Ever seen a ballerina do The Swim?
Amy Moore Morton has the Appalachian Ballet Company of dancers practicing not only that 1960s crazy dance, but The Twist and The Pony as well.
It’s all a part of the company’s nod to an era that hit seven years before they were even founded.
This is the 40th anniversary year for the Appalachian Ballet, and they are kicking off the season with Blue Jeans and Ballet Meets the British Invasion.
“We’re basically dancing to music from two or three of the ‘British Invasion’ bands that influenced Rock and Roll and Pop in the ‘60s,” Morton said.
Music from The Beatles, along with The Animals and Dave Clark Five will be showcased in the fall show, which will be Thursday, Sept. 29, at the Clayton Center for the Arts.
“I’m featuring the 1960s dance movements with The Twist, The Pony and The Swim. All those dance steps are ones you associate with that Hippy era,” Morton said. “Because the audience will know the songs, I tease the dancers that they may have some competition with the audience singing along. That would be great energy and fun.”
This is the eighth year for Blue Jeans and Ballet, which has a different theme to compliment the overall one each year. Meet the British Invasion includes the show, dinner and drinks for a $55 ticket price. Dinner and drinks will be served at 6 p.m. on the Plaza and the show will follow in the Harold and Jean Lambert Recital Hall.
“We have a great menu this year. I just met with Andy Safewright (director of dining services) at the college, he and Chef Paul Kampwerth have come up with a really good menu for us with honey-stung chicken breast, bacon cheddar mashed potatoes, Asian cole slaw, salad and a dessert,” Morton said.
Safewright said there will also be cobblestone beans, biscuits with honey butter and dessert will be blondie bars and deluxe brownies.
“It will be a nice meal, and we’ll be eating outdoors on the plaza. We’re a week later than we have traditionally been, and I’m hoping we’ll have nice fall weather,” Moore said.
Adult beverages will be served before and during dinner and afterwards folks will move to the Lambert Recital Hall for the show.
Morton said the dancers are excited about the show because they literally get to let their hair down for this show. “Dancers are coming to my house and we’re tie-dying T-shirts,” Morton said. “They’re excited they get to dance with their hair down. I’m a stickler that ballerinas have to have their hair up.”
This is the second year Blue Jeans and Ballet has been held in the Lambert Recital Hall. The dancers performed in the grass beside the McArthur Pavilion on the Maryville College campus for several years before the Clayton Center opened in the Spring of 2010, and Moore said having the dancers back on stage opens up so much more opportunity for choreography.
“Last year I expanded the choreography, and they were doing more turns and jumps because I was not worrying about the girls hurting themselves,” she said.
Moore said audience members enjoyed seeing the dancers go all out. “They thought it was exciting, and I’m anticipating the same thing this year,” she said. “They’ll really be able to show off their talent because they’ll have better surface to dance on.”
Moore said every year for Blue Jeans and Ballet, she has choreographed between 12 and 14 dances. This year Moore invited veteran dancer and Appalachian Ballet Company member Brittany Blum to choreograph some of the pieces for Blue Jeans and Ballet.
“To have Brittany step up and be able to do four pretty significant dances has really been a great help to me,” Moore said. “She’s so gifted with choreography and so much more a jazz/modern genre, where I’m more the ballet, it has made a nice mix, given a little bit more variety to it.”
Moore said Blum has been the company’s jazz teacher for five years. “She does a lot of our contemporary work for us and has been very successful,” she said.
Blum said Blue Jeans and Ballet is different from any show the company does each season. “This is in general a fun show and is very different from what we normally do. I tried to make the pieces I choreographed as entertaining as possible, yet challenging for the girls,” she said. “This is my last show choreographing for Appalachian Ballet, and I really wanted to leave them with something special and something they loved. This is just as much for them this year as it is the audience.”
Blum said she is grateful for the opportunity. “This show is such an important and special touch to our season and every year it is so new and fresh and is a great thing for the Maryville community. I am lucky to be choreographing and not just dancing,” she said.
Blum said one piece she is choreographing will be to The Beatles song, ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band,’ and it will feature the new senior dancers of the Appalachian Ballet.
“I’m using them for that piece, and it is a high energy and fun, upbeat song. That one is very cute and gives them the chance to be incorporated into our Blue Jeans and Ballet program,” she said.
Two other Beatles songs she is choreographing include ‘Across the Universe,’ and ‘Lady Madonna.’
“‘Lady Madonna’ is a fast, upbeat, fun dance with kind of a sassy style. ‘Across the Universe,’ is almost a slow and emotional piece. It is a lyrical dance rather than a sassy, jazz number,” she said.
Her fourth dance is to the song ‘House of the Rising Sun,’ by The Animals. “We chose that because the British Invasion was not only The Beatles. It was a lot of other bands, led by The Beatles. We wanted to include other bands,” she said.
The show is also a farewell of sorts for Blum, who is getting married Saturday, Sept. 17.
“She’s getting married and moving on to other things,” said Moore. “We’re going to really miss her. I hope she can come back and be a guest choreographer.”
Blum’s said her fiancé, Blake Vaughn, is a design engineer with John Deere. “We’ll be moving to Tulsa, Okla. I graduated a year and a half ago, and am medical technologist. I have a job waiting for me,” she said. “I am going to miss Appalachian Ballet and the whole dance family tremendously. This is not goodbye for me. I don’t want to seem like I’m leaving forever because we definitely want to come back.”
Blue Jeans and Ballet starts the 40th season of the Appalachian Ballet Company.
“This is our kickoff to our 40th anniversary. This is a celebration year for us, and this is a good way to start the year of with fun, music and dancing,” Moore said.
Moore said she has been involved with the Van Metre School of Dance, home of the Appalachian Ballet Company for 38 years. Miss Cheryl Van Metre was the founding director for 25 years. Moore was co-director for several years and took over 15 years ago, she said.
“We’ve come a long way and done great things with live music. I think we continue to lift the ballet company to new levels,” Moore said.
Moore said she hopes people check out the ballet company’s new website at www.appalachianballet.com. “We have an amazing photo gallery on the website with pictures on East Harper Avenue, on the Greenbelt and at the Clayton Center for the Arts. There are even shots up in the mountains. There are some cool pictures,” she said. “I really want to encourage people to look at our photo gallery. They can see the how far the quality and level of the dancers have come.”
Moore said there is also a new alumni page for anyone who has ever danced with the ballet company. “They can go in and sign into the alumni page. We’re trying to build a good base of dancers who have come through the school and the company,” she said.
Moore said she is proud of the hard work and success of the company’s dancers throughout the years. “To sustain yourself as a non-profit arts organization is an amazing feat in itself. The fact we continue to lift the level of the quality and the experience for the community by bringing the Knoxville Symphony to do the Nutcracker in the Clayton Center for the Arts, what a tremendous goal,” she said. “We’ve come a long way, baby. I’ve always teased other people that life begins at 40. I’m thinking we’ve done all this, now we’re on a new chapter, and we’ll keep pushing the bar.”
Moore said she was gratified when the Clayton Center for the Arts chose the Appalachian Dance Company as their resident dance company. “It is a wonderful feather in our cap,” she said. “We’re also taking the dance company to Montreal to perform in Canada in May. We have an exciting year planned and we hope the community steps up and coins us.”
Because of the size of the Lambert Recital Hall, Moore said there are only 250 seats. “Patrons need to call and get dinner show tickets as soon as possible,” she said.
To get tickets, call the Van Metre School of Dance at 865-982-8463 or Clayton Center for the Arts at 981-8590 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Tickets are $55 each and that includes dinner, drinks and show. A limited number of tickets are available at Blount Today.