Category In the News

Hedy Weiss, WTTW

April 21, 2023

Fairy tales are often seen as literature for children. But that is not really an accurate assumption. Just take a look at choreographer John Neumeier’s strange but compelling ballet inspired by Hans Christian Anderson’s enduring classic “The Little Mermaid,” written in 1837.

Created by Neumeier for the Royal Danish Ballet in 2005, and subsequently performed by the Hamburg Ballet (where the prolific 84-year-old Milwaukee-born, Chicago-trained artist has served as director and chief choreographer since 1973, and has recently announced his planned retirement), “Mermaid” is now receiving its Chicago premiere in a grand-scale production by the Joffrey Ballet on the Lyric Opera House stage. And it serves as proof of both Neumeier’s notably dramatic style and the Joffrey company’s exceptional ability to realize it.

The tale of a mermaid who is willing to sacrifice her seaworthy tail for the legs that will make her human and allow her to gain the love of a handsome prince, the ballet is at once a strange, heart-breaking and exceedingly dark work.

Neumeier (who also designed the production’s fascinating ultra-modern sets, costumes and lighting), is beautifully supported by composer Lera Auerbach’s intriguing score that is being impeccably performed by the Lyric Opera Orchestra led by Scott Speck. The ballet has not only challenged the superb technique of the Joffrey dancers but it has put their impressive dramatic talents on display as well. (Over the years, Neumeier has adapted many literary and dramatic classics for dance, with the Hamburg Ballet’s production of “The Glass Menagerie,” which came to Chicago this past February, another ideal example.)

Read the full review here

The Little Mermaid runs now-April 30 at Lyric Opera House.