For the many young children in the audience, it was a captivating evening of ballet theatre: a pretty mermaid, a handsome prince and a sea-monster. Their opening night experience was enhanced by the addition of a colouring-in area. They were then treated to popcorn, poppers and specially baked cookies in the shape of shells and mermaid tails.
Hans-Christian Anderson’s fairy tale has been enchanting children since its publication back in the nineteenth century. The beloved story has had various interpretations and adaptations, including a recent, animated movie by Disney.
Kudos to the young artists from the Jette Parker program who all cohesively and convincingly owned their individual roles in the context of a small cast. These pre-professional dancers demonstrated an already well-developed capacity for characterisation which is a critical element of ballet performance.
In the central role as the Little Mermaid, Mia Zanardo was endearingly ethereal. Mia tirelessly embraced the workload, which included some exhausting-looking scenes where she dragged her mermaid body across the entire length of the stage.
Mia brought some angelic qualities to her aquatic character and was closely watched by the young attendees. When she collapsed upon a rock, a concerned young voice called out, ”What happened to her?” Thankfully, Mia, the Little Mermaid recovered, learned how to use her land legs and danced on.
The Little Mermaid fell in love with with a very handsome, land-dwelling Prince, danced by Taron Geyl, a fine, young dancer with strength of both physique and stage presence. Geyl had the musculature development of a mature man and was noticeably strong and precise during the choreographed lifts.
The music was a recording, and the story was narrated by a voice over. Hana Nonaka Aillon, as Spirit of the Sea, brought the narrative to balletic life. The evil of the underworld was made manifest in the divided role of the Sea Witch: a vengeful octopus (Joseph Moss) with an alter ego as a gorgeous temptress (Shanti Barlow) assisted by two slippery but likeable eels (Josh Fagan and Sean Ferenczi).
Joseph gave such a convincing performance of permeating malevolence, that I still felt his presence when I drove in the dark down an unfamiliar, narrow lane in West End and the old houses on either side, looked extra eerie.
The Thomas Dixon Centre is a superb, new venue for ballet training and performance production. The Talbot Theatre is ideal for staging small ballets, such as this.
It was a sad week, with the announcement of the end of season departure of Li Cunxin AO and his wife, Mary from Queensland Ballet. It is clear however, that the work they have put into consolidating and furthering the company will endure.
The Little Mermaid
Talbot Theatre – Thomas Dixon Centre, 406 Montague Road, West End (Brisbane)
Season continues to 1 July 2023
Information and Bookings: www.queenslandballet.com.au
Image: Queensland Ballet presents The Little Mermaid (supplied)