The New Adventures of Little Prince

Date: December 2000

Venue: Drama Centre

Choreographers: Lim Chin Huat, Lim Peck Lee, Choo Leh Leh, Irene Yee.

 

Synopsis:

A refreshing adaptation from the classic “The Little Prince” by Antoine de Saint-Exupery. A creative choreographic collaboration by various arts practitioners from diverse disciplines. An amalgamation of dance, puppetry and animation offering a unique multi-media experience for all.

 

Little Prince With A Big Spin On It

By: Arthur Sim
Source: Life!, 27 November 2000

A classic tale adapted with dance, animation, music, puppetry – in short, with enough whistles and stops to appeal to the young and young at heart.

DANCE DIMENSION PROJECT’S latest offering, The New Adventures Of Little Prince, is a multi-media production that incorporates dance, animation, music and puppetry. It is based loosely on The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s novelette of 1943. Some will remember the dance group for its thought-provoking performances outdoors, most memorably at Suntec City’s Fountain of Wealth in 1997, with a piece of work titled Ontogenesis. With The New AdvenTures Of Little Prince, it is continuing to forge a path for contemporary dance expression.

Artistic director Lim Chin Huat says, however, that its latest offering, which is three years in the making, is not expected to be a direct representation of de Saint-Exupery’s book. ‘We are not telling a story,’ he says. Instead, the book is more a catalyst for the five main sections that the performance is divided into. With many references to de Saint-Exupery’s story – where a young prince of a little planet makes a journey to other planets to learn more about life – the artistic director hopes to expand upon certain themes that feature in the book. Lim, who adds that he feels ‘strongly for the characters’, would rather focus on what he thinks is the underlying message of The Little Prince – that ‘adults and kids think differently’, he adds emphatically.

Hoping to encourage dance among children, the Dance Dimension Project has included puppetry, animation and visual projections in its performance to make its art form more accessible. This way, says Lim, ‘kids will be able to enjoy the process of the dance’

 

Princely Adventure Through Dance

By: Sharon M Tan
Source: GetAsia.sg, 24 November 2000

In the book written in 1943 by French aviator and writer Antoine de Saint-Exupery, The Little Prince lived alone on a little planet, which was no bigger than a house. On his planet, he had three volcanoes, one of which was extinct. He owned a flower of great beauty, which he kept under a glass bell-jar. This flower was the love of his life, but it was also a very proud flower. It was this pride that disturbed the Little Prince’s serenity and drove him to travel the planets.

The New Adventures of Little Prince is a multimedia dance production, inspired by that famous book. Developed and produced by local dance company Dance Dimension Project, the production incorporates puppetry, animation and original music.

It’s not so much a retelling of the original story but more of an adaptation. “It’s a bit different in that we didn’t follow the development of the story in the book,” says Dance Dimension Project’s 31-year-old artistic director Lim Chin Huat. The book has been an inspiration to him for the last 10 years, but it was only two years ago that he had the resources to bring this project to life.

“Even though I’ve read different versions of this story, it still captures my attention. I feel the message behind the story is very important because I feel that it’s still functional today, even though the story was written a long time ago.”

To people who are familiar with the book, Lim says they should not expect the same thing. “It’s a different experience based on the same story.”

In the book, a lot of the story is carried through conversations, but this production is mainly dance and there’s very little speech. Lim pointed out that the initial draft of the project involved quite a bit of verbal communication, but it was taken out as the production developed.

“We found that words sort of restricted us to free movement,” Lim explains. “We took out the speech because we feel we could do it with just physical movement and music. For different things, after it’s processed, we actually transform word into movement.”

As for those who have not read the book, the main thing is to enjoy the experience and hopefully get an inspirational nugget to take away as well.

Working with children and animals are two things many directors will not attempt, but Lim accepts this challenge. The production will include 10 children, aged 5-7. The title role is played by 5-year-old Jordan Lee. All the children are students with the company’s dance and movement classes.

The New Adventures of Little Prince is not meant just for kids. Lim expects that it should be an experience that can be enjoyed by people of all ages.

 

Brave New World

By: Malcolm Tay
Source:The Flying Inkpot, November 2000

To cap yet another busy season of stage, outdoor and AEP performances, Dance Dimension Project (DDP) will close the year with THE NEW ADVENTURES OF LITTLE PRINCE, which is the group’s interpretation of ‘The Little Prince’.

Written by the French author, journalist and pilot Antoine de Saint-Exupéry in 1943, this down-to-earth yet profound story charts the encounters of its titular character, who learns valuable lessons about life as he travels across the universe. It has since been translated into 95 different languages and is said to be just below the Bible as one of the most widely read books in the world. DDP not only hopes to recapture the spirit of this classic tale, but also to create a production that adults and children can enjoy.

Reworking a fairytale as famous as ‘The Little Prince’ into a dance-drama is a challenge that DDP is ready to face, combining their trademark style of movement and visuals with animation, puppetry and original music, hence assembling their biggest production team to date. While this will be the first time that DDP will be adapting an original story, it will not be the first time that the group has incorporated other disciplines into its productions.

Animation was first integrated in ‘Zero O’Clock’, which was performed even before the group was founded, and later again in ‘The Talking Dance Series’ (1999). Likewise, puppetry was first used in ‘The Old Sea’ (1997), making it the second time that DDP will be collaborating and performing with The Finger Players.

Featuring five project dancers and eleven children from DDP’s dance and movement classes, connecting every element to form a cohesive whole seems like a colossal task. According to artistic director Lim Chin Huat, “the difficult thing is [putting] everything togetherŠ different people work on different things and we have to come back and put it all together like a jigsaw puzzle.” In addition, working with children between the ages of 4 and 7 is never easy, which is something that Lim can testify to: “They have to understand, to be able to feel their role. It doesn’t work out in the way we want it to sometimes, and we have to be flexible to use whatever they feelŠ so it’s not something that they’re forced to do. That’s something we always keep in mind.”

Where the choreography of THE NEW ADVENTURES OF LITTLE PRINCE is concerned, it is not handled by one person alone, but by four individuals: Lim, who is one of this year’s recipients of the Young Artist Award for dance; dancers-in-residence Choo Leh Leh and Lim Peck Lee, the latter choreographing for DDP for the first time; project dancer Irene Yee, a recent graduate of the LASALLE-SIA College of the Arts, who is also hearing-impaired and is glad for the opportunity to work with the group.

Each of them will be developing various elements of the original narrative, drawing their inspiration from their personal responses to this deceptively simple tale. The rose that is diligently cared for by the little prince, for instance, is personally significant to both Choo and Yee. For a married woman like Choo, “the time that you spend with this person [makes] this person so special or unique to you, and there shouldn’t be any way that you should search for any other.” For Yee, it reflects her relationship with a close friend that has been constantly nourished over time, which cannot compare to superficial acquaintances.

Such is the relevance of ‘The Little Prince’, which explains for its immense popularity even after 57 years. In keeping with the child-like honesty that ‘The Little Prince’ embodies, the house curtain will be kept up for a large part of the performance, making the backstage and the entire crew transparent to the audience. As part of the visual design of the dance, Lim’s idea is to let the audience “see something that they won’t be able to see most of the time.”

 

 

Reviews (2)

 

New & (Re)New(ed) Adventures

By: Malcolm Tay
The Flying Inkpot, 2 December 2000 

Antoine De Saint-Exupery’s ‘The Little Prince’ is perhaps among the world’s most widely read books. The length of the book (a mere two-hour read) certainly contrasts with the significant issues it evokes which leave an acute reader in a prolonged ponder.

To adapt the narrative of this near “epic” fable is no easy task for it requires much interpretation and re-investigation. To evoke and portray the book’s fundamental thematic message of differing viewpoints is an even harder task. Dance Dimension Project’s re-titling of Saint-Exupery’s acclaimed book as THE NEW ADVENTURES demonstrates a self-awareness of the dislocations found in adapting and transforming the text into a dance form.

Dance is, as one of DDP’s project dancers, Monique Pillet, notes, “a form of expression beyond words. It is something that requires the mind, heart, soul and body to interact with the environment with a purpose.” Understanding dance certainly requires some knowledge of it as a unique language that communicates as well as any other. THE NEW ADVENTURES OF LITTLE PRINCE can thus be appraised as a daring attempt to translate one narrative form into another – one situated in the body and its movements.

Employing not merely dance but ingeniously incorporating other modern art forms found in theatre such as multimedia video presentations, computer animation and installation art accompanied by music (sounds that border on both melody and noise), the performance attempted to relate the core of ‘The Little Prince’ without trying to be fundamentally authentic to the original text. The extra ‘space’ created, resultant from this interpretation and adaptation (and fusion of other art forms), permitted the dancers to freely express ‘words’ through movement and expression while engaging the audience’s emotions.

Although the performance managed to communicate various parts of the original narrative, identifiable by the significant occurrences found in the book such as the pilot-narrator’s crash, the little prince’s care for his flower and his unique friendship with a fox, DDP’s adaptation failed to evoke the thematic concerns that make Saint-Exupery’s novella such a favourite. Perhaps this is an unavoidable ‘loss’ in any translation; here, it is a translation that is removed from language. In addition, the interactions between characters lacked a dramatic dimensionality essential in portraying relations.

The performance, however, should be credited for its incorporation of child dancers. The effort and long hours of preparing these 10 year olds (or thereabouts) proved worthwhile as the children delighted the audience with their presence. The little prince, played by young dancer Jordan Lee, certainly evoked the innocence of the novella’s protagonist just by being himself. It is, after all, a ‘children’s’ fable that was to awaken the child in the adult.

THE NEW ADVENTURES OF LITTLE PRINCE is a delightful adaptation that is visually enticing but it certainly does not illuminate one who has not read ‘The Little Prince,’ much less the countless children in the audience.

 

Untitled

By: Malcom Tay

Source: The Flying Inkpot, 1 Dec 2000

 

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.

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

 

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