For over a hundred years, children have dreamed of sharing the adventures of an enchanting boy named Peter Pan and his mischievous sidekick, Tinkerbell, just like the three fortunate children that learn to fly in the famous tale. Saint Augustine Ballet has captured the magic and raucous delight of the fabled story in a ballet that combines innocent beauty and natural grace with a wild, untethered exuberance fit for boys and girls (and grown-ups) of all ages.
But few people are aware that the legendary story is associated with a long history of generosity toward children less fortunate than Peter Pan’s Wendy, John and Michael. In his will, author J. M. Barrie left all future royalties from Peter Pan to London’s Great Ormand Street Hospital for Children. In the Hollywood portrayal of Barrie’s life, Finding Neverland, the author also saved several rows of seats for the young patients of the hospital at the opening night performance of what is now known simply as Peter Pan.
The Saint Augustine Ballet will be honoring this spirit in similar fashion at their upcoming performances of The Ballet of Peter Pan on Saturday, May 14th and Sunday, May 15th at Lewis Auditorium at Flagler College. The nonprofit dance organization has set aside a block of seats to accommodate a group of very special guests: the children who live at St Augustine Youth Services, a nonprofit therapeutic residential group home for boys, ages 6-18, who are victims of severe abuse and/or neglect.
“As soon as we learned about the boys at St Augustine Youth Services, we knew we wanted to share The Ballet of Peter Pan with them,” explained Luis Abella, Artistic Director of Saint Augustine Ballet. A former professional dancer with the Cuban National Ballet and Minnesota Ballet, Abella founded the nonprofit Saint Augustine Ballet to provide opportunities for area dance students to perform full-length ballets alongside professional dancers from around the world. “Over the years, we have worked with Chris Stone, Homeless Liaison with the St. Johns County School District, to provide tickets for our homeless families. Expanding this program to include the boys at the St. Augustine Youth Services seemed like the right thing to do.”
Over the past seven years, Saint Augustine Ballet dancers have performed on stage with principal dancers from London’s Royal Ballet, English National Ballet, Pennsylvania Ballet and Carolina Ballet, among many others. Ballet and tap students may audition for their biannual productions regardless of studio affiliation. Abella also owns and teaches at Abella’s School of Dance in St Augustine.
To thrilling music that spans the globe, from classical to Native American, Irish and African rhythms, professional ballet dancers and professional tap dance troupe, Noise Complaint, will join accomplished dancers from twenty area schools to create anew the magical world of Neverland, replete with “Indians… mermaids…. and pirates!!” Daet Rodriguez, professional dancer and artistic director of Georgia Ballet, will dance the role of Peter Pan, and Captain William Mayhem, resident pirate of the St Augustine Pirate Museum, will appear in full regalia as Captain Hook.
“But the heroes in Peter Pan are our student dancers,” Abella explained. “These young dancers bring something authentic to Neverland – something no one else could. It is exciting to watch them achieve it.”
The Ballet of Peter Pan will be performed at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, May 14th, and at 2 p.m. on Sunday, May 15th at Lewis Auditorium at Flagler College, 14 Granada St., St. Augustine, FL. Tickets are $25 and may be purchased online at www.SaintAugustineBallet.com, or by calling (855) 222-2849. They will also be available for purchase at Lewis Auditorium one hour before each performance. Saint Augustine Ballet is a 501(c)3 non-profit performing arts organization.