Northern Ballet’s take on The Little Mermaid is so immersive and beautiful that coming up for air during the interval is quite an abrupt reality check.
The return to dry land takes some getting used to because this absorbing and atmospheric two-act ballet sees theatregoers dive into the depths of a mesmerising tale following curious young mermaid Marilla. She lives in a mystical underwater world yet yearns to swim to the surface and experience the human realm. Surging waves of emotion crash over Marilla (and us!) as she falls hopelessly in love with a human prince, subsequently sacrificing her voice and life in the ocean for legs and an opportunity to be where the people are…
Based on Hans Christian Andersen’s original 1837 fairy tale, rather than the Disney retelling, Northern Ballet’s The Little Mermaid is choreographed by the company’s artistic director, David Nixon. It premiered in September 2017 at Southampton’s Mayflower Theatre and was one of a hat-trick of new productions created last year for Northern Ballet – the other two being Casanova and The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas. The Little Mermaid’s current visit to Milton Keynes Theatre is occurring at the tail-end of the world premiere tour (it swims off to Leicester next for its final run of performances) but will undoubtedly remain a firm favourite in the company’s repertoire, hopefully to be periodically revived.
Northern Ballet soloist Abigail Prudames is taking dance audiences on an amazing aquatic adventure in the company’s newest production, The Little Mermaid.
She surfaced from beneath the waves for long enough to chat to Georgina Butler about becoming a mermaid ballerina…
Dancer Abigail Prudames is getting so used to decorating her face with iridescent make-up, flaunting a headdress adorned with seashells and slipping on a shimmering fish tail that being a mermaid is her new normal.
The 25-year-old soloist was cherry-picked by Northern Ballet’s artistic director, David Nixon, last year to originate the principal role of Marilla the mermaid for his balletic rendering of Hans Christian Andersen’s classic fairy-tale, The Little Mermaid. She started discovering and developing the mystical creature’s personality and mannerisms in earnest from May 2017. Just four months later, on 21st September 2017, the production had its world premiere in Southampton.
Abigail, who is from Harrogate in North Yorkshire, trained at the Royal Ballet School, White Lodge and Elmhurst School for Dance. She joined Northern Ballet in 2011 so has enjoyed dancing many characters but The Little Mermaid’s Marilla is the very first title role that has been created on her.
We squeezed in an interview between Abigail’s rehearsals for Northern Ballet’s concurrent touring production (a revival of Cathy Marston’s Jane Eyre), the company’s daily class and performances of The Little Mermaid in Edinburgh. Read on for her thoughts on the creative process, dancing as a mermaid and why this immersive new ballet is making such a splash with audience members of all ages!
Fans of fantasy and magic can look forward to diving into an immersive new production when Northern Ballet presents The Little Mermaid at Milton Keynes Theatre this month.
The Leeds-based touring company is known for turning beloved stories into full-scale narrative ballets, using the expressive power of dance to meaningfully connect with audiences.
Tapping into the current zeitgeist for all things enchanted (fantastical creatures like unicorns and mermaids have surely never been so popular), the troupe of classically-trained dancers is currently making a splash bringing Hans Christian Andersen’s aquatic fairy-tale to life.
Northern Ballet’s dancers are in fine form this year. Following the success of the world première tour of Casanova, they are currently on the road with The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas – a new full-length narrative ballet based on John Boyne’s 2006 Holocaust novel.
The Irish writer’s international bestseller tells the heart-wrenching tale of a friendship between two nine-year-old boys living a strange parallel existence during the Second World War. Bruno is a German boy; the son of a Nazi officer promoted to the position of Commandant at a fictionalised Auschwitz concentration camp. Cossetted by his family, Bruno is oblivious to the appalling cruelties being inflicted on the people of Europe by his country. All he knows is that he has been relocated from his familiar home in Berlin to a lonely house in the middle of nowhere in Poland. Here, there is nothing to do and no one to play with. At least, there isn’t until Bruno befriends Shmuel, a Jewish boy imprisoned at Auschwitz, through the barbed wire fence of the camp. As Bruno and Shmuel’s unlikely friendship flourishes, the full implications of Bruno’s father’s job as Commandant are exposed. Familial discord inevitably ensues before the harrowing conclusion reveals how, through misadventure, Bruno ends up dying with Shmuel in the gas chamber.
Although the premise of Boyne’s story is emotive and engaging, both the book and the subsequent 2008 film by Mark Herman received mixed reviews. This is due to the implausibility that any concentration camp prisoner could ever have engaged in a friendship with an outsider. Furthermore, the reality is that children below working age were typically murdered immediately upon their arrival at Auschwitz. Nonetheless, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas is an affecting account of wartime turmoil as seen through a child’s eyes. Significantly, Northern Ballet’s production, devised and choreographed by Artistic Associate Daniel de Andrade, stays true to the book, confidently using dance to capture the drama of forbidden friendship and family conflict.
The art of seduction is all about knowing what is alluring to your intended, appealing to their desires and successfully winning them over. Northern Ballet appreciates that its audiences yearn to be engrossed in narrative works and brings these to the stage through energetic and expressive choreography. Northern Ballet’s Casanova demonstrates that the Company has raised the barre (ballet pun intended) to deliver what may well be its most impressive production to date.
Based on a scenario created by Giacomo Casanova’s biographer Ian Kelly and choreographer Kenneth Tindall, the ballet unmasks the legendary lothario to reveal the man behind all those hedonistic sexual conquests. The plot provides a fascinating glimpse into Casanova’s sensational experiences in decadent 18th Century Venice and Paris. Exhilarating episodes blend together in cinematic style to divulge how the women – and men – Casanova encountered encouraged him to experience the pleasures of life through countless sexual adventures.
Choreographer Kenneth Tindall was a premier dancer with Northern Ballet from 2003 until 2015. Artistic Director David Nixon nurtured his transition into dancemaking. Casanova is the first ever full-length ballet Tindall has devised so it is fitting that he has embarked on this major undertaking with Northern Ballet. His vision, combined with the dramatic expertise of the Company’s dancers, means Casanova boasts both stunning physicality and absorbing storytelling.