When I stepped foot into the War Memorial Opera House to watch the San Francisco Ballet perform John Neumeier's The Little Mermaid, I knew I wasn't going to be seeing a Disney version of the story with Ariel's bright red flowing mane and waves triumphantly crashing around her. While I had an inkling it would be closer to the original story by Hans Christian Andersen, I was not prepared for the dark subject matter about unrequited love.
While enjoying a glass of pre-show champagne, the question arose: How are they going to make a mermaid dance? The answer was revealed soon enough. During the opening moments of silence, I thought I was at the theater watching actors on stage. Throughout the course of the ballet, it became more apparent The Little Mermaid is a dance-theater performance. Exactly how did the little mermaid and her underwater friends dance? Through imaginative costumes and fluid abstract choreography.
The set design transported the audience from the darkest depths of water to sunny ship decks and shoreline. The performance has moments of levity. One being when an ensemble of men comprised of the poet, the prince, naval officers and sailors take to the stage and dance. The scene is a nice break from the norm of an all-female corps de ballet. Principal dancer Yuan Yuan Tan is always delightful to watch but her performance in The Little Mermaid is mesmerizing. Her emotive portrayal of the Mermaid has you feeling her pain when her love is rebuffed by the Prince.
I thoroughly enjoyed the San Francisco Ballet's interpretation of The Little Mermaid and I suggest snatching up tickets to view this beautiful show as soon as possible or else you will be a fish out of water.
The Little Mermaid runs through March 28th, 2010 at the War Memorial Opera House in San Francisco. For more information visit SFBallet.org. (Image via the San Francisco Ballet website by Erik Tomasson.)
Avelinda Garcia also writes at Superstylin*