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Release: Immediate

Oakland Ballet dances family classic 'The Secret Garden' March 2 at UI

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The Oakland Ballet will perform "The Secret Garden," a new, full-length ballet adapted from the Frances Hodgson Burnett family literary classic, at

3 p.m. Sunday, March 2, in Hancher Auditorium on the University of Iowa campus. The performance is part of Hancher's 1996-97 Iowa City Press Citizen Family Dance Series.

Choreographer Ronn Guidi, the founding artistic director of the Oakland Ballet, chose to set this story of hope and healing to the orchestral and chamber music of Sir Edward Elgar. The haunting and nostalgic works of Elgar evoke England's turn-of-the-century Victorian and Edwardian eras and the lonely Yorkshire landscape where Hodgson's 1909 novel takes place.

"The Secret Garden," which has also been the source of recent Broadway and film adaptations, is the story of a neglected garden that returns to life under the stewardship of two children. As the household's history of death and emotional abandonment come to light, the garden takes on a restorative role as it reunites the family members.

Guidi's stated hope is that parents will share with their children this story's metaphor of the hidden garden's return to full bloom as an affirmation of living life to the fullest.

He has written: "As a child 'The Secret Garden' held a particular fascination for me -- the mystery that hung about Mary's parents' death, her departure from India with its exotic gods, and her arrival at the desolate mansion of her distant uncle in England. And there is the magic -- of belief, of nature, of transformation -- a secret garden which held both the tragedy of death and the miracle of life."

Dance critic Judith Green, an alumna of the UI, wrote in the San Francisco Examiner, "All praise to Oakland Ballet for its lovely production of 'The Secret Garden.' It's a significant addition to the limited lineup of full-length story ballets." The San Francisco Chronicle called the ballet "both charming and moving."

Guidi founded the Oakland Ballet in 1965 as the artistic descendent of the legendary Ballets Russes, drawing directly on the lineage of the Diaghilev era. Now one of the West's major ballet companies, the Oakland Ballet has gained international recognition for its meticulous constructions of the Ballets Russes repertory, as well as the creation and presentation of innovative contemporary choreography.

(more) 2/14/97

The company prides itself on having ballets with strong narrative character and direct emotional impact.

The San Francisco Chronicle described the Oakland Ballet as a combination of "affection and respect, memory and imagination, a true link with the past and a spectacular company at the height of its powers . . . The result was modern ballet in all its youthful glory."

And the New York Times concluded, "The breadth of its repertory and the dramatic flair of its dancers help makes the Oakland Ballet one of America's most interesting companies."

Tickets for "The Secret Garden" are $24, $20 and $18. UI students and senior citizens qualify for a 20-percent discount, with Zone 3 tickets available to UI students for $10. Tickets for audience members 17 and younger are half price.

Tickets are also available at a substantial discount as part of the Iowa City Press Citizen Family Dance Series. The other event in the series is the Washington Ballet production of "Hansel and Gretel" at 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, April 12 and 13.

Hancher box office hours are 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. weekdays, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday and 1-3 p.m. Sunday. From the local calling area or outside Iowa, dial (319) 335-1160. Long distance within Iowa and western Illinois is toll-free, 1-800-HANCHER. Fax to

(319) 353-2284. Orders may be charged to VISA, MasterCard or American Express. UI students may charge their purchases to their university bills, and UI faculty and staff may select the option of payroll deduction.

People with special needs for access, seating and auxiliary services should dial (319) 335-1158. This number will be answered by box office personnel prepared to offer assistance with handicapped parking, wheelchair access and seating, hearing augmentation and other services. The line is equipped with TDD for people with hearing impairment who use that technology.

Further information about this event and the Family Dance Series are available on Hancher's World Wide Web homepage, at <>.

The Iowa City Press Citizen is the corporate sponsor of Hancher's 1996-97 Family Dance Series through the University of Iowa Foundation.