We did ‘Peter and the Wolf.’ We had fabulous attendance because people wanted to bring children to the ballet. For this show, I wanted a story everyone knew,” she said. “When people feel comfortable, they are more likely to buy tickets and attend. I really wanted something fun and light-hearted for our premiere at the Clayton Center.”

Morton said the process for creating “Peter Pan” involved fundraising to help cover extra costs of the production.

The Dancing with Our Stars competition brought 10 men from the community together with veteran dancers from Appalachian Ballet Company. They competed, each couple performing a different genre of dance from swing and jazz, to the Tango, the Charleston, the Mamba and Disco. The event, held on Feb. 14, raised $7,000.

When invited as the resident ballet company for the Clayton Center to perform at the center’s Gala grand opening, Morton said they started getting the Celebration Dance from “Peter Pan” ready for a trial run, with Anne Souder as Peter flying through the air.

ZFX Flying Effects out of Louisville was contracted to provide the set up for Souder to take to the air.

Morton said the spring show has 40-plus people, which is a big show for the company to undertake in the Spring. Some of those 40 folks include members of the community, including this writer as a “pirate.”

“It was fun to have people volunteer,” said Morton. “A few are men who volunteered for our big winter production of ‘Nutcracker.’ Bob Hirche and George Williams are folks I got to know through Dancing with Our Stars.”

In addition to this writer, suiting up as pirates from the community are Williams, Hirche, Steve Wildsmith, Mark Miller, Richard Staley and Scott Hitch.

Morton said the number of performers in the production produced a challenge.

“When there are a lot of people involved, it makes the rehearsal process more difficult, trying to mesh everyone’s schedule,” she said. “Just for the sheer fact of having that many people in rehearsals at once also makes it hard. I can’t wait to get on stage at the Clayton Center so we can spread out and see what it looks like. Another challenge is we’ve got so many props. Other than ‘Nutcracker,’ it has been a long time since I’ve done a production with this many props and extra pieces.”

Other key roles the production include Laura Morton as Tinker Bell, Ashley Smith dancing the part of Tiger Lily, Megan Bledsoe as Wendy, Olivia Miller as John and Colin Ross as Michael. The part of Captain Hook is played by Warren Perry. “Warren has danced the role of father in the ‘Nutcracker’ for several years,” said Morton.

The part of Tinkerbell went to Morton’s daughter Laura. The artistic director said making the choice wasn’t difficult. “She’s petite, and I was looking for someone small. Plus, she is quite the comedic actress,” Morton said. “I feel it is going to be a good combination.”

Laura, 13, is a seventh grader at Maryville Middle School. She has been dancing since she was 4. She said that while her mother sketched out the choreography, she based her portrayal on the traditional Tinkerbell character and just tried to be bratty. “I tried to be myself and be my own character,” she said. “The choreography is my mother’s and most of the way I act toward Wendy and the expressions are my own.”

Laura said joked with her mom that she should be Tinkerbell. “She kept saying I probably wouldn’t get it. I had no idea until the cast list was put out. It was a big surprise,” she said. “She asked me if I was surprised, and I got a little teared up. It was the biggest deal for me, being Tinkerbell. It’s the first main character I’ve ever done that is a solo part.”

The Appalachian Ballet Company’s production of “Peter Pan and Other Works” is set for 7:30 p.m. April 24 and 2 p.m. April 25 at the Clayton Center for the Arts. Tickets are $16 for adults and $11 for students and seniors. A limited number of tickets to a catered opening night reception after the performance are available for an additional $20 per person.

For information or tickets call 865-982-8463, 865-981-8590 or 865-656-4444. Those purchasing the combination reception ticket and performance ticket for Saturday night will also receive preferred seating.

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