Carolina Ballet’s The Little Mermaid is definitely something different. The new ballet choreographed by Lynn Taylor-Corbett is a colorful, fully-narrated, slightly gaudy children’s ballet. Elaborate costume design by David Heuvel offers color and character essential to the ballet. The voice-of-God narration moves the story quickly from one scene to another. Additionally, the characters have voices, and even “sing.” The dancers’ bodies move along with the recorded vocals (written by Michael Moricz together with the music) as if their movements produce the words. The story is told so effectively through the dancing, it could do without the narration to appeal to a more seasoned audience.
The ballet, which is the second half of the program, opens with the 16th birthday party for Mermaid, danced by Margaret Severin-Hansen. She now has the chance for a single visit to land. On her way up she saves the drowning Prince Christian, Gabor Kapin. The beautiful human Sonia, danced by Lilyan Vigo, takes credit for saving him, so the prince decides to marry her. When Mermaid jumps back into the sea, the Sea Witch, Randi Osetek, offers her human legs in exchange for Mermaid’s beautiful voice.
The acting is more noteworthy in this ballet than the dancing. Severin-Hansen makes a perfect naive mermaid. She expressively plays this young girl who, even with her human legs, doesn’t quite fit in among the land-dwellers. The land-dwellers, not knowing that Mermaid is… a mermaid, seem curious about the odd girl. Osetek’s Sea Witch was my favorite role. She was dressed in a sultry black witchy sort of thing. Calypso theme music played as her henchman, the Two Terrible Tentacles (Eugene Barnes and Adam Crawford Chavis) wheeled her onto the stage like the royalty of the abyss. She was as evil and calculating as any cartoon villain ever was.
An interesting and noteworthy dance in the ballet was that of Krusty and Karla Crab (Adam Schiffer and Ashley Hathaway). The two danced a sideways crabby Vaudeville style dance that was very fun and full of character – it might have been a tap dance in different shoes.
I couldn’t help but smile when the sweet Gullible Goldfish, danced by very young local dancers entered in their wagging fish costumes.
The first half of the program offered the sophistication lacking in the Little Mermaid. Four pas de deux opened the program, 3 by artistic director Dr. Robert Weiss, and one from Le Corsaire by Marius Petipa.
To have lasting power, a dance must resonate for people of various backgrounds. The three Weiss ballets: Stürmische Liebe (Lara O’Brien and Alain Molina), Adagio (Margaret Severin-Hansen and Pablo Javier Perez), and Visitation (Melissa Podcassy and Timour Bourtasenkov), were intimate and demonstrated that lasting power, abstract but still evoking emotion.
The first, Stürmische Liebe, was perhaps the most intimate. In just a few minutes the dancers established the feelings of love and loneliness, dancing together then repeatedly ending up alone.
I was happy to see Adagio on the program. To music by Tomaso Albinoni, this is a dancer’s dance. The skin-toned fitted costumes expose every movement the dancers make. A dance this bare is a simple showcase of artistry and skill.
Another showcase of skill was the Le Corsaire pas de deux, danced by Lilyan Vigo and Marcelo Martinez. In this classical piece, the dancers performed together and then took turns wowing the audience with turns and leaps. Martinez’s leaps seemed to get higher with every entrance.
This combination of sophistication and folly was ill-fitted. The Little Mermaid has such a Disney feel that it would most obviously appeal to young children. But those young children would likely have fallen asleep during the sophisticated first half. And contrariwise, those who appreciated the subtlety of the four pas de deux might grow weary of the Little Mermaid’s frivolity.
It is nice to see Carolina Ballet continuing to grow a varied repertoire that appeals to an increasingly diverse audience.
Tickets and show schedule: http://www.carolinaballet.com/thelittlemermaid.html
The matinee performances will feature two pas de deux, an intermission, and then The Little Mermaid. The March 24, 11 am performance will only feature The Little Mermaid.
by Denise Cerniglia