Monday, November 30, 2009


The good times for me this holiday began on Tuesday evening when I attended a strategy meeting with Gary Baker, Bill Landry, and Muse Watson (as outlined in the previous post). Muse was visiting his mom and sister, who live in the area, but he took some time to help out on some Princess Theater and Temperance Building promotional material. He also visited some of the area events while in town (more on that later).

After some interview shooting (Bill on Muse and Muse on Bill), Doug Mills shot some video footage at the “Arts in Motion” dance studio in nearby Kingston, Tennessee, owned and operated by Jennifer Austin. Jennifer is currently rehearsing this year’s “The Nutcracker” production, which is the largest in the state of Tennessee. The show has over 100 performers and dancers. This year’s show will be at the Roane State Auditorium; December 4th and 5th, 7 pm, and December 6th at 2 pm.

The studio was packed with dancers and their families, leaving only room on the dance floor for real movement. Jennifer oversees the program, but leaves the floor direction to Lilia Valieva, formerly from Russia, but now lives in Crossville. Lilia has been in ballet for many years: Lilia graduated from the world-renowned Vaganova Ballet Academy in St. Petersburg, Russia, where she trained for 8 years. She then joined the State Theatre of Opera and Ballet of Bashkortostan in Ufa, quickly becoming a principle dancer. In 1996, she made her United States debut with a leading role in Giselle with the Greeneville Ballet in South Carolina, and continued to dance as a principle dancer for two more years. Her principle roles include Giselle, Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, Nutcracker, Pas de Quatre, Coppellia, Don Quixote, and many others.

Lilia, the “ballet mistress”, ran the program from the top and Jennifer brought Muse around behind the dancers and waited for a break to introduce him. After an introduction, Muse politely critiqued the rehearsal, praising the performers, but offering firm instruction on what it means to be on stage and what an audience deserves from their personal performances.

All the time, Doug Mills was filming the dancers and their mentors. Segments of his captures will be seen in future video shorts on upcoming Princess Productions stage shows.

The proposed plans for the restoration and upgrade of the Princess Theatre will include a much larger stage, one that stretches the entire width of the Princess Auditorium. There will an increase in back stage area, professional lighting and sound, as well as large “green rooms” off stage. Jennifer looks forward to the day her productions can be expanded to fit the Princess stage. She may even expand her class offerings to include the Princess facilities.

Roane County should stop and think about what Jennifer Austin, and her studio, means to our children. Think about what a venue such as a beautifully restored Princess will mean to her, her students, and to us!

I’ll tell you about the rest of this week’s excitement soon…

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