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Neumeier's The Little Mermaid


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#1 Birdsall

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Posted 23 November 2011 - 10:25 AM

Just watched the dvd of The Little Mermaid that came the other day. I had no expectations whatsoever and approached it with an open mind. I have to say as a theater piece I enjoyed it. If I had expected a classical ballet, I would have been disappointed, although there are some classical ballet moves. For the most part it is very modern dance. It intrigues me that the main character has to be awkward and clumsy (the exact opposite in most roles in ballet), because it hurts when she walks once she gains legs. Yuan Yuan Tan is terrific as the Little Mermaid showing her pain and hurt when she realizes the Prince will not love her in the same way. I bet it is hard to dance in such a way that purposely makes you look clumsy when trained as a ballet dancer.

Some of the choreography is very dissonant. Not sure what the right word is. Non-flowing movements. Maybe there are ballet terms. So this would never become a favorite ballet for most of us. But it is a fascinating one. I think I liked the first part where she still had her fish tail (actually silky cloth that symbolizes a fish tail). Her dancing was very beautiful. Then, later when she gains legs, of course, the dancing is impressive but not beautiful.

To me this is a very modern piece, so not for everyone. Some of the moves look like yoga moves that I attempt to do in my yoga classes to give you an idea.

The music is atmospheric, but I will have to listen more times to know whether I like it a lot or not, b/c so far it is not bad, not great either.

Overall, it is something different that works as a theater piece. I don't think it is a work anyone would fly somewhere to see like people here flew to Italy to see Raymonda! LOL But if it were playing near me I think I would go to it.

Although I understand why some people warned me it is not for children I did not really see anything that would prevent me from taking a child to see it if I had a child. I know my parents would have taken me to something like this at any age without any hesitation or regret. No, it's not Disney, but it is not offensive at all, in my opinion.

#2 Pamela Moberg

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Posted 23 November 2011 - 04:18 PM

Thankyou Bart Birdsall, for your review! The little Mermaid was shown here on TV last week, but as I wasnt home then, I have it on DVD now. It sounds very interesting, but I have some misgivings. DD will visit us next week end (she studied ballet before taking up law!) and we will see it together. Now I have a very soft spot for H.C.Andersen fairy tales - in my youth I won an essay competition for interpreting just that tale which has always been a favorite of mine.

I promise to post my, and DD's impressions when we have seen it, it will be very interesting to see if we all are in agreement or not.

#3 Birdsall

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Posted 23 November 2011 - 05:56 PM

Pamela, I was worried about the fact that I read it was Neumeier's vision of Hans Christian Anderson viewing himself as the Little Mermaid (in love with someone who didn't love him back). I thought the concept of framing the piece as a creation of a man who is part of the ballet would not work for me (thought it would end up seeming silly), but it actually worked okay. I liked it. It gave it a layered meaning. Like you I loved the Little Mermaid story growing up. I was always touched that she loved the prince so much that it felt like walking on glass when she gained legs. It meant her love for him was so great. I also interpreted it to mean that it is agony to try to be someone you are not.

I would like to know what others think about the dancing for the title character, b/c it is intriguing that the dancer who dances the Little Mermaid has to use all of her skill to demonstrate awkward steps (to portray agony at walking). On paper that sounds like a really ridiculous idea for the title character in a ballet! LOL But it works for me. And like I said I think Yuan Yuan Tan does an amazing job portraying both the physical and emotional pain of the role. Funny enough, the opera Rusalka which is essentially the same story has the character Rusalka give up her ability to speak to become human (so the soprano is mute for part of the opera), which is also sort of funny!

#4 Pamela Moberg

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Posted 24 November 2011 - 04:10 PM

H.C. Andersen was really a very tragic figure in real life. His fairy tales were popular during his life time, but as a human being he was not a success. He was desperately in love with the famous Swedish soprano Jenny Lind, but she didnt care about him at all. Well, he was not handsome, indeed very ungainly, terribly shy and didnt have any social graces at all. In short, not a ladies'man!



#5 Waelsung

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Posted 24 November 2011 - 09:06 PM

I must admit I am not a big fan of modern ballet, but with The Little Mermaid everything worked for me - the way Neumeier's presented the story, his expressive choreography that was not used arbitrarily but really served his take on the Andersen's fairytale very well, Yuan Yuan Tan unbelievable performance, and last but not at all least Lera Auerbach music. Everything clicked and made sense to me. Actually, it all made a lot of sense, even in retrospect. Of course, this ballet is not for the weak of heart and could be very disturbing, but its impact is as cathartic as only a true work of high art can be. And again, I usually don't get easily impressed by today's oeuvres. Obviously, it's way too early to tell, but I have a very strong feeling that this Little Mermaid is going to become a classic and could in time surpass even Die Kameliendame as the most popular Neumeier's creation. (Disclaimer: I'm usually wrong about all my predictions :))

#6 Pamela Moberg

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Posted 29 November 2011 - 04:08 PM

There has been a hurricane and power cut here, but finally we got to see it. DD and I were not terribly impressed, we agreed on most things - we both felt that the fairy tale atmosphere was sadly lacking, what now, golf clubs and balls, Royal Marines, able seamen galore - at one time DD joked "Now we will soon have the Swedish chef (the Muppet one)". Indeed, far too many distractions all around. But we were both totally convinced by Yuan Yuan Tan's
performance - she was just unbelievably good. If only there had been less of able seamen strutting about and more of her, we would both have liked it better. The entire ballet stands and falls with the ballerina, with Yuan Yuan Tan it stands beautifully, with a lesser dancer the whole ballet would flounder and just become some silly goings on aboard a cruise liner- "Anyone for shuffle board?"

#7 Birdsall

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Posted 29 November 2011 - 07:52 PM

I am more like Waelsung in his feelings about the ballet. I think it played in Hamburg and in Copenhagen previously. I wonder who danced the title role those times. I am sure it would fail if you don't have a good dancer dancing Little Mermaid as Pamela says, but I think most ballet companies would never stage this without someone who was a good dancer and totally committed to learning the part both dramatically and choreography wise. That is what I think. I do see why the golfing and other things are distracting, but I still enjoyed it.

#8 Susanna

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Posted 30 November 2011 - 01:08 AM

As far as I remember the mermaid was danced by Marie-Pierre Greve in Copenhagen (but I have no possibility to countercheck at the moment).

Silvia Azzoni danced the mermaid at the German premiere in Hamburg. I had the chance to see this ballet about a year after the premiere and I liked it very much, even if I am not a big fan of Ms. Auerbach's music. Sivia Azzoni was a fantastic, very touching mermaid and I especially liked her dancing in the first part when she was still the sea creature moving beautifully and elegantly in the watery element. I love the idea how to the fishtail is made part of the dance. But my heart was broken when the mermaid made her first horrible, clumsy steps on her new feet.

I agree there is not much of a fairy tale atmosphere and I could have done without golf and the Royal marine and those seamen. I found the Princess's (Helen Bouchet in Hamburg) behavior a bit irritating because she almost never reacts to anything the mermaid does, as if she is not able to see the mermaid.

Neumeier's Little Mermaid will probably not become one of my all-time favorites (this place is occupied by his Illusions – Like Swan Lake and the Lady of the Camellias) but I would love to get another chance to see the Little Mermaid on stage and I am very much looking forward to this DVD.

#9 Birdsall

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Posted 30 November 2011 - 05:12 AM

I especially liked her dancing in the first part when she was still the sea creature moving beautifully and elegantly in the watery element. I love the idea how to the fishtail is made part of the dance. But my heart was broken when the mermaid made her first horrible, clumsy steps on her new feet.


I agree that the dancing in the first part was much more beautiful when the little mermaid was in the water. Even though the later "clumsy" and "painful" dancing was amazing and thrilling in its own way I did wish we could see the Mermaid return in the water with the tail. But she was too "in love" to kill the prince to regain her tail just like in the original tale! LOL This is a timeless tale of how people fall for the wrong guy! About 90% of my friends do that!!!

#10 Natalia

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Posted 12 December 2011 - 07:48 AM

As mentioned in other threads, PBS' telecast of Neaumeier's Little Mermaid performed by the San Fco Ballet, is scheduled for this Friday, Dec 16.

Copy of my 'alert' on the timing, from another forum:
MPT is the only PBS station in the DC area showing the San Fco Ballet's Little Mermaid this Friday, Dec 16, at 9pm EST. Alert to folks hoping to tape it: the show will run 2 hrs & 26 minutes, so use proper recording mode/speed to not be disappointed, if you're not monitoring the taping.

#11 Marga

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Posted 17 December 2011 - 01:56 AM

I watched Little Mermaid a few hours ago and was awestruck[font=helvetica, arial, sans-serif][size=4]. Yuan Yuan Tan was exquisite, excruciatingly so, and I was happy to see her dancing such an extraordinary part. Tiit Helimets was outstanding as the prince. The mermaid costume designer, a genius. Mesmerizing is the [/size][/font][font=helvetica, arial, sans-serif][size=4]b[/size][/font][font=helvetica, arial, sans-serif][size=4]est way to describe the first act introduction of the mermaid and the sea. Yuan Yuan Tan's use of her arms was the most spectacular aspect of her characterization. The underwater feeling was totally accomplished. Odette must [/size][/font][font=helvetica, arial, sans-serif][size=4]b[/size][/font][font=helvetica, arial, sans-serif][size=4]e a piece of cake for her after the choreography for the arms Neumeier gave her - I've never seen anything like it before! [/size][/font]

[font=helvetica, arial, sans-serif][size=4]Tan is exceedingly bendy - every last inch of her - and she was a[/size][/font][font=helvetica, arial, sans-serif][size=4]b[/size][/font][font=helvetica, arial, sans-serif][size=4]le to put this facility to the utmost balletic use[/size][/font][font=helvetica, arial, sans-serif][size=4] in order to interpret the character of the mermaid on sea and on land. The scene showing her struggle to feel free in a physical 'room' erected on stage was heartrending as she made us experience the loss of hope when she realizes there is no escape while trapped in a human form.[/size][/font]

[font=helvetica, arial, sans-serif][size=4]She and Helimets together made the [/size][/font][font=helvetica, arial, sans-serif][size=4]b[/size][/font][font=helvetica, arial, sans-serif][size=4]allet something very special. Kudos to P[/size][/font][font=helvetica, arial, sans-serif][size=4]B[/size][/font][font=helvetica, arial, sans-serif][size=4]S for televising it![/size][/font]

#12 puppytreats

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Posted 17 December 2011 - 05:29 AM

I agree with Waelsung and Marga in their description and evaluation of the ballet and ballerina. I think this is one of the greatest works of art I have ever encountered. As both an actress and dancer, Yuan Yuan Tan is extraordinary. I am awestruck. The only difficulty I have is with the characterization of the final scene as one of "redemption", or perhaps, the portrayal of a redemption.

#13 Jayne

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Posted 17 December 2011 - 12:37 PM

I watched it last night, a tour de force for Yuan Yuan Tan, and the Sea Witch, and not much dance content for anyone else.

#14 Birdsall

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Posted 17 December 2011 - 02:48 PM

I agree with Waelsung and Marga in their description and evaluation of the ballet and ballerina. I think this is one of the greatest works of art I have ever encountered. As both an actress and dancer, Yuan Yuan Tan is extraordinary. I am awestruck. The only difficulty I have is with the characterization of the final scene as one of "redemption", or perhaps, the portrayal of a redemption.


I do think it has legs! No pun intended. I think it is more likely to spread as a ballet played all over the world than the Royal Ballet's new Alice. I enjoyed both, but The Little Mermaid has more dancing and is a more moving experience. However, I can't imagine anyone topping Yuan Yuan Tan's performance. I feel like she made the dvd worth it for me. I think it is going to become a real challenge for dancers to equal or top her performance in this in the future, but you never know. We seem to be living in a very good time for ballet. In contrast, the opera world has gone downhill, in my personal opinion, which is the reason I have turned to ballet. I have had a few too many disappointments in the opera house in recent years. I think opera is experiencing a decline right now, but I am happy that ballet is on an upswing.

#15 annamicro

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Posted 17 December 2011 - 04:22 PM

Little Mermaid is a very clever, original and subtle piece of art and touches extremely dramatic topics with sublime sensitivity. I don't like golf clubs too, but I think that it was really Neumeier's intention to disturb with it, making even more evident and hurting the distance from the Mermaid poetic dreams and the prosaic and vulgar reality that is the perfect environment of the superficial and not-that-noble Prince.

It's a work that needs and deserves a receptive and sensitive audience and great artists on stage... and what a fantastic performance from SFB: Yuan Yuan Tan, Helimets and Riggins (guest from Hamburg) were great.

As much as Yuan Yuan Tan was superb, I've been told by many people that also Silvia Azzoni (awarded with the Benois de la Danse for this role) is wonderful. I've booked for a performance in Hamburg in April and I hope she will be on that night.
She is very different physically and technically from Yuan Yuan Tan so it will be interesting to see how the approach to the role changes. For the moment I've seen only this pdd (with her husband Sascha Riabko) from a gala and I must say that here I tend to prefer Silvia's less extreme but more poetic kind of movement, I think that her slower movements give also a grater idea of underwater ambient.




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