BALLET X: THE LITTLE PRINCE
October 4, 2019
The Little Prince is a strange, wondrous and beloved classic, and Ballet X has commissioned Annabelle Lopez Ochoa to tell this simple yet multi-layered story through dance. The production was beautifully crafted and performed, and it captured the melancholy and sadness of the story. Yet something essential – seeing truth through an innocent’s eye – was somehow lost.
Lopez Ochoa wrote a brisk scenario that elevated the Snake character (which represents Death) to a master of ceremonies that appears throughout ballet. Danced by the brilliant Stanley Glover, his slinky, lurking movements in a glittery black unitard showcased his long, elastic physique and the androgynous beauty of his dancing. Yet the somewhat discomfiting sensuality and showmanship of his persona took some getting used to: wearing a bowler hat and spinning a cane, Glover’s smooth, silky, sometimes humorous presence was at times oddly reminiscent of Joel Grey in Cabaret.
The Little Prince was danced with dexterity and lightness by Roderick Phifer, and in each scene where he meets a “narrow-minded adult” it’s clear who is the disturbing the peace. These all work to an extent as characters, but the speed of each interaction makes it challenging to absorb each lesson: most importantly, looking beneath the surface and realizing the uniqueness of each being. Harder still was getting used to the Little Prince sporting shiny yellow spandex shorts and a real moustache. Phifer is black, but it wasn’t color or age that put his look so at odds with the innocent child at the heart of the story – it was the facial hair.
The imaginative, all-white set design by Matt Saunders conjured a different world – square white boxes, some placed inside each other, evoked rose petals, or were stacked to create the illusion of a landscape. A flat, puzzle-plane in pieces is eventually and magically put together for the Pilot’s escape. Ballet X’s wonderful dancers in white danced the gorgeous choreographic transitions from one scene to the next, sometimes holding aloft long sticks with colorful birds or stars that flew as the dancers jete-ed across the stage. The costumes, for the most part, were imaginative and well-executed by designer Danielle Truss, assisted by Martha Chamberlain. The computer-generated music was an eclectic mix of ocean sounds, carnival sounds, harmonica strains, ominous moments, bird sounds, even sheep bleating, played live by composer Peter Salem. Sometimes the dancers would speak, “Who are you? Where are you?” The Pilot, danced with pathos and tenderness by Zachary Kapeluck, eventually finds an answer, having absorbed the biggest lesson of all from the dying Little Prince: “look at the stars to remember me.”
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY ---Nicole Duffy Robertson