What if the Little Prince wasn’t lost alone on his little red planet, but rather joined us on our big blue one? That’s the question the Grands Ballets Canadiens ask with their otherworldly latest production…
It’s a simple conceptual flip of the classic book by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry but one that got choreographer Didy Veldman excited about interpreting it to the stage. On until May 12 at the Place des Arts, in the heart of Montreal, the Grands Ballets Canadiens’ production of The Little Prince is ballet at its best: narrative, stunning, but thought provoking as well.
“I thought it was such a beautiful life journey,” says the Dutch-born Veldman of the book, which she read for the first time in her early 20s. (Veldman is a regular with the Grands Ballets Canadiens: you’ll remember her as the mind behind the inventive TooT and Tender Hooks.) “Then I thought, ‘What would it be like if I looked at it from the perspective of the prince, finding out what our world is like?’”
Contrary to Veldman’s usual choreographic style, which is filled with humour, this work is poetic and existential – appropriately so. “There are moments of humour, but I haven’t looked for them in this one,” she says. The dance pits the soloist, the Little Prince, against 27 other members of the company that represent the crowd, otherness, alien-ness – those forces that always leaves the prince feeling isolated in his own world.
The stage design by Kimie Nakano is ingenious in enhancing this sense of overwhelming mass: the use of a stage-sized mirror doubles up the engulfing throng while giving viewers an amazing perspective on the movement. It’s such a treat to see two angles at once.
“The set and costumes are very minimal,” explains Veldman, in reflection of that vastness that pours out of the book. The stage does indeed remain very open, but that isn’t to say that it’s empty – shimmery fabrics and robotic hats animate it with bursts of whimsy. It takes masses of inspiration to make a story come so alive.
The Little Prince, until May 12, 2012
Théâtre Maisonneuve, 175 Sainte-Catherine Street West, (514) 842-2112
Isa Tousignant is contributing editor for Canadian Art, Montreal correspondent for Akimbo, and a freelance writer on art, culture, travel, design and shoes for everyone from enRoute to Canadian Business to herself.
Photo: Jean-Laurent Ratel