The Secret Garden was the first children’s ballet performed by the Tennessee Youth Ballet, then Mountain Laurel Studios, 20 years ago.
Many adults are participating to make the community performance a success. With a passion for the dance partnership of their youth, Heather Wilcoxon Hayes returns to the role of Lily, with Ryan Cook as her partner in the role of Archibald Craven. Don Markham will perform as Neville Craven, Archibald’s brother and archenemy. Bill Herron, as Ben Weatherstaff, dances with the garden flowers to keep them abloom.
Heidi Longwith, director of the Tennessee Youth Ballet, said she is especially excited about this milestone performance and production.
“We’ve got people coming from the very first performance and people returning who performed with us the second time we performed it,” she said. “This will be our third time. This will be encouraging to the children. We try hard to turn out a very good product in dance. So we’re hoping the community will come out and support the arts.”
The Secret Garden tells the story of 10-year-old Mary Lennox, who awakens one morning in India to discover her parents and all the surrounding compound of English residents have been killed by a cholera epidemic. Soon she is swept along, without explanation, to her uncle’s gloomy mansion in Yorkshire to be raised by strangers. Her only possession is a cameo picture of her Aunt Lily, her uncle’s wife.
In Yorkshire she finds her uncle so distracted by Lily’s death, 10 years earlier, that he can barely remember Mary is now living under his roof. Spoiled, unruly, and left to wander the gardens and take care of herself, Mary nonetheless befriends a servant girl, Martha, her brother, Dicken, and the estates head gardener, Ben Weatherstaff. But none of them will tell her the truth about the mysterious locked garden behind the estate, nor will they shed any light on Mary’s persistent claim that every night she hears someone in the house crying pitiably behind some unopened door.
As Mary takes the situation into her own hands, her personality undergoes a transformation. She discovers first the long-lost key to the secret garden, and then her equally neglected cousin Colin, who has been bedridden since birth. With the help of Dicken, Martha, and Ben, they untangle the secret of Colin’s birth as well as his mother Lily’s death, and together they nurse the long shut-away garden to full bloom again.
After the Secret Garden a separate act, titled “Memphis,” featuring jazz and tap choreography, will be presented. The competition dance team will also shine as it presents its award-winning choreography in this act.
“I always say if you’re good, you’ll be good anywhere,” Longwith commented. “We have students who are performing in this (The Secret Garden) who are going to the Joffrey Summer Intensive, the Ballet Magnificat and the National Ballet Summer Intensive. It’s just reaffirming to me that we keep turning out quality students.”
Tickets may be purchased at the Tennessee Youth Ballet, located in the Village Green Town Center, Monday through Thursday from 3:30 to 7:30 p.m. or at the door on the day of performance.
For more information, please call 476-3030.