The Hiding Place ballet


NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Tuesday, December 11th. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day. Good morning. I’m Nick Eicher.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. Coming next on The World and Everything in It: a story that’s rooted in World War II Europe. 

Adolf Hitler sent more than 100,000 Dutch Jews to concentration camps as part of his “Final Solution.” The majority of them never returned.

EICHER: Jews in The Netherlands weren’t without friends though.

At great personal risk, one family sheltered many Jewish neighbors. In the end, the ten Booms were discovered and persecuted. In 1971, Corrie ten Boom touched millions of lives through her best-selling autobiography: The Hiding Place.

REICHARD: It’s been almost 50 years, and the story has been adapted for theater, for film, for radio. The Hiding Place was even a comic book and a musical.

But a few years ago a professional dance company turned it into a ballet. Not easy to do. WORLD Radio’s Kim Henderson has the story.

AUDIO: [Ballet class instruction]

KIM HENDERSON, REPORTER: Jiri Voborsky is a Czech-born, professionally-trained dancer and choreographer. He spent a year turning The Hiding Place into a ballet.  

VOBORSKY: Here at Ballet Magnificat we look for creative ways to make the message of God’s love clear to the audience. Sometimes we look into the lives of Christians who have lived lives set apart for…the glory of God.

Christians like Corrie ten Boom.

Although Voborsky has nearly 30 years of experience, translating the 240-page book into a two-hour ballet was challenging in many ways. First, he had to depict the key locations ten Boom described in her book.

AUDIO: [Ballet practice]

VOBORSKY: On stage you are limited to somebody sitting in one chair, and they are looking at one space and you have to make that space kind of fluid, meaning you go from one scene, we are outside and next minute you are inside these kinds of things.

Another challenge facing Voborsky was choreography. His design had to convey the complexity and intensity of the Holocaust.  

VOBORSKY: Classical ballet, has a very, restricted vocabulary. So in order for us to portray something that’s, or something as dramatic as Hiding Place is, we have to tap into other dance forms.

One way Voborsky overcomes this limitation is pantomime—a theatrical art that represents ideas through exaggerated movements. Voborsky studied mime as a ballet student in his native country. The technique enables dancers to portray emotions like joy or surprise.

VOBORSKY: Through a small movement of the head or movement of the arm or the expansion of the chest and kind of allowing the audience to immediately (clap) understand she is in pain. He is, in turmoil kind of thing and connect right away with the dancer in a much deeper way than just watching a simple classical move.

In addition to these technical challenges, Voborsky had to capture the essence of a story through dance that words on a page hardly do justice. He began by carefully selecting which scenes to portray: places like the streets of Haarlem, Corrie ten Boom’s bedroom, and Ravensbruck Concentration Camp. Then, he had to get inside the main characters and create the storyline—weaving their lives together in motion.

VOBORSKY: I love the challenge of, you know, taking the audience on a ride of not only experiencing what the ten Booms we’re experiencing, but also being on the side of seeing what the Jews were experiencing. And then next moment you’re seeing how the fraulein, the main Nazi in our story, how she received this invitation to join the Nazi movement.

AUDIO: [Ballet practice]

All the work to bring the story to the stage paid off earlier this year when the group performed in Dresden, Germany. Audio here from a video recording of the Poland performance.

AUDIO: [Sound of Poland performance]

Voborsky says there wasn’t a single round of applause until the end of the show. Then the crowd gave them a standing ovation. Afterward, many in the audience stayed to speak with the troop. Voborsky recalls what they told him.

VOBORSKY: Our, fathers and grandfathers were forced often to join the Nazi movement and, and, and do things that they would have never imagined themselves doing. Um, and so it’s important for us to be watching this story and seeing the forgiveness that Corrie ten Boom extended to a German and receive it as forgiveness God is extending us as a nation.

During its European tour, Ballet Magnificat’s Omega Company also performed The Hiding Place near a former concentration camp.

VOBORSKY: We had an unbelievable honor and privilege of taking the story of Hiding Place to Auschwitz, Poland. And we were invited by the city council to perform this ballet, uh, I would say about a mile-and-a-half away from, the former concentration camp in Auschwitz, Birkenau.

Ten Boom’s story is personal to Voborsky. He grew up under communism and knows firsthand what it’s like to live under an authoritarian regime. He wanted the ballet to contrast Christian compassion with Nazi ideology.

VOBORSKY: The Nazis believed there’s only one way forward. And if you don’t line up or fall into that category, then you are automatically disqualified. The ten Booms believed that, uh, we are all created equal, in the image of our God. And so, they had this drive in their hearts to extend that compassion of Jesus to those who are most oppressed.

Voborsky believes God can use many things to change lives and reach people for Christ. Even a ballet performance.

VOBORSKY: The Lord is able to reach deep, deep down into every soul that’s sitting in that crowd and meet exactly the very need that they have brought in that night into the theater.

AUDIO: [Sound of Poland performance]

VOBORSKY: Corrie ten Boom never dreamed that her story would be told as a ballet. But we’re just so honored to be able to do that.

For WORLD Radio, I’m Kim Henderson reporting from Jackson, Mississippi.


(Photo/Ballet Magnificat)

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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