TORONTO—Since the publication of “The Little Prince” in 1943, this delicate tale of self-discovery has fascinated children and adults alike. French author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s engaging story has since been translated into more than 250 languages, and has been adapted to several mediums throughout the years.
Guillaume Côté, the National Ballet of Canada’s principal dancer and choreographer, grew up with the tale and it became dear to his heart. Côté has adapted “Le Petit Prince” (“The Little Prince”) as his first full-length ballet, which is having its world premiere on June 4 at Toronto’s Four Seasons Centre.
“The Little Prince” follows the encounter of the narrator, a pilot who has crashed in the Sahara desert where he is joined by a young prince who comes from another planet. The pilot is fascinated by the little prince’s adventures and the life lessons he learns along the way.
The prince teaches him about kindness, friendship, love, and, most of all, appreciation for the simple things in life.
One of the essential messages of the book is to look beyond the ordinary—to see life with the wonder of a child.
“It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye,” the fox tells his friend the little prince.
De Saint-Exupéry believed children are far more in tune with life than adults, who have lost their way by spending their time on meaningless activities they consider “consequential.”
One key character in the journey is the rose, a beautiful but vain flower that the little prince cares for on his small planet.
National Ballet of Canada dancer Kathryn Hosier is one of the three dancers performing the rose in “Le Petit Prince” throughout its run. She says the rose is a complicated, high-maintenance woman.
“The challenge with this role is that she’s not necessarily a likable character. To the prince, she’s always asking for more—she wants more sunlight or it’s too windy or it’s too this or too that.”
The rose’s many metaphors
Playing the rose is a challenge for Hosier because of the character’s temperamental personality and self-absorption, which makes it difficult to portray emotion and caring.
“She does care for him, but she doesn’t show him necessarily,” she says. However, she finds the role a lot of fun. “It’s kind of nice to bask in being so lovely.”
Hosier believes the rose—the flower that the little prince loves so much and that many have said is based on the author’s wife Consuelo—has many metaphors.
“She represents beauty and she represents vanity and I think she takes advantage of the fact that the prince admires her so much,” she says.
“I think the more that he gives, the more that she takes from him and that can be very true to real life.”
The rose’s constant demands are the key reason why the little prince initially decides to leave his planet to explore the world.
Through his journey, the prince learns to appreciate the rose. However, it is not her beauty that makes her most special, he realizes.
One key experience along this journey is when the little prince finds himself in a rose garden on earth with thousands of roses that look just like his rose.
“And he was overcome with sadness,” the pilot says in the book. “His flower had told him that she is the only one of her kind in all the universe. And here were five thousand of them, all alike, in one single garden.”
Hosier finds this to be one of the most powerful scenes in the ballet.
“He’s searching for her and it plays on that theme that she is like everybody else but she’s special to him because he tended to her and watered her and all of that. That scene is really beautiful onstage,” she says.
“I think that’s a very interesting theme in this story—that [the relationship] is special because you put the work in. Not necessarily because something is ideal or so beautiful—it’s the collaborative effort that’s special.”
The National Ballet of Canada’s “Le Petit Prince” runs June 4 – 12 at Toronto’s Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts. For details, visit: http://national.ballet.ca