'Coat of Many Colors' highlights Appalachian Ballet performance

Laura Morton, 15, will play the part of Dolly in the  Appalachian Ballet production of "Dolly Parton's Coat of Many Colors."

Photo by Chad Greene, 2012 // Buy this photo

Laura Morton, 15, will play the part of Dolly in the Appalachian Ballet production of "Dolly Parton's Coat of Many Colors."

The Appalachian Ballet Company celebrates 40 years of dance with a detailed, dancer-filled show that includes a new ballet set to a popular Dolly Parton song. A number of dances, classic and contemporary, from the Maryville-based company's past will also be performed at 7:30 Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday.

The spring shows that mark the milestone anniversary for the company that began in 1972 are 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.

The new ballet created by Appalachian Artistic Director Amy Moore Morton is based on Parton's autobiographical song and children's book, "Coat of Many Colors." The two shows will be the only time that the "Coat of Many Colors" ballet will be performed. The Sevier County native and award-winning singer/entertainer gave Morton permission to use her work as a ballet exclusively for the anniversary show.

Parton's "Coat of Many Colors" tells how proud a young girl is when her mother makes her a patchwork coat. But other children pick on her about her homemade attire and she draws on her family's love and her upbringing to deal with the teasing.

Morton took the story told by Parton and divided it into three settings and scenarios — a church, the Parton home and a playground. Faithful to the story's Appalachian roots, she used not only the "Coat of Many Colors" song but incorporated traditional songs and hymns. Dancers perform 10 dances to music that includes "Tennessee Waltz," "Old Time Religion," "Will the Circle Be Unbroken" and "Keep on the Sunny Side."

Singer Robinella narrates and performs vocals for "Coat of Many Colors." The production also incorporates a small band and a choir. Robinella begins singing Parton's song but the performance ends with Parton's own recording. Dancer Laura Morton, the director's younger daughter, dances the role of an overall-clad young Dolly.

The ballet's spring celebration includes a number of favorite pieces from past shows. Among those dances will be a variation of "Sleeping Beauty," works from the ballet "Don Quixote" and from "Carmina Burana." A favorite of past shows — the multi-dancer "Celebration Dance" from the ballet "Peter Pan" also will be performed.

And Morton, the company's principal dancer for 15 years before becoming its artistic director in 1997, is taking to the stage again. She's revived the 1993 award-winning ballet she created based on the live and loves of silent movie comedian Charlie Chaplin. Morton will don the baggy pants, bowler hat, cane and mustache associated with Chaplin to dance the title role in "With Chaplin."

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