Briarwood Ballet offers free performance of “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe”

By LINDA LONG/Special to the Reporter

A 30-plus year tradition continues May 10 and 11 when Briarwood Ballet presents its annual spring performance.

This year’s production is an adaption of C.S. Lewis’ “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.” Young dancers from the third grade through senior high school will participate in what Director Peggy Barker Townes calls “a phenomenal production.”

Townes should know as she has been associated with Briarwood Ballet her whole life.

“Mama started the program over 30 years ago,” she said.

“Mama” is Barbara Barker, the school’s founder and driving force, a former professional dancer who according to her daughter “met and fell in love with the preacher of a tiny, little church in Cahaba Heights.”

Of course that tiny church has evolved into what is now the multifaceted Briarwood complex, including two schools, one located in Shelby County. The church also offers a host of ministries, including one of the largest ballet schools around.

“Mama had the vision of not only sharing biblical truths through ballet but also teaching young girls that they were created by God and that dance is an art that can be used in a way to glorify God,” said Townes. “Her vision was to write and present storybook ballets.”

According to Townes, this year’s production of “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” is actually a reprisal of one of the very first stor book ballets her mother ever wrote and presented at the school. Townes said for the first time in over 35 years, her mother she has stepped down and is not actually in charge of the spring production.

Those reins have been turned over to Townes and Kenn Tolle, artistic director.

“I think this year represents stepping up to the next level,” said Townes. “Its building on what we have always done, combining Mama’s artistic vision and Ken’s creative genius.”

“Like any great story, this story it can absolutely be understood by a child, yet grasped by an adult in a whole different dimension because it is an allegory,” Townes added. “The characters, plots, scenery, every bit of it are absolutely symbolic. It is at the same time a simple beautiful story about a mighty lion who allows himself to be muzzled, shaven and murdered by a wicked witch in order to save a young boy. But, this mighty lion actually comes back to life and a great battle occurs.”

Performances are Friday, May 10 at 7 p.m. and Saturday May 11 at 2:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. at the Barbara B. Barker Auditorium at Briarwood High School, 6255 Cahaba Valley Road, Birmingham. Admission is free. Doors open 30 minutes before curtain.