ATLANTA — Not every Dobyns-Bennett High School graduate and Kingsport native gets to perform in a movie with country music icon Dolly Parton.
But Ben Blevins did, and the proof is on Netflix now.
Just look for a tap dancer in the bank scene, the one who looks like the person pictured with this article. Blevins, aside from his roots at D-B and Kingsport City Schools, attended the Holloway Dance School and performed in the Intercity Ballet in the Model City.
The 24-year-old danced in “Christmas on the Square,” which came out on Netflix Nov. 22, but in contrast to its name was filmed in the late spring and summer of 2019 in Atlanta.
WHAT IS MOVIE ABOUT?
The plot revolves around a woman who plans to sell an entire town to make way for a mall, without regard to how that would affect its residents, but she is visited by an angel seeking to change her mind.
The angel is played by Parton in wings and high heels, and Christine Baranski plays the woman who goes all over town distributing eviction notices during the holiday season. Another plot element surrounds a minister and his wife trying to have a baby but facing fertility issues.
Blevins dances in various scenes, including one in a bank and another “flashback” scene during a prom.
Aside from Parton and Baranski, the cast includes Jenifer Lewis, Josh Segarra, Mary Lane Haskell and Treat Williams as well as 59 dancers, according to an online list of the cast and crew that includes Blevins.
HOW DID BLEVINS INTERACT WITH PARTON?
“We did get the opportunity to speak with her briefly” and have photographs taken with Parton, Blevins said of himself and fellow dancers.
“I let her know I was from East Tennessee, where she grew up,” Blevins said of Parton, who is from Sevier County. “She called me a homeboy from where she was from.”
Blevins, interviewed by phone in Kingsport while he was with family and friends for the Thanksgiving weekend, said he, his girlfriend and family got to watch the movie for the first time together.
He said he was initially concerned because the filming wrapped up about 18 months ago and he believes his talent has improved since then and wondered what the camera would pick up in his dancing.
At the time, he said he was nervous and recalled that during the bank dance scene Parton was watching from a corner as he tried to do his best on all the takes and “not mess up in front of Dolly Parton.”
The rehearsals for the dancers began in late May, with shooting starting in late June and finishing up in late July, a period with markedly un-Christmaslike conditions of Atlanta.
HOW DID BLEVINS GET STARTED AND PROGRESS IN DANCE?
“My performance career started when I was 12 years old. I danced in a musical directed by my half-brother, Michael Blevins. Michael brought over his own musical, ‘Count to Ten,’ the summer before, which sparked my interest in tap dance,” Blevins said in an email.
“Following my musical debut, I started dancing at Holloway Dance School, where I began taking classes in tap, hip hop, contemporary, jazz and ballet. As I grew up, I had the opportunity to star in Intercity Ballet’s ‘The Nutcracker,’ where I played the role of Fritz and later performed the role of ‘Russian.’ ”
He attended Johnson Elementary, Robinson Middle and graduated from D-B. After high school, Blevins took classes for a year at Northeast State Community College before moving to Nashville in 2016 to pursue a professional dance career.
“There I was blessed with opportunities to dance with artists like Toby Mac, Waka Flocka, Thomas Rhett and Luke Bryan,” Blevins wrote.
He has lived in Atlanta since 2018 and has worked on the CW’s “Legacies”, Fox’s “Empire” and National Geographic’s “Genius.”