Ballet, it's safe to say, isn't the ideal medium for telling a story.
Even though ballets traditionally have story lines, they're usually almost impossible to follow, especially for people who aren't seasoned ballet attendees.
So when Will Tuckett undertook to adapt "The Secret Garden," he wanted to find a way to make the classic story come to life, even for people who had never read the novel or had never been to a ballet.
"We wanted people to be able to follow the story without constantly looking down at their programs," Tuckett said. "So we have a narrator. The narrator is the first person you see on stage, so for the first few minutes you think you're at a show, in quotes, rather than a ballet."
Tuckett's new ballet leads off the Sarasota Ballet season this weekend. It's scheduled for five performances beginning Friday at the FSU Center for Performing Arts.
It's actually the second staging of the work, which Tuckett both choreographed and directed. The Sarasota Ballet presented it over the summer to great reviews and audience response. This new staging is essentially the same as that one, though Tuckett said he had made some small fixes.
Besides Tuckett's choreography, the production also features a score by Jeremy Holland-Smith, period costumes by Tim Meacock and sets and puppets by Toby Olie.
The ballet is, of course, and adaptation of Frances Hodgson's Burnett's 1910 tale of a sickly and neglected girl who is sent to live with her uncle in the English countryside. She soon discovers a secret garden and a young boy who has been locked in a room of the house.
Through playing in the garden, she quickly recovers her health. The boy who had been locked away soon begins to thrive as well.
"I think what's lovely is that it was written by one of the early adherents of Christian Science," Tuckett said. "So it has these themes about the healing power of nature."
The story seems at first, he said, as a typically ominous "big, dark house" story that has been popular since the Victorian area and up through countless supernatural films and murder mysteries.
"The difference is that everything works out in the end," Tuckett said.
The girl's family is divided, selfish and bitter when the ballet begins, but the children help bring them together.
"The first act is about the children healing," Tuckett said. "The second act is about the adults healing. They learn to put aside the things that had divided them."
Even though the production includes a strong element of traditional storytelling, Tuckett said. It's real ballet that's beautiful for the audience and technically demanding for the dancers.
One of the challenges for Tuckett was to create a work that would appeal to both young people, for whom the book was written, and for adults, who grew up with the book.
"I hadn't realized how many people held the book in very high regard," Tuckett said.
Details: Oct. 24-26, FSU Center for Performing Arts, 5555 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. Show times: 7:30 p.m. Friday, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Tickets: $35-$105. Information: 941-349-0099 ext. 101, sarasotaballet.org.
Marty Clear, features writer/columnist, can be reached at 941-708-7919. Follow twitter.com/martinclear.