Meet Guil­laume Côté, the mas­ter­mind be­hind the Na­tional Bal­let of Canada’s new­est orig­i­nal pro­duc­tion,

S/ - - CULTURE -

his ca­reer, dancer Guil­laume Côté has dab­bled in the art of chore­og­ra­phy with sev­eral short pieces for stage and film, but this spring, the Na­tional Bal­let of Canada will pre­miere his first full-length bal­let: Le Petit Prince. It’s an ex­cit­ing, yet daunt­ing task for the 34-year-old Québec-born dancer. And for some­one who is not only the com­pany’s prin­ci­pal dancer but also its chore­o­graphic as­so­ci­ate (and all-around star of the com­pany), Côté is sur­pris­ingly hum­ble and gen­uine.

“I feel ex­cited to get in the stu­dio, but I’m pet­ri­fied, too,” he says, hug­ging his right leg to his chest, foot propped up on the Star­bucks win­dowsill. “I think tak­ing on a project of this scale this early on in my chore­og­ra­phy ca­reer could make or break [it].”

Côté’s ren­di­tion of Antoine  de Saint-Ex­upéry’s 1943 chil­dren’s novella—which tells the tale of a lit­tle boy who ad­ven­tures to var­i­ous plan­ets, meet­ing a host of char­ac­ters who serve as al­le­gories of the many facets of hu­man na­ture—eas­ily trans­lates the story’s fan­tas­ti­cal el­e­ments and emo­tional in­ten­sity to bal­let form. “The more I dig deep in the story, the more I re­al­ize how well it’s catered to­wards dance,” he says.

This bal­let marks the com­pany’s first fully Cana­dian-cre­ated piece in 20 years, with set and cos­tume de­sign by Michael Levine, light­ing de­sign by David Finn and mu­sic by Kevin Lau. “I never went into it think­ing of as­sem­bling a Cana­dian team. I just picked the best peo­ple and it turned out that way,” he ex­plains. “So that’s a good tes­ta­ment to Cana­dian ta­lent.” As a stand­ing mem­ber of the com­pany with close re­la­tion­ships with his peers, Côté has an ad­van­tage that guest chore­og­ra­phers don’t. He is able to cap­ture each dancer’s unique per­son­al­ity in the roles he de­vel­ops for them. Dy­lan Tedaldi who is cast in the ti­tle role, is ap­pro­pri­ately “dream­like,” while Piotr Stanczyk (Côté’s best friend and re­put­edly the “most jaded per­son” he knows), will dance in the role of the adult avi­a­tor whose life is changed af­ter meet­ing the in­no­cent young prince. “Maybe the ex­pe­ri­ence will help him open up and reach the child in him,” he says.

Ac­cord­ing to Côté, what is pos­si­bly the most in­ter­est­ing as­pect of Le Petit Prince is that if you ask any­one who has read the book, there’s a good chance they won’t be able to tell you what it’s about. The book isn’t tied to re­al­ity, nor is it lin­ear—rather it is emo­tion­ally driven and metaphor­i­cal. “When you say [a tale] is a chil­dren’s story…you free your­self from telling a co­her­ent story,” Côté says.

Read­ing Le Petit Prince to his one-year-old daugh­ter, Emma, has helped Côté tune into the child­like won­der that per­me­ates the story. “Chil­dren are able to see be­yond the cover of things; be­yond ap­pear­ances,” he muses.

And like any chil­dren’s fa­ble, this story has am­ple depth to in­trigue read­ers of any age, and bal­let is a po­tent medium for its ex­pres­sion. “So much of that un­spo­ken, un­writ­ten in­nu­endo of jeal­ousy, ten­sion, sex­u­al­ity…all these things that you’re not [ex­plic­itly] find­ing in the book you can prob­a­bly find even more of in the bal­let,” prom­ises Côté. Le Petit Prince runs June 4–12, 2016 at the Four Sea­sons Cen­tre for the Per­form­ing Arts in Toronto.

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