From sandy beaches to wooden britches

Na­tional Bal­let’s Sky­lar Camp­bell takes the lead in world pre­miere of Pinoc­chio

Bayview Post - - Arts -

Like a lot of south­ern Cal­i­for­nia kids, Sky­lar Camp­bell grew up skate­board­ing and surf­ing and play­ing the drums.

A product of La­guna Beach, the blue-eyed, swirly haired Camp­bell was set to pur­sue mu­sic at univer­sity and was on a steady diet of jazz and hip-hop mu­sic. Then the bal­let came along, and ev­ery­thing changed.

Now, the 25-year-old first soloist for the Na­tional Bal­let of Canada is do­ing some­thing most dancers dream of.

He’s cre­at­ing the orig­i­nal role of Pinoc­chio from scratch in the world pre­miere pro­duc­tion set to hit the stage at Toronto’s Four Sea­sons Cen­tre on March 11.

“I feel so for­tu­nate and hum­bled to be leav­ing a small foot­print in Na­tional Bal­let’s reper­toire,” says Camp­bell, on the phone while on his way to an aerial re­hearsal at the Sony Cen­tre.

“It’s an hon­our, and re­ward­ing.”

The show is the equiv­a­lent of a block­buster in in­ter­na­tional bal­let terms, with a crack team of cre­ative minds as­sem­bled, in­clud­ing top­notch English chore­og­ra­pher Will Tuck­ett along with set and cos­tume de­signer Colin Rich­mond (Royal Shake­speare Com­pany and the Royal Opera House). They have been tasked with spin­ning the clas­sic tale of the wooden puppet who wished to be a boy for the bal­let and, of course, with in­clud­ing some unique Cana­dian touches in­clud­ing lum­ber­jacks, beavers and Moun­ties.

As one can imag­ine, danc­ing as a wooden puppet has its chal­lenges. But for Camp­bell, the real chal­lenge is in the act­ing, and ex­press­ing Pinoc­chio’s de­sire.

“Pinoc­chio is not a static re­stricted puppet,” he ex­plains.

“The au­di­ence is go­ing to see his knowl­edge re­flected through his move­ments and through his jour­ney through­out the bal­let. It’s like the danc­ing is the easy part. It’s more the char­ac­ter growth, the pre­cise tim­ing and the nu­ance [that are the chal­lenges].”

It’s a big deal, another step in Camp­bell’s rise through the Na­tional Bal­let ranks that be­gan back in 2009 when the Toronto com­pany re­cruited the young surfer-cum-dancer for its ap­pren­tice­ship pro­gram fol­low­ing his award-win­ning per­for­mance at an in­ter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tion in Lau­sanne, Switzer­land.

It would be a cou­ple years be­fore he signed on to the bal­let corps, but since then he’s gar­nered sig­nif­i­cant at­ten­tion for his danc­ing. Camp­bell de­buted as Hi­lar­ion in and in the ti­tle role in the world pre­miere of

Over the past eight years, Camp­bell has ac­cli­ma­tized to his life in the north­ern climes of Toronto.

“It was not what I was ex­pect­ing, but I look upon it now as some­thing that re­ally helped my de­vel­op­ment as a dancer and as a per­son,” he says.

It all be­gan with his best coaches, his par­ents — who both danced bal­let on the East Coast be­fore mov­ing to Cal­i­for­nia to con­cen­trate on Pi­lates and fit­ness — as well as his child­hood bal­let school in La­guna Beach study­ing un­der Vic­tor and Ta­tiana Kasatsky.

“I just be­came en­thralled with the art of bal­let,” says Camp­bell. “With danc­ing, it all starts at the root with bal­let. The level of dif­fi­culty in the ex­e­cu­tion of the steps was more ap­peal­ing than other forms.”

Not to men­tion the pos­si­bil­ity of danc­ing as a wooden puppet come to life on a stage in Canada.

Sky­lar Camp­bell (left) per­forms the lead role in world pre­miere of ‘Pinoc­chio’

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