The Little Mermaid

Victorian State Ballet. The Concourse, Chatswood. April 10-12, 2021

Reviewed : 11 April, 2021

Photo : Enpointe Productions

The ballet of The Little Mermaid was adapted by Martin Sierra from the original story by Hans Christian Anderson. Sierra chose music from a range of composers including Johann Sebastian Strauss, Franz Lehar, Dimitri Shostakovich, Gioachino Rossini, Brian Crain, Aram Khachaturian and Camille Saint-Saëns to re-tell this tale as a full-length classical ballet.

Choreographer Michelle Cassar de Sierra uses the varied score to capture the suggestion of life under the sea in flowing choreography for Ariel and her mermaid friends in the first act – then subtly changes the choreography as she moves on to the land in the second act. Cassar de Sierra is widely respected for her “unique ability to balance the tension between innovation and tradition” and the ‘kitchen’ scene in Act 2, is testament to that. The Cook and his kitchen staff bring humour and fun to the ballet in fast paced movement and leaps to excerpts from Rossini’s Barber of Seville.

The different settings of the story provide wonderful scope for colour and delicacy in design. Costume designers Jan Tredrea & Gaylene Matthewson use shimmering fabrics and iridescent beading to suggest life under the sea – and more formal white and gold for the lavish costumes in the palace scenes.

The magic of technology and photography allows designers to set – and change – scenes evocatively and quickly. With the use of videography and images projected on a huge, stage-wide screen, Martin Sierra, Jutta Pryor create the sea at peace and in storm – and the luxury one expects when Ariel wakes in a sumptuous palace in the second act.

Before these images over fifty elegant and talented dancers from the Victorian Ballet bring Martin and Michelle Sierra’s inspiration to life.

Photo : Enpointe Productions

Among the principals, Janae Kerr and Alana Puddy alternate as Ariel and Charlie Morton is Prince Eric. Tynan Wood is King Triton. Ursula Sera Schuller and Mia Wallace double as Ursula and Elise May Watson-Lord is Eric’s fiancée. All dancers impress of course with their control, their extensions, their beautifully finished movements and extended bourrees and the succession of pas de deux in the second act were exquisitely executed.

When the Victorian State Ballet brings a production to Sydney, they very generously offer the chance for aspiring young dancers to be part of the production. It is a wonderful opportunity for those who are successful to extend their skills – and learn much about the organisation and control required by dancers behind the scenes of a major production.

In this production of The Little Mermaid a fortunate and delighted group of forty-two young dancers from NSW and the ACT joined the production in the scene of Ariel’s birthday party. Proud parents and other family members were among the keen audiences – many of whom were children – that filled The Concourse for each performance.

Bringing such a large Corps de Ballet inter-state is a major task. Transporting dancers, costumes, props, stage managers, back-stage to take care of costumes, make and hair styling requires an inordinate amount of organisation and control behind the scenes. Add to that the training and rehearsing of a young group of dancers at the same times as the company adjust to new accommodation and a new venue. It’s a mammoth undertaking and one the Victorian Ballet appears to do seamlessly – to the delight of its Sydney audiences.

First published in Stage Whispers magazine