Holocaust story retold through ballet

Corrie ten Boom’s story of her family’s experiences before and during their imprisonment in a Nazi concentration camp during World War II was first told in a book, “The Hiding Place,” published in 1971. Four years later, a film version with the same title was released. In 2006, Jiri Sebastian Voborsky, resident choreographer at Ballet Magnificat, adapted the story and interpreted it in dance.

The company will present the ballet at 7 p.m. March 5 and 6 at Edison Theatre at Washington University, 6445 Forsyth Boulevard. “This young choreographer from the Czech Republic decided to put the story to ballet,” said Keith Thibodeaux, executive director of the company. “He grew up under a Communist regime, which gave him an awareness of totalitarianism, and he wanted to tell this story.”


Founded in 1986, Ballet Magnificat is a religious dance company based in Jackson, Miss., which performs nationally and internationally. The company describes “The Hiding Place” as “a portrayal of divinely inspired forgiveness in the midst of desperate and unimaginable circumstances.”

As in life and on film, in the dance sisters Corrie and Betsie ten Boom hide Jewish neighbors and friends behind a wall of their home in Dutch Haarlem in 1944. When the hiding place is discovered, the sisters are arrested and taken to Ravensbr ück, where they face great struggles.

“This is a heroic story, with drama, passion, pain and ultimately hope,” said Thibodeaux. “Because of their faith in Jesus, Corrie ten Boom and her sister had great compassion for Jewish people, and that’s why they hid them during World War II. Years later, because she was such a strong Christian, Corrie was able to forgive — and even pray with — one of the former camp officers at Ravensbr ück, a particularly nasty fellow.”

In 1967, Israel honored ten Boom as one of the “Righteous Among the Nations” for helping Jews escape the Nazis.

“It’s really an honor to be able to do this show,” said Erin Beaver, tour manager for Ballet Magnificat. She said that while on tour in Canada, the company met a woman related to ten Boom. “She was so happy to see this story portrayed on stage,” said Beaver, who has been with the company for 11 years. “On the road in Europe and Israel, we have come in contact with many people who were imprisoned at Ravensbr ück.”

Beaver and Thibodeaux both emphasized that “The Hiding Place” is a story of hope. “We always get good feedback,” said Beaver. “People thank us for performing the dance so the story will be not forgotten. In my own life, the story speaks to me. It has challenged me and encouraged me to remember that even when our lives don’t turn out the way we expect, we can be hopeful in times of difficulty and suffering.”

Thibodeaux’s wife, Kathy, founded Ballet Magnificat and serves as its artistic director. She studied under American Ballet Theater’s Albia Kavan and Rex Cooper at the Jackson Ballet School. She became one of the Jackson Ballet Company’s (later Ballet Mississippi) first contracted dancers in 1978, dancing as principal until 1986. In 1982, she won a silver medal at the U.S.A./International Ballet Competition. Today, her company has a school and training program for dancers that attracts more than 300 students each year.

Keith Thibodeaux comes from the music world. He also has written a book, “Life After Lucy: The True Story of ‘I Love Lucy’s’ Little Ricky,” published in 1994. From the ages of five through nine, Thibodeaux played that role – the drum playing son of Lucy and Ricky Ricardo on the popular television show “I Love Lucy.”

“That was a long time ago,” said Thibodeaux, laughing. “Can you believe Little Ricky is now 59?”

The Hiding Place

What: Ballet Magnificat’s version of a true story about two sisters in Dutch Haarlem in 1944 as they struggle to help their Jewish neighbors.

When: 7 p.m. March 5 and 6

Where: Edison Theatre at Washington University, 6445 Forsyth Boulevard

How much: $18 in advance; $20 at the door

Tickets: Edison Theatre Box Office (314-935-6543), MetroTix (314-534-1111) or www.metrotix.com

More info: www.balletmagnificat.com