Category In the News

Lauren Warnecke, Chicago Tribune

April 20, 2023

The Joffrey Ballet caps a spectacular 2022-23 season with the long-awaited Chicago premiere of John Neumeier’s “The Little Mermaid.” Those headed to the Lyric Opera House hoping to encounter a certain seafaring ginger princess are in for a surprise. This “Little Mermaid” is a macabre deep-dive into Hans Christian Andersen’s 1837 literary fairy tale. While the ballet and the Disney film share certain narrative landmarks, you won’t find thingamabobs or dancing lobsters here.

First created in 2005 for the Royal Danish Ballet, Neumeier’s “Little Mermaid” was made in homage to Andersen’s 200th birthday. The Joffrey premiere continues through April 30 at the Lyric Opera House.

Chicago is right to honor Neumeier, who marks his 50th and final season as head of Hamburg Ballet this year. Born and raised in Milwaukee, Neumeier’s first professional gig was at the Lyric Opera in 1961, where he performed Ruth Page’s choreography in the world premiere of Vittorio Giannini’s English-language opera “The Harvest.” He trained at Chicago’s revered Stone-Camryn School of Ballet and danced in the company of modern dance legend Sybil Shearer, but has spent the bulk of his life in Europe.

Look closely at “The Little Mermaid” and one can glimpse all these influences. But the creative mind of John Neumeier, truly, is like no other; iconoclastic to the core, Neumeier is consistently weird and wonderful but not everyone’s cup of tea. In 2015, Joffrey presented the American premiere of his adaptation of the 1876 ballet “Sylvia” — an unpopular work I happened to love. Then there was Joffrey’s 2017 debut collaboration with the Lyric Opera, in Neumeier’s “Orphee et Eurydice.”

Read the full review here