Like the elusive mystery and dark beauty of a Black Orchid, John Neumeier’s Little Mermaid, performed by the Hamburg Ballet at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts, fascinates and draws you into its artistry creating a dark dreamscape where audiences get lost in a fantasy world.
No children’s fairy tale this, Neumeier’s Little Mermaid tells a story of tragic conflicted love and loss. There is a sub lesson in the story about changing one’s self to please another, about trying to become something you aren’t to find love. However, we have to applaud the Little Mermaid for taking a chance, going after what she wants with her whole heart.
The curtain rises and we see a picture postcard with a man on the deck of a ship. Slowly the scene comes to life, the poet looking over the rail of the ship into the waters below, bright neon like tube moving like the sea separates the divergent worlds of the poet and the watery world of the mermaid; the poet’s world with complex emotions and behavior of humans, and the serene simplicity of the underwater universe of the mermaid.
This is a visually stunning piece of work. The simplicity of the creative and spare sets, giving the audience a sense of place yet not distracting from the dancers is reminiscent of traditional Japanese theater. Carolina Aguero’s mermaid, ethereal with flowing blue silken fins undulates throughout her underwater paradise with flowing moves that at times make you believe in the possibility of a legendary creature with the tail of a fish and the body of a woman.
Lera Auerbach’s haunting score underlines the story conjuring up the sounds of the ocean, as well as the frivolity of a wedding party on the ship.
The mermaids naivety and painful experience not only in losing her fins but in her foray into the human world is often heartbreaking and hard to watch, but the last scene of the Mermaid and the Poet searching for a new world among the stars lets audiences go home with hope for her ultimate happiness.
The Little Mermaid continues with performances at 2 and 7:30 PM on Saturday February 9 and at 2:30 on Sunday February 10.