December brings 'Nutcracker' ballet

Richard Calmes/Special to the News Sentinel
Aaron Smyth and Kylie Morton will dance the roles of the Nutcracker Prince and the Sugarplum Fairy in the Appalachian Ballet's production of "The Nutcracker."

Richard Calmes/Special to the News Sentinel Aaron Smyth and Kylie Morton will dance the roles of the Nutcracker Prince and the Sugarplum Fairy in the Appalachian Ballet's production of "The Nutcracker."

The Appalachian Ballet Company again presents its annual holiday ballet "The Nutcracker" on consecutive weekends in Knoxville and Maryville.

The Maryville-based ballet company will dance to Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky's music at 8 p.m. Dec. 1 and 2 p.m. Dec. 2 at the Knoxville Civic Auditorium. The company then moves sets, costumes and dancers to the Clayton Center for the Arts on the Maryville College campus. There, shows are 2 and 8 p.m. Dec. 8; Appalachian Ballet is one of the center's resident art groups.

Tickets to either show are $40, $35 or $25 in advance; $45, $40 or $30 at the door. Students and senior citizens receive a $5 discount. Tickets are at the ballet, 865-982-8463, for either location. Knoxville tickets are at 865-656-4444 or www.knoxvilletickets.com. Maryville tickets are at 865-981-8590 or www.claytonartscenter.com.

The Knoxville Symphony Orchestra will accompany the performances that are part of the ballet's 41st season. The choir for the Knoxville shows will be singers from Central High School. The Maryville High School choir will perform during the Clayton Center performances.

Dancer Aaron Smyth, who most recently worked with Royal Ballet in London this year, returns to dance his role from 2011 as the Nutcracker Prince. Smyth will again partner with ballerina Kylie Morton who dances the role of the Sugarplum Fairy.

The Nutcracker, whose story is based on E.T.A. Hoffman's story "The Nutcracker and the Mouse King," was first performed in 1892. More than a century later, it's become a standard of the Christmas holiday season for ballets worldwide.

Seventy dancers are in the Appalachian Ballet company, and Artistic Director Amy Morton Vaughn said that's one of the largest groups the ballet has put together for "Nutcracker." With the addition of the production's actors for the ballet's festive party scene, the cast totals 95.

Each year Vaughn changes parts of the production, rewriting choreography and changing costumes. "It has a fresh look. I can't leave it the same. … We don't want the audience to be bored. Of course it's always different because cast members change and give it their own approach," she says.

This year, for example, the ballet's angels have new costumes and new wings; Vaughn's created a different variation for Nutcracker's "Spanish" dance.

This year's Clara, the young girl at the center of "Nutcracker's" story, is played by Kelsey Proffitt. The 13-year-old has been a dancer with the ballet company since she was 10.

Dancers were selected for their roles by a panel of judges during August auditions. Ballerinas have been rehearsing the ballet since the first of October.

The ballet's annual school matinees on Nov. 29 and 30 are sold out with more than 2,000 children planning to attend.

Later in December, another version of "Nutcracker" travels to Knoxville. The traveling dancers with the Moscow Ballet perform that company's "Great Russian Nutcracker." The ballet troupe performs the ballet in more than 60 cities during the holiday season. Knoxville shows of the "Great Russian Nutcracker" are 3 and 7 p.m. Dec. 22 at the Tennessee Theatre, 604 S. Gay St. Tickets range from $30 to $90, with discounts for senior citizens, students and members of the military at www.tennesseetheatre.com.

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'The Nutcracker'

What: Appalachian Ballet performance of holiday ballet classic, accompanied by Knoxville Symphony Orchestra

When/where: 8 p.m. Dec. 1 & 2 p.m. Dec. 2 at Knoxville Civic Auditorium, 500 Howard Baker Jr. Ave.; 2 & 8 p.m. Dec. 8 at Clayton Center for the Arts, Maryville College campus, Maryville

Tickets: $40, $35, $25 adults with $5 discount students or senior citizens in advance; $45, $40, $30 at door with $5 discount students or seniors; Knoxville tickets at 865-656-4444 or www.knoxvilletickets.com; Maryville tickets at 865-981-8590 or www.claytonartscenter.com; either location tickets at ballet, 865-982-8463

'Great Russian Nutcracker'

What: Traveling Moscow Ballet production

Where: Tennessee Theatre, 604 S. Gay St.

When: 3 & 7 p.m. Dec. 22

Tickets: $30 to $90, with discounts for senior citizens, students, military, at www.tennesseetheatre.com

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