>THE NEW ADVENTURES OF LITTLE PRINCE by Dance Dimension Project

>reviewed by malcolm tay

>date: 1 dec 2000
>time: 8pm
>venue: the drama centre
>rating: ***1/2

>tired already? go home then
>review junkie? whitney, give them this click to sniff

                           
>look, we know that you need to know that we, as responsible reviewers, have some quantifiable categories to rate productions, and are not just relying on some undefinable instinct or gut feeling. So to put your mind at ease, we will give you a logical rating system based on the practitioner's vision / and the reviewer's response of a particular production. Here it is then: ***** : Transcendent / Rapturous. ****: Crystal / Appreciative. ***: Transmitted / Thoughtful. **:Vague / Unsatisfied. * : Uncommunicated / Mystified. Yet in the end, you will feel that this is (1) a cheap attempt to justify the subjective arbitrariness of our rating system (2) buttressed by an interest in the logical (and inevitable) categorisation of such productions, which is (3) undermined by the cheapness of the attempt, and (4) confused by the creeping feeling you are getting that we are dead serious in our feeling that this rating system is an accurate description of the content, intent and quality of the production. Oh please -- does it even matter now? Look, at least we tried.
 

>>>>>DEAR SAINT-EX,

It's been 57 years since you wrote 'The Little Prince', and you wouldn't believe how popular it has become. Your seemingly simple story about a little prince and his travels has been translated into over 90 different languages and made into a cartoon series, a movie and a play. Now, a contemporary dance group in Singapore (Dance Dimension Project, or DDP for short) has adapted your story and turned it into a dance called THE NEW ADVENTURES OF LITTLE PRINCE.

And what a dance it was! Lasting about 90 minutes, it was split into 18 little segments, performed by 5 adults and 10 children. To be honest, I was a little cautious when I heard that so many "young dancers" were going to be on stage, especially when they're between the ages of 4 and 7. They make mistakes without knowing it, and lack the discipline and poise that adult dancers have learned to develop over the years. Yet, they made up for all their shortcomings with the frank and spontaneous energy that they unconsciously exude, contrasting boldly against the composure and poise of the adults. It helped that many in the audience thought they were really cute too; this dance wouldn't have been complete without them.

Anyone familiar with the original story would have recognised most of the characters. There was, of course, the little prince; the pilot and his plane crash; the bored little rose under her glass globe; the faithful lamplighter; the playful fox, who looked more like a chicken with that orange costume and funny tail. In place of the king was a queen, whose big wire-hoop skirt made her look like a spider, trapped in the web of her own vanity. Unfortunately, they didn't get in real migrating birds, but the puppet versions (handled by Tan Beng Tian of The Finger Players) substituted quite nicely, especially in one scene where they glowed in the dark.

>>'As much as I enjoyed watching it, I couldn't help but feel that THE NEW ADVENTURES OF LITTLE PRINCE seemed a little disjointed'

On the other hand, neither did the little prince die, nor did the story follow the original pattern of the pilot's flashbacks. In fact, the little prince learned from his travels and made it back home safely. Characters that were not in the original story were also included. There was the typically uptight mother (Irene Yee) who insisted on being right all the time, constantly correcting her 2 children who saw things from a different point of view. There was also a blue-eyed kid, who was perfectly happy with her blue-coloured vision, only to be blinded by adults who thought they knew better. Grown-ups can be so strange sometimes - they make matters of consequence more important than anything else, but they're not always right at the end of the day.

This dance, however, wasn't entirely concerned with individual characters, or putting everything in order like your usual fairytale. In the programme sequence , it said that "the individual segments may focus on emotions and expressions rather than the 'story line'" and thus, there were characters that were purely emotional in nature. In 'Little Prince's Planet', one woman (Monique Pillet) floated like a mournful spirit with her soft arms and whirling hair under a gentle trickle of leaves, while the little prince sat sadly on his asteroid as he watched the days pass by. Dance isn't just about how high you can leap or how many turns you can do without getting dizzy, but about expressing emotions that words alone can't describe, and that's the way DDP likes it.

As much as I enjoyed watching it, though, I couldn't help but feel that THE NEW ADVENTURES OF LITTLE PRINCE seemed a little disjointed. Some segments seemed to have little to do with each other, like the one called 'People and Theories'. With black-and-white slides of different objects and people from all over the world in the background, three adult dancers danced disparately with clear and forceful movements, demonstrating the diversity of the human race. But how did it connect with the scenes before and after it, and with the dance as a whole? Those who were not familiar with the original story might also have found it hard to follow this production without the programme sequence, for example, my immediate neighbour and the restless child one seat away.

Still, I wish you could have seen how your story of the little prince was given new life through dance, music animation and puppetry. I think you would have liked it.

Sincerely, Malcolm