‘The Nutcracker’ makes holiday memories at the Clayton Center

Sugar Plum Fairies dance in the beautiful land of Sweets.

Photo by Leslie Karnowski

Sugar Plum Fairies dance in the beautiful land of Sweets.

The magic of “The Nutcracker” story usually takes place in a dream.

However, before Appalachian Ballet dancers took the stage at the Clayton Center for the Arts, a magical scene unfolded.

Director Amy Morton opened the shows by greeting the crowd with, “We’re home again,” which she said was immediately followed by an exuberant applause from both sold-out crowds.

“I felt very supported by the community,” Morton said. “You could feel the energy.” The ballet artistic director said the hometown audience was enthusiastic from beginning to end. In fact, life imitated art in Act One, where friends and family gather at home. At the end of the final act, Morton said, “The crowd was on their feet before the curtain closed.”

Morton said one of the benefits in the Clayton Center is the close proximity of the stage to the audience. In addition to an intimate setting with an energized crowd, Morton said, “All our sets and scenery looked like it belonged there.”

In keeping with the ballet company’s Nutcracker tradition, the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra performed live music. “To here them at the Clayton Center venue was so moving,” Morton said.

She said the KSO creates a unique artistic synergy that offers a higher quality performance and benefits the community. Along with instrumentalists, the women’s choir from Maryville High School performed vocals during the snow-falling scene.

The weekend before the two Dec. 11 Maryville shows, Appalachian Ballet Company performed at the Knoxville Civic Auditorium where they offered two public shows and two performances for students at area schools. Morton said she was pleased with attendance in Knoxville where the company has performed the Nutcracker for almost 20 years.

She said approximately 2,600 people attended the two public performances and about 3,200 students came to the two school performances. Morton said by adding the two shows in Maryville, the Appalachian Ballet Company was able to perform for 2,500 more people than in previous years.

After directing six shows over the course of two weekends, Morton said, “I was extremely tired but very satisfied.”

She hopes the Appalachian Ballet Company will offer “The Nutcracker” in both venues again next year but said the non-profit’s board of trust must decide after reviewing financial feasibility.

Appalachian Ballet Company is hosting their second annual “Dancing with our Stars” fundraiser on Feb. 18 in the Clayton Center Foyer at 7 p.m. The fundraiser pairs community people with Appalachian Ballet Company performers doing a smorgasbord of different dances. Hors d’oeuvres and drinks are served at the event as well. Tickets are $50 and can be purchased from now until Feb. 8 by phone at 865-982-8463.

In April, the company will perform “Cinderella” at the Clayton Center for the Arts. Show dates are 7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 16, and 2 p.m. Sunday, April 17. A fundraising Breakfast With Cinderella is also being planned.

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