One of the best known tales from children's literature gets a unique treatment this weekend with "Narnian Excerpts," a dance presentation based on the series of books by C.S. Lewis.
Lewis' so-called Chronicles of Narnia, a seven-part children's fantasy series, has been adapted for stage, radio, television and film, but the local ballet company Dancing for Joy wanted to tell the classic stories with movement and music.
""We're taking the audience on a journey through all of his books," said Maluhia Vander Griend, artistic director.
She and her husband, Kurt Vander Griend, own and operate Dancing for Joy studio in the Irongate area of Bellingham.
"We're including all the classic characters," she said, including Mr. Tumnus the faun; Lucy, the inquisitive little girl; and Aslan the talking lion.
Vander Griend said many of her students knew of the novels only through the recent trio of blockbuster movies. She said they've grown to love the entire series, in which Lewis - a noted Christian theologian - created a magical world of creatures and themes borrowed from Greco-Roman mythology, British and Irish fairy tales, and the Bible.
"It's got a lot of the families picking up all the books," she said.
"Narnian Excerpts" is a series of original dances that describe key parts of the stories, from "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" to "The Last Battle" - although Narnia purists will note that the sixth book, "The Magician's Nephew," is a prequel that takes place before Lucy and her siblings discover a passage to the magical world through a clothes closet in an English country mansion.
Dances dramatize the creation of Narnia, the rise of the White Witch, and the resultant battle waged between good and evil, Vander Griend said.
More than 500 people have been involved in the production, from choreography to costuming and building and painting the sets, she said.
Her husband painted a backdrop for the stage that's reminiscent of Pauline Bayne's illustrations for the Narnia books that were published from 1950 to 1956.
"It was exhilarating to see the vision of your childhood coming alive," she said.
Also at the weekend performances, Dancing for Joy will collect donations to fund a clean water source in Ethiopia as part of a service project through Evangeline International. Vander Griend said they're about $400 away from the goal of $4,200.
"Narnian Excerpts" is presented at 6:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, June 16 and 17, on the main stage at Mount Baker Theatre, 104 N. Commercial St.
Tickets are $12 and $15. For more information, call 360-733-5793 or see mountbakertheatre.com.
For more information about Dancing for Joy's classes, call 360-715-0900 or see dancing4joy.org.