Founded by six local aerialists, Dragonfly Aerial Arts Studio's nonprofit school and performance group introduce students aged 6 and older to the thrill and fitness benefits of aerial arts with silks and trapeze classes. A thick, cushy safety mat lines the floor as knowledgeable instructors teach basic poses and breathtaking drops in three levels of trapeze courses.
In four separate silks classes, students gain experience in foot locks and inversions to swing gracefully from hanging silks or living-room curtains. Try Me classes open an exploratory window into trapeze and silks, imparting basic maneuvers and safety techniques before tackling the apparatus. Advanced students have the option to join the studio's performance group, Dragonfly Dancers, to dazzle audiences at festivals, art shows, and traffic stops.
As part of the National Premier Soccer League, both teams of the Knoxville Force showcase top amateur players from high school, college, and around the world as they prepare for professional careers. Since its founding in 2011, the Force organization has thrilled local soccer fans with teams built around some of the region's best athletes as well as imports from other national and international teams. Both the men's and women's teams scurry across the pitch at University of Tennessee's Regal Soccer Stadium, and each holds tryouts prior to each season to make sure top recruits aren't actually kids stacked on each other's shoulders, as those cleats would probably dig in pretty hard.
The Knoxville Jazz Orchestra's 17-piece big band—a medley of brass, bass, piano, and drums—aims to spread jazz like an infectious case of the cooties. Dozens of local concerts and festivals throughout the US and Europe have benefited from their playing, and four CDs have made it so fans can bring the magic home. To add zest to their stew of performances and bring new voices to the area, the ensemble also hosts regular guest artists, including world-renowned soloists. And the group further instills appreciation with a "Jazz in Schools" initiative and a free, annual "Jazz on the Square" concert that lets audiences take in the music in the open air.
The Knoxville Opera sings most of its notes in a venue befitting the regality of its material: the Tennessee Theatre. The former movie-house and decades-old stage swathes performers in Spanish-Moorish design, a strikingly blue domed ceiling, burgundy velvet seats, and gold accents. But the opera singers don't keep their voices contained there. Education and outreach programs send them throughout the community, performing at schools, shaking the downtown streets during themed festivals, and aiding local construction companies by shattering old glass buildings.
Dance Tonight co-owner Jeremy Norris knows his students. "When it comes down to it, everyone really dances for one reason: to have fun," he states on his school?s website. Co-owner Emily Loyless and their staff of fellow NDCA-registered instructors share his sentiment. In addition to teaching salsa, west coast swing, and country dancing, their dance studio turns into a ballroom dance party on Friday nights where students practice moves from their lessons. Norris and company also schedule Zumba dance fitness classes, whose calorie burn far exceeds that of completing 100 Macarenas.
The Bijou’s origins stretch back through American history, but it didn’t become a theater until relatively recently: 1908. For nearly a century prior to its dramaturgical reinvention, the building was a high-class hotel that housed high-ranking military commanders, influential civic leaders, and even President Andrew Jackson for a spell in 1819. When General Ambrose Burnside took the town of Knoxville during the Civil War, the hotel was converted into a hospital, makeshift war room, and oil-wrestling arena for Generals William Sherman and Phil Sheridan. The latter portion of the 19th century showed the building more favor, and during the lavish 1870s another president—Rutherford B. Hayes—paid call, and delivered a speech from the hotel’s balcony.
The early 1900s saw the hotel’s biggest renovation to date when it was purchased and upgraded by the Auditorium Company. The newly rechristened Bijou Theatre opened to a sellout crowd, and was a major outlet for vaudeville from 1913 to 1926. Hard times began to pile up soon afterward, and the lapsed theater would have been demolished in 1975 were it not for its eleventh-hour listing on the National Historic Record. Since its most recent renovation in 2006, the stage has hosted pop stars and musical blockbusters.