The Little Mermaid — San Francisco Ballet Performance

The Little Mermaid

San Francisco Ballet Performance

April 23, 2019


The San Francisco Ballet performance of The Little Mermaid is a beautiful spectacle.   Everything works.  The lighting, the costumes, the special effects, the choreography are imaginatively conceived and seamlessly integrated, and of course the dancing is superbly executed.  If you are familiar with Hans Christian Andersen’s original story of The Little Mermaid, you’re not going to see that.  This is a takeoff on the Hans Christian Andersen story, not a re-creation.  The San Francisco Ballet performance is actually better than the original, I think.  It is darker, more surreal, and enigmatic.  It does not attempt to create a narrative line.  Instead it takes elements from Andersen’s story and visualizes them in a pageant of colors and dance.  Many of the separate elements that are melded together in this ballet could be excerpted and stand alone.  This ballet is about the dancing and the imagery rather than about telling a story.  Even if you know the story, it would be hard to follow it through this performance as a coherent narrative.  But it doesn’t matter.  The performance depends on the execution of the dance, its blending with and accentuation of the music, and not on the retelling of the narrative.  The music is an important factor that makes this production and raises it to its high level of attainment.  Lera Auerbach’s score is well suited to this ballet.  She has thought this out very carefully.   The use of the solo violin is very effective and moving.  The dancing complements the music and the two work extremely well together to create the shifting moods and scenes of the story.  A word should be mentioned about Yuan Yuan Tan, who played the Little Mermaid.  She was outstanding in a very demanding role.  She was onstage through most of the performance and masterfully executed the wide range of dance styles that the role demanded.   This was a very creative, well thought out rendering of Hans Christian Andersen’s tale.  It took the story, originally intended for children, and brought it up, turning it into a powerful, imaginative visual feast for the stage.