Edinburgh Fringe 2011
Burklyn Ballet Theatre presents “The Little Mermaid Ballet”, a physical and highly visual ballet extravaganza for children, portraying the Hans Christian Andersen fairytale. Based in Vermont, the young troupe depict this simple yet powerful story, which tells of the mermaid who falls in love with a shipwrecked Prince, then agrees to give her beautiful voice to the sea witch so that she may live on land. In spectacular costume they proficiently achieve complicated choreography, pointe work, pirouettes and create the illusion of effortless leaps across their underwater world.
The little mermaid dances beneath the waves with her father and four sisters. Whilst swimming near the surface she spies a handsome Prince aboard a ship. The ship endures a terrible storm and the Prince is cast overboard. The mermaid comes to his rescue and revives him with her magical singing. As he comes to, he sees a nearby princess and mistakes her for his rescuer. Seeing them together makes the mermaid envious and she resolves to visit the sea witch, to ask for a spell to become human. The price she must pay for this transformation is the loss of her magical voice. The spell is cast and the mermaid, having lost her fish tail and gained legs, must now adjust to her new body. She attends a ball at the palace and has to woo the Prince back. On winning his heart, he kisses her and it is true loves’ kiss that breaks the spell that has made her mute
Burklyn Ballet is an innovative dance company that consists of serious young talent. They impressively perform with dancers as young as thirteen, and all show they have learned the necessary underpinning fundamentals of stamina, strength and discipline to present this ballet. Pointe work is exemplary and the principal dancers earn their stripes by executing jetés and pirouettes worthy of seasoned professionals. The choreography by Robert Royce is not simplistic and they perform the arduous dance moves with conviction.
The mermaid, played by the exquisite seventeen year old Kazlyn Nielsen, glides ethereally across the seascapes showing a maturity in her interpretation, seamlessly linking her dance steps together with arabesques and precise pirouettes. She is partnered by the strong masculine bodyline created by Oliver Greene-Cramer. Their skilful pas de deux highlights their dexterity and they complement each other perfectly. The mostly female corps is strong in their support with enjoyable moments being the dance of the sisters with the mermaid and the sailors jig. The evil sea Queen, Jaelen Buxton –Punch, appears in glorious seaweed costume and her intimidating dance is played with true venom. The costumes are marvellous; skirts made from layers of tulle that are sprinkled with sparkling sequins, hidden in the folds and satin pointe shoes that glisten in the subtle lighting. Large swathes of linen are cleverly undulated to create the seabed and the dancers deftly move between.
A clever addition before the performance begins is that they explain to the audience the meaning of gestures they use in their ballet. Plus the complete storyline is outlined in the programme; therefore during the performance you can often hear the sound of little voices excitedly deciphering the recognisable movements to friends and parents. After the performance the audience are invited on stage to talk to the dancers, look at the set up close and touch costumes.
The only dialogue in this work is a physical one accompanied by the music of Sir Arthur Sullivan. Burklyn Ballet manage to hold the attention of their audience – on the day I am there the majority of whom appear to be very young indeed. Their successful enchantment was achieved by the excellence of their spellbinding performance. This is an engaging, educational hour in the theatrical world of classical dance.