TORONTO—”Pinocchio” has inspired countless adaptations and recreations since Carlo Collodi first published the children’s story in late 19th century Italy. The tale of a puppet come to life has sparked the imagination of children and adults alike with its fantastical adventures and essential message: hard work, integrity, and compassion are the keys to a good life.
On March 11, the National Ballet of Canada begins a two-week run of the world premiere of a full-length theatrical ballet dedicated to the adventures of the mischievous little boy made of wood. Choreographed by Will Tuckett (guest principal character artist with London’s Royal Ballet), the family ballet is a creative endeavour “revelling in the book’s potential for sheer fantasy and escapism,” writes Karen Kain, the company’s artistic director, on the website.
National Ballet first soloist Dylan Tedaldi, who is dancing the role of the Fox in the production and also rehearsed for “Pinocchio,” says Tuckett respects each dancer’s individuality and has created steps that complement that.
“William Tuckett is really fun to work with and he’s a super creative person. There’s not really a dull moment in the studio,” he says.
Tedaldi says he is excited to be a part of the new production, particularly because of its innovations. It goes beyond ballet to incorporate theatrical elements such as dialogue, flying harnesses, and many colourful characters. It also includes nods to typical Canadian imagery, such as lumberjacks, beavers, racoons, and even a couple of Niagara Falls tourists.
The Puppet who Becomes a Boy
Tedaldi says Tuckett has choreographed Pinocchio as playful, curious, and naïve. While in the original book, the puppet is perhaps as hard-headed as the wood he is made of, Tedaldi says in this ballet he’s a little less stubborn, and is rather led astray because he is easily influenced by other people.
The character he dances, the Fox, is one of those who deceives Pinocchio. He is sneaky and evil and takes advantage of the puppet’s innocence for his own gain, says Tedaldi.
“Pinocchio wants to be accepted and the Fox is a character that seems like he wants to be Pinocchio’s friend,” he says, adding that this leads the boy puppet to fall into the trap.
The dancer reflects on this as a lesson for his own life.
“I think it’s important to constantly assess who you’re hanging out with and making sure that they are helping you grow and supporting you,” he says.
Throughout his journey, Pinocchio is constantly tempering himself and developing more of a backbone. He achieves this by finding a more definitive purpose to guide him.
“I think when a character has a clear goal and seems like he has the means to achieve that goal, then that drives the character,” says Tedaldi.
“At the beginning of the play, Pinocchio is discovering everything, so he doesn’t really have a goal, but when he realizes that his goal is to be loved and be true to the people around him and to be honest, then that’s what connects him with [his father] Geppetto. But that’s also what gives him more of a backbone because he then has something driving him as a character.”
Tedaldi can see that in himself.
“When I have a clear goal, it pushes me to work harder and I feel that I’m progressing faster. If I get distracted by things that I’m not satisfied with or relationships that are not making me feel good about myself, those are things that don’t propel me forward,” he says.
Pinocchio’s transformation is displayed through the choreography.
Tedaldi explains that at first the character’s movements are more rigid and robotic than those of the others on stage, but as he changes, transitioning from a puppet to a human, his movements become more fluid. The key transition occurs when Pinocchio is reunited with Gepetto.
“I think that’s the first time when he is caring about and focusing on someone other than himself. He realizes that he has this connection with Geppetto and love for Geppetto and that’s what proves that he has a heart and is a real boy,” he says.
Throughout his journey, Pinocchio has both motherly and supernatural guidance in the form of the Blue Fairy.
“The Blue Fairy is there to remind Pinocchio to be honest and to be truthful and have an open heart,” says Tedaldi, noting that in the ballet those parts are actually spoken. The Blue Fairy has a team of dancers actors that follow her and speak for her, reminding Pinocchio of the different virtues and morals he needs to follow in order to become a real boy, he says.
As someone who has already mastered many of the hard lessons that Pinocchio has learned—discipline, education, and hard work—Tedaldi continues to strive on his journey of self-improvement.
“I constantly want to challenge what I think is comfortable so I can become a better dancer. So I look at every role and every performance opportunity as a way of progressing and making myself into a dancer that tells a story and that moves in a way that affects people emotionally,” he says.