Le Petit Prince: National Ballet of Canada

Le Petit Prince: National Ballet of Canada

This weekend, I happened to be in Toronto because my father was being honoured at the Fields Institute for Mathematical Sciences and we were all able to come join in the celebration (which was fabulous).  It also happened to be the opening of the National Ballet of Canada‘s Le Petit Prince so I managed to rearrange a few things (thanks to family) and take Isabelle to go see it.

THE LITTLE PRINCE
FOR NATIONAL BALLET OF CANADA, GUILLAUME COTE, MICHAEL LEVINE

Le Petit Prince is a philosphical story that is one of the most well known around the world, and I have to confess that I haven’t read it yet.  I knew the basic idea behind the story and in the program my daughter and I read about the various characters/symbols of the story.  We also picked up a copy of the Le Petit Prince to read together when we got home.  Guillaume Côté, principal with National Ballet of Canada, and choreographer of Le Petit Prince, said himself  “[Le Petit Prince] is more a story about characters and relationships than narratives per se.” So, I wasn’t sure how well Isabelle and I would be able to follow this story that was unfamiliar to us.

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The answer was clear within minutes.  Guillaume Côté‘s Le Petit Prince was incredibly easy to follow.  At times you almost felt that you were watching an animated story with the details of the lighting, the incredible costume design that seemed to transform the dancers into the characters themselves rather than just cloaking dancers in outfits, and titles hand written would appear scrawled across the set to bring even more of the book to life.  I’ve seen images from Le Petit Prince on T shirts, in memes, on postcards, and skimming through the book and there were definite moments on stage where I could see a picture straight out of the book.

This year, I have seen a few contemporary ballets where the stage was transformed from a three sided box with an open “window” into something different and I loved the simple shift in space because the effect on the performance is dramatic.  In Boston Ballet’s Mirrors for their performance of Resonance and then again in Bitches Brew where the wings were simply shifted to the back of the stage these subtle changes break the mold of a traditional stage. In the National Ballet of Canada’s Le Petit Prince, Michael Levine’s set and costume design takes the idea of transforming the stage to another whole level.  The set and costume design is impeccable (barring a tiny prop failure on opening night).  The set could be a movie set; an animated movie set.  It is so transformative and fluid that it seems to have the limitless possibilities that only digital animation traditionally allows. The space felt like another place and was so seamless that one could imagine stepping onto the stage and becoming a part of the story, whisked away from the physical space of the theatre and the dot on the map that is Toronto to an animated world in some other dimension. From the lights that appear in the “sky” to the moving parts that become entrances and exits for the characters in the story, the audience relished every detail.

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