Behind The Scenes: Boyko Dossev’s The Little Prince

Boyko Dossev is a man of many talents. You may have seen him on stage as Romeo in Romeo & Juliet last February. This time he’s taking on the role of choreographer, one he has had a few times previously creating charming ballets like Mother Goose Goes to Hollywood, and Little Red Riding Hood. We sat down with Boyko to get all the inside scoop on his newest creation for FBP’s chatterBOXtheatre series, The Little Prince.

Hello Mr. Choreographer! The story of The Little Prince is special to many people. What was it that drew you personally to this story?

I’ve always wanted to choreograph a ballet based on Saint Exupéry’s The Little Prince. This is one of those stories that carry wisdom in just a few pages. It continues to inspire children and adults all over the world. It is symbolic, sad, poetic and at the same time full of hope. The Little Prince reminds us what is truly important in times of great challenge. The journey of The Little Prince is one that we all are having and I wanted through my interpretation of the book, once again, to remind adults about the kids they once were and to help kids to never forget what it’s like to be a child.

That’s beautiful- but also complex. What are some of the challenges in telling this story? What are some of the rewarding aspects?

The main challenge when you are telling a story like this through choreography is translating the incredible words of wisdom and then communicating these messages without compromising their meaning and integrity. It is challenging to create a ballet that can convey Exupéry’s main idea through movement, while also allowing children and adults have a wonderful time. This is the main challenge, to communicate the spirit of the book successfully in less than 35 minutes.

That is a daunting task! But we are so lucky to have incredible music to help us tell the story. Can you tell us a bit about where the music for this ballet came from?

I am very lucky to have a very dear friend, Geneviève Leclair, who connected me with the French-Canadian composer Maxime Goulet. His music is perfect for this project and although it was not written especially for The Little Prince, every single note seems to be as if we have collaborated for years to create the perfect score for my choreography. Maxime is remarkably talented composer and I feel extremely honored and grateful that he agreed to work with me on this ballet.

Maxime Goulet with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra

Do you have any favorite aspects of the ballet so far?

My all-time favorite part will always be the process of creation and collaboration with the dancers. I wish we could have more time in the studios to explore and see where and how far we can take the story of The Little Prince.

I love that. As you mentioned earlier, this story has been around for quite some time. Can you tell us a bit about what makes your interpretation of The Little Prince unique?

I think what makes this interpretation of The Little Prince special is the way dancers tell Exupéry’s story through their own sensitivity and experiences. I can create the steps and different effects to try to tell the story, but is the dancers who bring their characters to life and make them real. This is what will tell the story in a unique and exciting way.

FBP dancer Kailee Felix (aloft) with ballet master Mindaugas Bauzys and dancer Jordan Nelson in rehearsal for Boyko Dossev’s The Little Prince.

Another interesting thing about this version of The Little Prince is that you’ve decided to use multimedia in the show, including video and audio collaboration. Can you tell us a bit about that?

Everything started with one of the company dancers, Jacob Hoover, creating an origami elephant out of scrap paper during in his free time during a break at the studio. In fact, he created few of them and this inspired me very much. I envisioned how we could create an animation, like when I was a kid, without the help of all the Hollywood type of technology. I wanted it to be very basic but at the same time captivating to the imagination.

I asked Jacob to create a bigger elephant, a snake, a rose, a fox…I wanted them all. At this time of the development process, I asked another company dancer, Ty Parmenter, to come on board and help us film. I wanted to have a stop-motion video of the paper elephant and a boa constrictor swallowing the elephant to represent the beginning of the story. To my surprise, both Ty and Jacob didn’t think I was crazy and agreed to work with me!

Behind the scenes look at creating a new stop-motion animation for The Little Prince, directed by Ty Parmenter with figures by Jacob Hoover

Thanks to company dancer Eugenia Zinoveva’s boyfriend, Jon Gourlay’s help we were able to get a green screen and start to experiment. All of this led to the idea to have Jacob’s mother, Michele Gutlove, (also a phenomenal glass artist) create some sketches of The Little Prince and integrate them into the media. She made some fantastic images, her work as an artist is so inspiring.

Behind the scenes look at the creation of a timelapse video showing artist Michele Gutlove’s watercolor artwork for The Little Prince.

Here is a gallery of some of Michele’s watercolors:

But we didn’t stop there…

My colleague and good friend Viktor Plotnikov, whose Carmen is opening the same weekend as The Little Prince, helped me with the sets, which became an integral part of the entire multimedia project. At the end, we recorded some narration as well, done by Ms. Valerie Tutson. Ms. Tutson’s voice and artistry added another dimension and sensitivity to the ballet.

Finally, Misha called up Barnaby Evans, creator of Providence’s acclaimed WaterFire installation. His iconic star lanterns were the perfect “cherry on top” of the vibrant scenery and imagery.

FBP dancers sporting luminescent star lanterns courtesy of WaterFire Providence

Wow, so it was a collaborative effort! The dancers, staff, and community at FBP are so multi-talented.

I feel very fortunate to have all these recourses available to create The Little Prince. Misha’s support, guidance, and trust in every step I made were essential. I feel very lucky to collaborate with all these amazing artists and dancers. I am very excited to see all of the elements of The Little Prince come together. A story as complex as The Little Prince is hard to interpret in the theater. I needed to do something that would help me tell the story right, something that would add to the choreography in a way that could transmit to our youngest audience the beauty, the wisdom, and the sensitivity of Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s The Little Prince.

Thank you so much, Boyko!

The Little Prince concludes next weekend, but it’s almost completely sold out. Call 401-353-1129 to be added to a stand-by waiting list.

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One Reply to “Behind The Scenes: Boyko Dossev’s The Little Prince”

  1. my daughter (31/2) Loved this ballet…I did too! she enjoyed the cookie and meeting the performers after the play as well. we were fortunate to even see the play since we arrived 330 on sunday for last performance which was already sold out but got standing room tickets. through the generosity and grace of all the staff we eventually was in front row! I don’t plan to wait last minute for next show though, my daughter keeps asking to see the ballet so we’ll get tickets early for Cinderella.

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