Dance — 20 July 2015

by

Kelly Acheson

photos courtesy Teatro Municipal de las Condes

Billed as a story-ballet, Pinocho is just that: part interactive play and part ballet. Performed by the dancers of Santiago’s Pequeño Municipal at Teatro Municipal de las Condes, Pinocho (In Italian it is written “Pinocchio.”) is geared towards a younger audience. Children will especially enjoy the protagonist’s adventures. If you’re looking for action, laughs and a bit of dance, then the tender, heartwarming story of Pinocho is perfect. Only an hour long (without an intermission), what Pinocho lacks in dance, it makes up for in a colorful story with numerous plot turns.

The concept of dolls as protagonists or characters is a common theme in many ballets, including Coppelia, the Nutcracker, and Petrushka. Pinocho is no different and this whimsical version of the classic fairy tale explores this theme as well. Narrated throughout by the author, the story begins slowly with the introduction of the characters.  The actual dancing doesn’t start until much later when Pinocho takes part in the circus. Here we see marionette dolls, their arms suspended in the air by thick cords, dancing gracefully, albeit mechanically, to circus music. Their precise movements are contrasted with Pinocho’s clumsy, jerky dancing. Mirroring his wooden body, Pinocho’s movements are wooden, tense, and off-kilter. It is only at the end when Pinocho is transformed from a doll into a human boy that his dancing becomes fluid and we see him dexterously leaping and twirling across the stage. Happy to be a flesh and blood human, Pinocho traverses the stage in a series of grand jetés, energetic high leaps that reflect his emotions of excitement and ecstasy.

Pinocho is a good introduction to ballet for children, families, and anyone new to the dance form; since the narrator guides viewers through the plot, the ballet steps interspersed throughout serve to reinforce rather than carry the story line. Thanks to the colorful costumes, slapstick humor, special effects, and the interactive nature of the performance, there is never a dull moment in Pinocho. While the show could have relied less on the narrator and included more dancing, performances like this one are intended to make ballet more accessible and appealing to a wider audience. And although Pinocho certainly achieves this goal, it is at the expense of a certain degree of subtlety. The performance should have showcased more ballet, letting the power of graceful dance movements unravel the story. After all, what better way to get younger audiences interested in ballet than to highlight just how captivatingly dance (together with music) can convey plot, action, emotion, and intent, without having to rely on words?

**Pinocho is at the Teatro Municipal de las Condes until July 26th. Tickets are 5.000 CLP. More information can be found here.

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