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James Reel
Fanfare, May 2012

Neumeier…employs only some elements of traditional ballet vocabulary, melding them into movement patterns drawn from modern dance, and paying special attention to gesture and facial expression; this story is acted as much as it is danced. Yuan Yuan Tan portrays the Mermaid as a happy, graceful creature in her natural element who becomes gangly, awkward, even a bit physically ugly when she thrusts herself into a realm in which she doesn’t belong. Together with choreographer Neumeier, in the “Mermaid’s Room” scene she creates a particularly realistic and distressing depiction through movement of claustrophobia and depression. Lloyd Riggins, as the Poet, has a role that is nearly as challenging, and turns in the most poignant performance here. Tiit Helimets is a virile, athletic Prince, and manages to make his character seem obtuse but not unlikeable. Davit Karapetyan is a menacing, very physical presence as the Sea Witch, who strips the Mermaid of her tail…

Neumeier designed every element of this production except the music; that task fell to Lera Auerbach…Auerbach knits together some memorable motifs and sequences that sometimes evoke other composers without ever seeming derivative…Auerbach provides for an intricate pas de quatre is more reminiscent of early Panufnik…something easy enough for an audience to embrace. The excellent playing of the orchestra under Martin West puts the lie to the notion that pit orchestras are the worst orchestras.

The Blu-ray edition provides clarity through the underwater murk without sacrificing atmosphere, and the DTS-HD audio track gives the orchestra realistic depth and timbral precision. The 35 minutes of interviews are actually quite worthwhile in terms of expressing the dancers’ approaches to characterization, not the usual tedium of each artist praising all the others as geniuses who are wonderful to work with.

Neumeier’s Little Mermaid is not for people who prefer the pretty, psychologically shallow old story ballets. Put the kids to bed, watch this, and weep. © 2012 Fanfare Read complete review on Fanfare

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4:59:43 AM, 27 May 2016
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