Appalachian Ballet celebrates 40 years with old favorites and new ballet set to Dolly Parton

Laura Morton, 15, center, is shown on Sunday, April 1 playing the part of Dolly in the Appalachian Ballet Company production of Dolly Parton's "Coat of Many Colors." The ballet will be performed April 21 and 22 at the Clayton Performing Arts Center in Maryville.

Photo by Chad Greene, 2012 // Buy this photo

Laura Morton, 15, center, is shown on Sunday, April 1 playing the part of Dolly in the Appalachian Ballet Company production of Dolly Parton's "Coat of Many Colors." The ballet will be performed April 21 and 22 at the Clayton Performing Arts Center in Maryville.

Appalachian Ballet Company's 40th Anniversary Celebration

What: Ballet set to Dolly Parton's "Coat of Many Colors;" selections from ballet company's 40 years

When: 7:30 p.m. April 21 & 2 p.m. April 22

Where: Clayton Center for the Arts, Maryville College campus

Tickets: $17 and $22 for aduls, $5 discounts senior citizens or students; at Clayton Center, 865-981-8590; ballet, 865-982-8463; or Knoxville Tickets, 865-656-4444.

Etc: After Saturday Performance Patron & Alumni Reception with music, silent auction, $10 separate ticket, RSVP by April 12 to 865-982-8463

The childhood and music of Dolly Parton are woven into the Appalachian Ballet's spring performance that also celebrates the company's 40th anniversary.

Performances are 7:30 p.m. April 21 and 2 p.m. April 22 at the Clayton Center for the Arts on the Maryville College campus. Tickets are $17 and $22 for adults with $5 discounts for senior citizens or children.

For the show Appalachian Artistic Director Amy Moore Morton has created a ballet based on Parton's autobiographical song and children's book "Coat of Many Colors." The Sevier County native and award-winning singer/entertainer gave Morton permission to use her work as a ballet just for the anniversary show.

"Coat of Many Colors" tells how proud a young Parton is when her mother makes her a patchwork coat. But the child must draw on her family's love and her upbringing to deal with the teasing she gets from other children.

Morton took the song's story and divided it into three settings — a church, the Parton home and a playground. She incorporated traditional songs and hymns, including "Tennessee Waltz," "Old Time Religion," "Will the Circle Be Unbroken" and "Keep on the Sunny Side" in the ballet's 10 dances. Dancer Laura Morton, who is the director's younger daughter, dances the role of an overall-clad young Dolly.

Singer Robinella narrates and performs vocals for "Coat of Many Colors." She'll begin Parton's song but the performance ends with Parton's recording of "Coat of Many Colors." The production also incorporates a small band and a choir.

Morton wanted "Coat of Many Colors" to "show our Appalachian roots. Even though we are a classical ballet company, we still live in East Tennessee."

The production begins with a retrospective of the past favorite dances from lavish classical pieces to contemporary numbers to comedic dance sketches. Between larger numbers dancers will perform short selections from the ballet's four decades in three-minute interludes Morton calls "Reflections."

Morton was the company's principal dancer for 15 years before becoming its artistic director in 1997. Cheryl Van Metre, who founded the ballet in 1972, will travel from out of state to see the anniversary show. Since this is a celebration, an after-show patron and alumni reception with a silent auction follows the April 21 program. That reception is a separate $10 ticket with reservations needed by April 12.

Kylie Morton, left, playing the part of Natasha and Amy Moore Morton playing the part of Charlie Chaplin are shown on Sunday, April 1, rehearsing "With Chaplin."

Photo by Chad Greene, 2012

Kylie Morton, left, playing the part of Natasha and Amy Moore Morton playing the part of Charlie Chaplin are shown on Sunday, April 1, rehearsing "With Chaplin."

For the show, Morton is reviving her lighthearted 1993 ballet "With Chaplin" and will don the baggy pants, hat and fake mustache to portray the silent film comedian. The award-winning dance features vignettes from Chaplin's life. Both her daughters, Laura and ballerina Kylie Morton, will dance in "With Chaplin." It will be the first time mother and both daughters have performed together.

The performance begins with variations from "Don Quixote," the ballet the company performed at the 1982 World's Fair with the Boston Ballet. Later ballerina Mike Yoshida dances a variation from the classic "Sleeping Beauty."

Another dance comes from "Carmina Burana," previously performed in 1989 with the Knoxville Symphony. Kylie Morton and guest dancer Ben Needham-Wood from the Louisville, Ky., ballet perform a pas de deux or "dance for two" to the original choreography of Bruce Alan Ewing. Ewing and Amy Moore Morton originally performed the dance.

Comedy takes center stage with a performance from Morton's "Black and White: Read All Over." Created as a "spoof on 'Dear Abby,'" the dance includes 1950s newspaper-reading housewives and "Lawrence Welk music," says Morton. "It's been a favorite over the years but this group of girls has never danced it." Another favorite is the "celebration dance" from the ballet "Peter Pan" with its large cast that includes Indians and "lost boys." The 21st century of dance will be represented by 2008's "Virulent" choreographed by former Appalachian dancer Brittany Blum Vaughn.

"Overall I think this is a great way to represent the ballet company," says Morton. "We do classical, we do contemporary, we do stories, we do comedies."

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