For Kids Who Never Grow Up

Opus Osm

Drama, romance, and the story we all know and love, in the Peter Pan ballet

James Barrie’s Peter Pan, a product of Edwardian England, has retained an amazing hold on our imagination. Like many of the products of that period, the light it shines conceals the darkness it seeks to escape from.

The model for Peter was Barrie’s brother, who died in a skating accident when Barrie was seven. Barrie would dress up in his brother’s clothes to cheer up his mother. On a certain level, Barrie remained the boy that was his brother. Explaining to his wife his impotence, Barrie is said to have remarked to her, “Boys can’t love.”

Whatever its origin, Barrie’s story (and play) about “the boy who refused to grow up” is a tribute to the transforming power of the imagination. Entering into it, we become again children, living in that peculiar amalgam of fantasy and reality that was our first experience of the world.

Look for details on the Peter Pan poster

Like Peter, we are courageous to a fault, battling pirates, saving Indian princesses, and receiving the adoring admiration of the boys we lead and the girls that cheer us on.

The moral limitations of this world are aptly explained in relation to Tinkerbelle, whose small size makes it impossible for her to experience more than one feeling at a time. When she is jealous, as she often is about Peter’s relation to Wendy, the oldest of the Darling children Peter takes to “Neverland,” she is totally such. Not for her (or for small children) the subtlety of conflicting emotions.

Guests Stars of Tomorrow
This, then, is the world that Bérangère Andreo’s admirable choreography and James Newton Howard’s accomplished score take us into. It is a world brought to life by the guest dancers of the city’s conservatory, Bohemia Ballet (Taneční Konzervatoře Hlavní Město Prahy). The principal character Peter, played by Kristán Pokorný, was a delight to watch from beginning to end. With boundless energy, he made the imaginary seem real. Each time he appeared in his multiple curtain calls, he was greeted with cheers and applause. Equally accomplished was the second child star, Wendy, played by Sára Halušková. If these Bohemia Ballet students fulfill the promise they showed in their performances, they will be the stars of tomorrow.

Special mention must be made of James Howard’s music. Howard has had a long and distinguished career writing film scores. The point of writing music for film, as one composer put it, is to be seen but not heard. It is to advance the visual presence of the action without calling attention to the music itself. For the ballet, however, the music is part of the presence. The dancers, dancing to it, spatialize its rhythms and notes.In a way, they make us hear it more perfectly. Howard’s score was perfectly up to the attention they shined on it. It completed the imaginary world that Barrie’s work invites us to enter. — oo

The next performances of the Bohemia Ballet’s Peter Pan are scheduled for Feb 21 at the Theatre of the Estates, and then early May.

– James Mensch

Photo Credits: Hana Smejkalová, The Czech National Ballet

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