THE BABORÓ International Children's Festival swings into action next week and a must-see highlight will be the world premiere of CoisCéim’s The Wolf and Peter, an exciting new dance interpretation of Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf, one of the most popular pieces of music ever written.
Peter and the Wolf was a musical score originally written as an engaging way to introduce children to the instruments of the orchestra. The Wolf and Peter will introduce contemporary dance and performance to children in a fun re-imagination. It features five outstanding dancers and live piano played by Conor Linehan, with the music is a blend of Prokofiev’s original score and new compositions by Linehan.
The Wolf and Peter is CoisCéim’s first production for children. Company director/choreographer David Bolger reveals how it came about.
“In our early days we did family shows and then as we matured we did more pieces that spoke to us at the time and had more adult themes," he says. "Over time I wanted to get back to do something for a family audience, and it seemed right for us at the moment. With The Wolf and Peter, I remember when I was a child the first time I heard the Prokofiev score, and being told the story, and the music stayed with me all my life. As a choreographer I really wanted to move that music because it feels so right to animate and that’s how this show came about, it’s been in my head to do a piece like this for five or six years, maybe longer. We twisted the title around and opened up the story a bit more for the audience now and we’ve really enjoyed working on it.
“The composition seems to beg to be danced to, to tell the story to children of the computer generation, but only using time-honoured stage techniques, magic, and dancing from the heart. After conversing with my nieces and nephews, I found they have a completely different view of the Wolf. He is no longer an animal to be feared, as he is portrayed in stories like The Three Little Pigs or Little Red Riding Hood. Rather, he is a beautiful animal that is now much in endangered. By allowing the Wolf to be the star, I want to tell the story from his/her point of view and reinterpreting this classic in way that speaks to today, while being respectful to the richness of the original story, music and dance of the past.”
Humans, animals, and dance
Bolger expands on how CoisCéim have approached the material. “The dancers’ bodies are so interesting and the movement is so strong. I wanted to do a piece that could introduce children to movement and how the human form can represent the animals in the piece," he says. "In the costumes, which are designed by Monica Frawley, we have the human form mirroring animals or animals mirroring humans and we’ve found a really good balance between the two so actually they are very defined in their animals – the Bird and the Cat and the Wolf and the Boy. We’ve tried to allow the audience to fill in the blanks so to speak – we’re not wearing masks or in ‘skins’. We celebrate the human form in the animal characters and allow the movement to dictate the narrative.”
CoisCéim’s pre-show research took in study of actual wolves. “We went and worked with a keeper in Dublin Zoo where they have five grey wolves and we spent a whole day with him researching about wolves,” Bolger explains. “We found out a lot of things about wolves; in children’s stories they are always made out to be the bad guys, but we wanted to honour the fact that wolves have been proven to be helpful, like in Yellowstone Park where their re-introduction revitalised the whole ecosystem. In our version the Wolf is trying to tell his side of the story all the way through and things keep getting reverted back to the original text. We’ve tried to be more sensitive to the fact that we’re possibly more orientated to conservation – certainly that was something that was really inspiring during our zoo visit, seeing the care given to the wolves.”
Linehan's Lupine music
I ask David about Conor Linehan’s additional music in the production. “The original Peter and the Wolf score is quite short, no more than 30 minutes, and there is a lot of narration in it,” he replies. “What I wanted to do was to honour the score as originally written but also there are scenes where we are able to explore aspects of the Wolf that are not explored in the original story so we made our own story, as it were."
At the show, Linehan, who David describes as "a great pianist", will perform live. "I thought I would miss the orchestra but it is actually really rhythmic and very melodic with an earthy feel to it," says David. "We’re creating a kind of soundscape of his compositions. There are scenes that don’t exist in the original story such as a friendship that happens between the Wolf and Peter where they both recognise that they are similar, the boy has wolf in him and the wolf has a boy’s nature inside him.
"Scenes like that needed a composition and Conor is doing it, not in the same style as Prokofiev but it blends together. When we explore areas that have been written, he does it in the vein of what Prokofiev wrote but we also go into electronic sounds, there is a spatial feeling to it, it feels like there is a much bigger adventure in what Conor is writing. Peter goes through a huge journey, as does the Wolf, the Cat and the Bird, all the characters go through a very big sense of adventure and we wanted to open that up in a really rich way while being very sensitive to what was written by Prokofiev and honouring it.”
The Wolf and Peter runs at the Town Hall from Thursday October 15 to Sunday 18. Performance times can be found at www.tht.ie and www.baboro.ie The show is suitable for everyone aged 6 upwards and its running time is 55 minutes without an interval.
At Baboró, CoisCéim are also running a dance education workhop for primary teachers, on Tuesday October 13 at the Aula Maxima, NUIG. Tickets are €15/12.