A stranger introduced dancer Ron Jones to the works of author C.S. Lewis by leaving a copy of A Horse And His Boy on a studio window ledge about 20 years ago.
Mr. Jones had never heard of the Oxford professor before he picked up the book, part of The Chronicles of Narnia, but it fascinated him. He eventually collected the rest of The Chronicles, including The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, a whimsical tale of the Christ-like lion, Aslan.
Mr. Jones remembered Aslan about 13 years ago when he and his wife, Kathleen, were looking for a recital theme for the dancing school they founded, Augusta Dance Theater. The Joneses and their school will present The Roar of Love at Bell Auditorium at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, May 15.
The title comes from an album with the same name by Christian artists The Second Chapter of Acts. The songs help tell the story but the Joneses also add characters and music each year. The students "need more of a challenge" because they get stronger and more skilled each season, he said.
The ballet tells of a little girl, Lucy, who plays a rainy-day game of hide-and-seek with her brothers Peter and Edward and sister, Susan. Lucy slips inside an old wardrobe but discovers it is a passage to a secret world, Narnia, a place bound by snow and ice yet filled with talking animals and fauns, witches and fairies.
There is a legend in Narnia that "two sons of Adam and two daughters of Eve" will someday come to reign in the land but first it must be freed from the wicked White Witch, the enemy of Aslan.
When Mr. Jones first read Lewis' work he noticed the Christian symbolism. The symbolism lends itself to lots of connections which make it more stimulating, but "we use it in a way that makes sense for ballet," he said.
It is also a good story -- and that makes it more attractive, he said. "People don't want to be preached at." C.S. Lewis was an atheist until the age of 31 when he became a Christian.
The ballet is a good vehicle for a large troupe with different ages and abilities like Augusta Ballet Theater's.
The Joneses made some accommodations for their mostly-female dance company. In the book, mice free Aslan's body by gnawing away some robes. "Little boys might like to do that -- to be mice and chew at the ropes -- but little girls don't," said Mr. Jones.
So they created a different approach. Very young dancers, dressed as fireflies and carrying lights, surround the dead lion to "give Aslan light," he said.
Children are drawn to the noble character of Aslan. The ballet production gives them something very valuable, he said. It prepares them emotionally and physically as well as feeds their spirits. "They enjoy doing it," said Mr. Jones.
He committed his life to Christ in a Hawaii mission church at the age of 12. "It wasn't that they followed this method or that -- I really felt that I had come to meet Jesus Christ," he said.
After a while, however, faith can seem distant. But working with The Roar of Love brings him back, he said. "There is a way I am able to renew (my faith) and find that, (God has) always been there, where I have been."
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