C.S. Lewis’ ‘Narnia’ comes to life in local ballet

| Bridget Ryder for The Catholic Spirit | May 1, 2015 | 0 Comments
Dancers in a scene from “Narnia: The Ballet”, a production of the Twin Cities Ballet of Minnesota, debuting at Ames Center in Burnsville May 8-10. Courtesy the Twin Cities Ballet of Minnesota.

Dancers in a scene from “Narnia: The Ballet”, a production of the Twin Cities Ballet of Minnesota, debuting at Ames Center in Burnsville May 8-10. Courtesy the Twin Cities Ballet of Minnesota.

A local ballet company is bringing C.S. Lewis’ beloved children’s story “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” to life in an original production.

“Narnia: The Ballet” will debut May 8-10 at the Ames Center in Burnsville.

Denise and Rick Vogt, co-artistic directors and founders of the Twin Cities Ballet of Minnesota, adapted the magical tale of three children who find a wardrobe that is a portal to another world.

The performance features more than 90 dancers, with the ballet company’s professional dancers playing the principal roles and the students dancing smaller roles.

“I’m always looking for new things to create for these beautiful dancers,” Denise said.

This is the fifth story ballet she has written and produced. Past productions include “The Wizard of Oz,” “Beauty and the Beast” and “Cinderella: 1944.” As far as she knows, this is the first balletic interpretation of “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.”

“The story really lends itself to balletic interpretation,” Rick said. “There are so many different creatures, sets, scenes and worlds to let the magic play itself out and the fantasy part, too.”

Bringing fantasy to life

The story opens in London’s Liverpool Street train station where the four child protagonists — Peter, Susie, Edmund and Lucy — are being evacuated to escape World War II violence.

“The first minute is in slow motion,” Denise said. “I wanted really to set the scene and the characters, and then it goes straight into story.”

On their way to their temporary home with a professor, the children pass by a group of “land girls,” young women from cities who worked the fields while the men were at war. The children stop to help, and the interaction breaks into dance. Once at their new home, magic starts to happen.

The story is told through the eyes and imagination of Lucy, who finds the professor’s house a place of surreal experiences. As she and her siblings explore the house, they find a painting of a field of poppies. Lucy falls behind and the poppies come out of the painting to dance with her. In another room, a suit of armor comes to life. Lucy is also the first to find the wardrobe that leads to Narnia. There she meets hedgehogs, bunnies, robins and a whole cast of creatures. Edmund, too, finds the wardrobe, but he meets the White Witch, who has Narnia under her spell, accompanied by her entourage of evil creatures.

The Vogts use imaginative characters and costumes, such as the wolf-icorn — a half unicorn, half wolf creature loyal to the White Witch — to bring the fantasy of the novel to the stage. To capture the sudden change of worlds when the children enter Narnia, the stage goes from black to white. Other small adaptions explain the story through dance.

“In the book, the White Witch turns people to stone, which doesn’t lend itself much to dance,” Rick said. “So in the ballet, she captures them in enchanted webs where they can push and move and express their trappedness.”

The Vogts also wanted to remain true to the Christian themes of good overcoming evil and resurrection following sacrifice. The ballet culminates with a battle scene and Aslan the lion being lifted by the other dancers.

The Vogts said the ballet is family-friendly and perfect for Mother’s Day.

“Part of our mission is to make productions that are approachable and accessible, so the audience can understand it,” Rick said.

The program also provides an act-by-act synopsis, so the audience can easily keep up with the action. The score is a compilation of music that Denise arranged.


‘Narnia: The Ballet’

May 8-10 at the Ames Center, 12600 Nicollet Ave., Burnsville

  • May 8 – 7 p.m.
  • May 9 – 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.
  • May 10 – 2 p.m.

Tickets are available through Ticketmaster or at the Ames Center box office. Discounts are available for groups.

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Category: Faith and Culture, Featured