Appalachian Balllet’s artistic director weaves magical story in pas de deux

Cinderella, right, dances her way through her chores as her evil stepsisters and stepmother watch. Cinderella is Kylie Morton, with Brittany Blum, left, and Chandler Blum as the stepsisters and Alexandra Bowen, seated, as the stepmother.

Photo by Jolanda Jansma

Cinderella, right, dances her way through her chores as her evil stepsisters and stepmother watch. Cinderella is Kylie Morton, with Brittany Blum, left, and Chandler Blum as the stepsisters and Alexandra Bowen, seated, as the stepmother.

Cinderella is waiting for her Prince Charming.

When he gets here, he’s got a lot of work to do.

The Appalachian Ballet Company will present “Cinderella” Saturday and Sunday, April 16-17, at the Clayton Center for the Arts. Kylie Morton is dancing the part of Cinderella, and Ted Seymour from Chicago is the Prince.

“Like a lot of women do, we’re waiting on our prince,” quipped artistic director Amy Moore Morton. “The prince doesn’t arrive until April 9, and we move into the theater on April 12.” Morton isn’t really worried about Seymour, who Maryville audiences have seen recently as the Snow King and Arabian dancer in “The Nutcracker.”

“He’s a professional. He’s flying in from Chicago that Saturday, and they’ll learn the dance.”

Morton said that for some productions, a main character from out-of-town would simply be given a video to show him the routine before he arrives. “For this production, that’s not the case. I’m creating the steps from the beginning when he walks in the door,” she said. “That is going to be much more tedious and a longer process.”

Still, with her daughter Kylie, a veteran dancer with professional ballet company experience, and Seymour’s experience, “They can do their jobs quicker than I can do mine of creating the steps!” Morton said.

Morton has choreographed the entire ballet for the dance company’s spring performance. For her version of “Cinderella,” the artistic director said she has used the traditional versus the Disney version of the story as inspiration.

“Definitely this is not Disney. It is really based more on the traditional ballet, but all the choreography is out of my head, not off someone else’s production or video,” she said. “It is really the way I envisioned this music to tell the story. In terms of choreography, one of my best strengths is story-telling,” she said. “I love telling stories. My most successful ballets have been the ones that dealt with story telling.”

Morton said audience members will enjoy some of the newer features in this spring production. “We have five new tutus for the fairies and the fairy godmother. Angie Wood is building a lot of new costumes for us,” she said. “I think it is going to be very lavish production with a gorgeous carriage being designed and built as we speak. There are a lot of exciting elements.”

This is the third version of “Cinderella” Kylie Morton has danced in. After two years with the ballet company in Charlotte, Kylie Morton returned home last season. In addition to dancing with the ballet company, she is teaching at the company’s home studio, Van Metre School of Dance.

“This is this is the most I’ve ever danced in any of them. It is nice being part of the creative process instead of learning something already created and being forced to do it that way,” Kylie said. “It’s new, so we get to play around and see what works best for me and the other dancers, and it is little more personal.”

So what’s it like working for a director who is also your mom? “It gets easier the older I get and the longer we work together,” Kylie said. “It’s my job to listen to my director, whether she is my mom or not. I know that now that I’m 22,” Kylie said. “She’s doing her job, and that means I do my job. I do what she wants. As the artistic director, it is her ballet.”

Amy Moore Morton said it is refreshing to have camaraderie of discussing the creative process. “We’ve had the opportunity to be together in the evenings after rehearsal to talk about how rehearsal went, and we’ll ask if this or that worked well, or do I need to adjust this piece of music?” she said. “The fact we can bounce ideas off each other as adults has been fun, and she’s helped me lot.”

Kylie said that ballet dancers have certain roles they all dream of playing, such as Juliet, Cinderella and Giselle. “The most enjoyable part is I’m finally getting to play one of the roles I’ve always wanted to play and put my whole self into,” she said. “I enjoy being in rehearsal.”

At rehearsals, Kylie says she is constantly trying different ways of portraying different aspects of her character. “The layers of Cinderella are starting to find their way out.”

While there is not much humor in the Cinderella character, Kylie said she is enjoying seeing how Brittany and Chandler Blum portray Cinderella’s constantly fighting stepsisters.

“It is fun to watch the girls get into it,” she said.

The pair appear to scrap even as they dance. Being actual sisters made portraying the evil stepsisters easier, said Chandler Blum.

“It doesn’t make me scared to go all out in the fight scenes,” Chandler said. “I know I won’t hurt her.”

The pair said working together has also meant holding each other accountable. “We’re also not afraid to call each other out or argue, but it’s never hostile,” Brittany said.

“We’re honest with each other,” added Chandler.

Brittany said the evil stepsisters are fun to portray. “They are something we’d never be in real life. They’re so animated and ‘over the top’ and ridiculous. That is why I enjoy doing this: it requires not only dancing, but so much acting,” she said. “I think it is a very entertaining rendition of Cinderella. If there is anyone weary of ballet being boring, this is a good one to start with because it is very funny and very entertaining.”

Chandler said the serious parts of the ballet where the Cinderella character is sad are beautiful. “I think the audience will enjoy every moment of the production,” she said.

Brittany said the casting for the ballet has added a lot to the performance. “Every person was cast perfectly for who they are,” she said. “Everyone molded so nicely that the audience can get entranced and locked into the ballet.”

Alexandra Bowen said her role as the evil stepmother has been challenging because she has to contain her laughter when watching the Blum sisters as the evil stepsisters. “I have to watch them with a straight face but they are so funny, and it is hard.”

Alexandra said that with this role, she is on stage more than other roles she has danced. “We do a lot of different things in this production. We pretend we’re fighting or making dresses, there is a lot of variety in the different types of dances we do in this one,” she said.

Amy Moore Morton is pleased that Alexandra is in the stepmother role. She is a senior at Maryville High School and plans on going to Belmont University and majoring in entertainment industry studies.

“This is nice that she gets such a meaty role to do in her last year,” Morton said.

The artistic director said audiences will enjoy the April 16 or 17 performances.

“The contrast of this beautiful, sad Cinderella longing to go the ball with the comedic elements of the stepsisters and the meanness of the stepmother, the layers of each character are so much fun to see,” said Morton. “The ball scene is going to be pure delight.” she said. “I think everything you would want out of a ballet, you would get out of ‘Cinderella.’”

Morton said the story itself as well as the fact it is being put to a ballet will be a draw for many. “It is one of those ballets that sells itself. Everyone knows Cinderella; everyone wants to come see Cinderella and see that beautiful fairy godmother,” she said. “There are grandparents out there we hope will be chomping at the bit to buy a ticket.”

Fans of the story will have the chance to meet the Appalachian Ballet Company dancers during a Cinderella Pancake Breakfast fundraiser on Saturday, April 2, from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. at Aubrey’s Restaurant.

“If they come to the pancake breakfast on April 2, they’ll have the opportunity to meet Cinderella and her mean stepsisters,” Morton said.

The artistic director said just having the opportunity to be up-close and familiar with the dancers portraying the stepsisters and stepmother and Cinderella will make seeing them perform on stage even more fun. “We’ll have a few other characters for them to see at the breakfast, too, and they can have their pictures made with them all,” she said. “I always enjoy going to a show when I know someone in the show. It makes it so much more personal. If someone comes into the pancake breakfast and meets Cinderella before they see the magic on the stage, it makes it even more fun.”

Morton thanked Aubrey’s Restaurant owner Randy Burleson and his staff. “We’re so appreciative of what they do for the community as well as being great supporters of the ballet,” she said.

Cinderella will be seen at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 16, and 2 p.m. on Sunday, April 17, in the Ronald and Lynda Nutt Theater at the Clayton Center for the Arts.

Tickets are $15 to $20 and students and senior receive a $5 discount. Tickets can be purchased by calling Van Metre School of Dance, 215 W. Broadway Ave., Maryville, at 865-982-8463, Tickets Unlimited, 865-656-4444 and the Clayton Center at 865-981-8590.

Pancake breakfast tickets are available at Blount Today, at the Appalachian Ballet Studio or at the door Saturday morning at Aubrey’s.

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