BalletDanceSpring 2023

Joffrey Ballet Mounts Chicago Premiere of John Neumeier’s “The Little Mermaid”

Chicago dance enthusiasts have an embarrassment of riches in the wealth of world renowned dance companies gracing our city’s stages. Chief among them are those companies that call the city home; and atop that list, The Joffrey Ballet reigns supreme. Routinely, the Joffrey regails its audiences with lavish and opulent productions, sprawling sets and infinitely exquisite and captivating dance. Imagine, then, what scope the company’s finale 2023 performance might take when the media announcement that introduces it cites it as “…the largest production ever mounted by The Joffrey Ballet.” With gaping productions like Christopher Wheldon’s Swan Lake and Yuri Possokhov’s Don Quixote, what could that possibly look like? 

Well, come this spring wonder no more. With sets and costumes of the grandest scale The Joffrey Ballet mounts a highly-anticipated cap to  its 67th season with the long-awaited Chicago premiere of John Neumeier’s beautifully haunting evening-length ballet, The Little Mermaid. A gripping tableau of shadows and colors, Neumeier’s world-renowned interpretation of Hans Christian Andersen’s 1837 tragic folktale follows the tormented mermaid heroine on a journey between the divergent worlds of land and sea—one utterly complex, the other magnificently serene. With a scope and scale exceeding anything The Joffrey Ballet has ever done before, this heartbreaking tragedy, based on Andersen’s original and complex themes, will no-doubt raise the bar for what audiences have seen on Chicago stages. 

In The Little Mermaid, Milwaukee-born, Hamburg Ballet Director and Chief Choreographer John Neumeier blends dance, dramatic storytelling, and spectacle into a stunning interpretation of Hans Christian Andersen’s fable. The story follows a mermaid who saves a ship’s captain–a Prince–from drowning after a terrible storm at sea. Awakening to a group of onlookers on shore, the Prince mistakes his savior for a human Princess for whom he falls instantly in love. Begging for help from the underwater Sea Witch, the mermaid receives a human body with two legs—but as she watches the Prince’s love for the Princess grow, she suffers the pain of human disappointment and the heartbreak of unrequited love.

Neumeier created The Little Mermaid for the Royal Danish Ballet in 2005 to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Andersen’s birth. Received with critical acclaim, the cautionary tale has since toured with premier ballet companies around the globe. The Little Mermaid is Neumeier’s tour de force, featuring his original choreography, sets, and costumes that come together to create a ballet that is as much theater as it is dance.

“John Neumeier’s adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid is a poignant depiction of the complexity of unrequited love and unwavering resilience,” says The Mary B. Galvin Artistic Director Ashley Wheater MBE. “At its heart, the story proves the strength of the spirit, even in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds. The production’s choreography and stage design beautifully illustrate the contrasts between land and sea, and hope and despair. Neumeier’s emotional journey reminds us that no matter how fervent, and although sometimes unreturned, love is a powerful force which transforms us into our best selves.”

President and CEO Greg Cameron adds, “Marking the largest production ever mounted by the Joffrey, the long-anticipated Chicago premiere of The Little Mermaid closes out an extraordinary season of milestones, including the record-breaking remount of Anna Karenina, which became the highest-grossing non-Nutcracker production in the Joffrey’s history. This season’s closer is a stunning interpretation, bringing to life one of Hans Christian Andersen’s most revered tales.”

The Little Mermaid features an original score by Lera Auerbach that combines moody harmonies with the use of the theremin to convey the beautiful, otherworldly voice of the mermaid. Live music will be performed by the Lyric Opera Orchestra, conducted by Scott Speck, Music Director of The Joffrey Ballet.The Little Mermaid will be presented at the historic Lyric Opera House, 20 North Upper Wacker Drive in downtown Chicago, in ten performances only, from April 19–April 30, 2023.