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Step into Narnia
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One of the most cherished works of 20th century fiction comes to life onstage this weekend, as Savannah Danse Theatre performs The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe at the Lucas Theatre.

Based on the ever-popular Chronicles of Narnia series by C.S. Lewis, the ballet is “about coming into a magical land, Narnia, with beautiful talking creatures -- it’s a make-believe world that’s under the spell of the White Witch,” says SDT Artistic Director Suzanne Braddy.

The book’s larger message -- an allegory of Christ’s resurrection, symbolized by the death and rebirth of the great lion king Aslan -- is part and parcel of the ballet as well.

“It’s intriguing to me because of the symbolism of the Lion of Judah, that represents Christ in the Bible. The Witch in the story is evil and thinks she knows the ‘deep magic’ of the land. But the Lion knows a deeper magic -- that when one gives up his life for another, death begins to work backwards,” Braddy says.

“I feel honored to be able to express something I feel is so truthful, something with a positive message.”

While this will be the third year in a row SDT has performed a version of the story, Braddy is remarkable for her drive to bring a fresh experience for the audience. Each year brings essentially a brand-new performance.

“I got the idea from Ron Jones and his Augusta Ballet performance of The Roar of Love, based on The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,” says Braddy.

“I just fell in love with the story. The first year I adopted his choreography and his music, which had lyrics and narration. Last year I bought the rights to the story so I could name the ballet after the book. This year I added some new music and decided to forego the narration. There are no words. It’s more exciting as a dancer to bring work to life without words or lyrics.”

This year Braddy, with the help of assistant choreographer Elizabeth Ragsdale, has completely produced her own ballet, saying it’s the first where she’s given herself complete creative control and responsibility. Her goal was to bring the book to life as accurately as possible.

“It’s been an exciting challenge. I have spent endless hours searching for the perfect music, drawing and redrawing costumes, seeking the perfect fabric,” she says.

“This show is completely new. The scenery is new, the choreography is new. But the music is really the bottom line -- it’s all in the music. It’s what gives us that sense of another place, it’s what inspires us to dance.”

Braddy has included several Celtic-themed pieces and soundtrack excerpts from Harry Potter films, Finding Neverland and The Passion of the Christ.

Principal dancers in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe include SDT veteran and graduating senior Amber Amick as The White Witch and SDT alumnus Marty Leesch (who will fly in from California just for the performance) as Aslan.

The four children at the heart of the story are Jacob Givens (dancing the role of Peter), Judy Iocovozzi (Lucy), Roxanne Dickinson (Susan) and Blake Seale (Edmund).

“As a dance teacher I enjoy having an impact on a young person’s life,” says Braddy. “I want the children to know they can create anything in life. Ballet gives them an art form -- a way to express themselves that may inspire them in other areas of their lives.”

As usual, Braddy also reserves high praise for the Lucas Theatre, both for its beauty and for its responsive staff.

“The children are so fortunate to be able to perform at the Lucas. It makes us all strive for better productions.”

The Savannah Danse Theatre performs The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe

May 6 at 8 p.m. and May 7 at 2 p.m.

at the Lucas Theatre downtown. Tickets are $22 for adults, $18 for students and seniors, and are available at the SCAD Box Office or by phone at 525-5050. In addition, on May 7 at 8 p.m. at the Lucas, SDT students perform an end-of-season recital, Etudes. Tickets are $22 for adults, $18 for students and seniors, and are available at the SCAD Box Office or by phone at 525-5050.