Mermaid ballet

By Wei Xi Source:Global Times Published: 2012-7-25 21:00:03


Dancers rehearsing The Little Mermaid Photo: Courtesy of Niu Shuai
Dancers rehearsing The Little Mermaid Photo: Courtesy of Niu Shuai

Many children grow up reading adaptations of fairy tales written by Hans Christian Andersen. Now the stories come to life, as The National Ballet of China will stage the classic The Little Mermaid.

Cooperating with renowned choreographer and director John Neumeier, the ballet will be performed at Beijing's Tianqiao Theater from September 24 to 28.

The ballet production of The Little Mermaid is regarded as the first masterpiece from ballet master Neumeier to emerge over the last three years.

Classic story

Neumeier, 70, was born in the US and has been Artistic Director and Chief Choreographer of The Hamburg Ballet since 1973. Since 1996, he has been the "Ballettintendant" (General Manager).

Neumeier has created dozens of ballets, including Hamlet, Lady of the Camellias and The Saga of King Arthur.

The Little Mermaid was created in 2005, when he was invited by the Royal Danish Ballet to create a dance to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Andersen's birth.

The Little Mermaid tells the story of a mermaid who falls in love with a human prince. She bargains with the sea witch to give her human legs. Shortly after, the prince marries another woman, breaking the little mermaid's heart.

The sea witch tells the little mermaid that she can return to sea by killing the prince. Unable to bear this thought, the little mermaid throws herself into the sea and turns into foam.

Throughout recent years, there have been numerous adaptations of the story. But Neumeier said at a press conference last week that he would like to keep the original plot, including the sad ending.

Costumes and casting

For the tail of the little mermaid, Neumeier designed long and loose-fitting trousers, inspired from a performance he saw in Japan.

But this makes dancing more difficult, as Neumeier said that the lead dancer cast in the little mermaid role needs to treat the trousers as part of her body. Movements like jumping and spinning make dancing in the trousers difficult.

Feng Ying, leader of The National Ballet of China, told the Global Times that as the dancing skills at National Ballet rise, the organization is eager to import more internationally acclaimed works.

"Years ago we thought about Neumeier's works. They not only receive good feedback but are a challenge for National Ballet," said Feng.

Besides incorporating different costumes, Feng said some of the musical instruments are also new to National Ballet.

Music for the ballet was composed by Lera Auerbach, a Russian-born American composer who is one of the most popular young composers in Russia.

The core instrument used in the performance is the violin. Another instrument called the theremin will be used to mimic the sound of a mermaid. Feng said the noise resembles an electronic organ.

The Little Mermaid is a story that Chinese audiences are more familiar with, according to Feng.

Thus far, the main heroine, the little mermaid, has not been cast.

"There are several candidates to choose from," Feng told the Global Times.

"I think Neumeier wants to keep it suspenseful, and he may not cast a heroine until the very end."

Posted in: ARTS, Music

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