San Francisco Ballet is closing the season out with an encore run of John Neumeier’s fantasy-laden “The Little Mermaid.” Watching Wednesday’s performance, my review from last year stands firm: this contemporary ballet is both mesmerizing and disturbing. It demands both your imagination and attention, but all of that focus pays off with a lavish, out-of-the box performance.

Several of my friends and colleagues were in the audience with me on Wednesday night, and throughout the evening, they cataloged their thoughts for me. It’s like live blogging, only done in our minds and then committed to paper (or screen) later. AMAZING.

Leah Springer, HR professional (reading the plot notes): Hans Christian Anderson was bisexual? Interesting.
Rain Jokinen, our very own movie guru: I had read reviews, some were glowing (like yours!) and some were a little less so (I think the NY Times review had big issues with it), so I really wasn’t completely sure what to expect. I LOVE ballet, but my experience with it has really been limited to classical story ballets. I haven’t even seen non-story based ones like “Jewels,” and as far as more modern dancing is concerned, I tend to stay away from it. Just an aesthetic preference, really.
Brian Williams, longtime subscriber: Really wondering how this amazing ballet company is going to translate an underwater world of mystery as well as how the principal dancers will be able to “dance” while appearing to have fish like capabilities. Very excited to see the production.
Becca Klarin: Somehow, I saw almost the exact same leading cast last year.

What: San Francisco Ballet’s The Little Mermaid

Where: War Memorial Opera House, 301 Van Ness Ave, San Francisco

When: Now through Sunday, May 8th

Tickets: Online, via 415.865.2000, or at the Ballet Box Office at 301 Van Ness Ave.

At intermission
Leah Springer: Whoa, that Sea Witch is one scary mother-effer. Very “Black Swan.”
Rain Jokinen: The prologue put me at ease because it was so visually stunning, and it just sucked me into the sea, so to speak!
Brian Williams: WOW! What a beautiful production. I was expecting only Yuan Yuan Tan to have such sensuous and nimble movements. Sarah Van Patten has a depth of skill that makes her one of the best dancers in this company. As much as I am enjoying the show I feel that is a little on the melodramatic side as well as tad bit long.
Audra Logan, Bay Area native: I enjoyed the flowing silk costumes and fluid hand movements that replicated the underwater experience.
Becca Klarin: Almost as good. I think Garen Scribner was a sharper Sea Witch, but man, Jaime Garcia Castilla has sinful cheekbones.
Lee Springer, husband to Leah: Where’s the calypso music?

Somewhere during the performance:
Leah Springer: Ugh, the pinch on the nose and punch on the chin. I died inside a little every time the prince would do that to one of them. Unrequited love is the worst… Where are the pirouettes? This is super-modern dance. I wanted spins 🙁
Rain Jokinen: [T]he second act is….where the real emotion is, and I will admit, I definitely cried. (Not as much as my friend Michele did, though. She’s gone to a LOT of ballets, and she said she’s never had such an emotional reaction to one.)
Audra Logan: It was definitely darker and more theatrical than I expected.
Becca Klarin: The connection that the Poet creates and then sustains with the Mermaid, as his muse, is utterly fascinating. It’s not a sexual relationship, but more one of protective-yet-slightly bonkers mother and child.

After the final curtain
Leah Springer: Great show. Amazing set. Incredible acting (from the Mermaid and Poet, in particular). Needed more spinning.
Rain Jokinen: What was up with all the golf? I am not sure I understand the symbolism of that (if there even is any!).
Brian Williams: Amazing analogy for the opening scene returning from intermission…trapped in a box and truly feeling like a “fish out of water.” That said, the ending scene had drama and intrigue, but again a bit too long.
Audra Logan: The last dance was so gorgeous and bittersweet. A beautiful way to end a somewhat heartbreaking story.
Becca Klarin: Last year, I needed about an hour post-performance to cool my brain–I just felt so badly for the Mermaid! But this time around, I feel more level-headed.

As a side note, I can’t stress enough, that this ballet is NOT the Disney version nor anything resembling a lighthearted, cartoon fairytale. I noticed several young children crying at the end, and Williams concurred, saying, “I did not think this was a ballet for little children as there was much to translate for one expecting to see Disney’s version… A mother and her daughter sat in front of me and the little one (either 5 or 6) was very upset towards the end of the production.”

Also, there’s a “Great Performances” taping in the works, with planned DVD and Blu-Ray distribution. If you don’t get a chance to see “The Little Mermaid” in person, keep an eye out for the recorded version.

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the author

Becca Klarin writes about dance. Her first stage role was at the age of four, where she dressed in a brightly colored bumble bee tutu and black patent leather taps shoes. She remembers bright lights and spinning in circles with her eleven other bees, but nothing more. Becca also has an affinity for things beginning with the letter "P", including Pizzetta 211, Fort Point, pilates, parsvakonasana, and plies.

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