‘The Secret Garden’ team prepares for ballet debut

CEDAR CITY – Soon the public will have the chance to see what members of Cedar City Junior Ballet have been working on since September. CCJB’s brand new production of The Secret Garden comes to the stage March 16 and 17 at 7:30 p.m. at the Heritage Center Theatre, 105 N. 100 East, Cedar City. Tickets are available for purchase at the Heritage Center ticket office (435-865-2882) as well as through company members.

“Years ago, I told myself The Secret Garden needs to be a ballet,” said Christine Mills, director and CCJB founder. “This is first original ballet I’ve ever done and every day I wonder if everything will come together on time. But then I see the beautiful moments at rehearsal that make me realize what an amazing experience is in store for the cast and audience.”

The choreography is completely new, based on the novel, as well as film and stage adaptations. It is set to lovely orchestral and solo piano music with an old English feel, chosen by Mills to tell the story of a young orphan girl who is sent to live with her uncle and her discovery of a garden long since forgotten.

Cast member Laura Nelson dances the lead role of the orphan girl Mary Lennox. At age 10 she is no stranger to the dance world. “I’ve been doing ballet since I was three,” says Laura. “My favorite part of being in this ballet is learning all the new dances and spending time with the other dancers. Dancing ballet just makes me so happy!”

Other roles in The Secret Garden are performed by dancers and actors, ages three to adult. While some characters are from the household in which Mary lives, many others are animals and insects, flowers of the garden, and variations of the seasons.

Michael Harding plays the role of the old gardener, Ben Weatherstaff. Michael is a CCJB board member, stage actor with the Utah Shakespeare Festival, and chair of the theater department at Dixie State University. He laughs when asked about being in a ballet. “I am not a dancer, but I have loved the opportunity to learn about dance.” He expressed his enjoyment of the rehearsal process and how well The Secret Garden is coming together. “This has been a totally worthwhile experience, helping to bring to life the world that the director envisioned. Everyone should come see this charming show.”

It is not only the individuals on stage that are preparing. Lise Mills, CCJB artistic director, and many parents of dancers and community members are helping to create the hundreds of costumes that are integral to the performance. The technical aspects are being handled by professional theatre technicians. Donna Ruzika, lighting designer for the Utah Shakespeare Festival, will design the lighting; Ben Hohman and Marielle Boneau, both of the properties department of the Utah Shakespeare Festival, have designed the set and props; and Jodi Brewer, Utah Shakespeare Festival’s company manager, is stage manager.

Cedar City Junior Ballet is Cedar City’s only classical ballet company designed to involve community talent of all ages. Past full-length productions include The Sleeping Beauty, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Coppelia, and Cinderella. It is funded, in part, by Cedar City RAP tax and generous donations. For more information, visit facebook.com/cedarcityjuniorballet, email cedarcityjuniorballet@gmail.com, or call 435-867-4719.

Caption: Laura Nelson, center, dances the role of Mary Lennox in “The Secret Garden” with the Cedar City Junior Ballet company.



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