Those who know The Little Mermaid mainly from the Disney film may want to touch base with the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale before heading to see Hamburg Ballet's full-length ballet which adheres more closely to the original story. American-born choreographer John Neumeier created The Little Mermaidfor the Royal Danish Ballet on the occasion of the 200th anniversary of Andersen's birth and was presented in Copenhagen not far from where the statue of the Little Mermaid, perhaps Denmark's most recognizable landmark, eternally gazes wistfully out to sea. Neumeier's own Hamburg Ballet has made the ballet its own although other companies including the San Francisco Ballet have performed The Little Mermaid attracted both to the story and Neumeier's nonpareil skills. This most masterful storyteller draws audiences into known stories then blends dance and theatrical elements to cinematic effect that injects fresh insights into familiar plots. Here he makes palpably physical the mermaid's pain as her fins (a brilliant bit of costuming with billowing fabric extending far beyond the dancer's feet) become legs. But Neumeier goes on to capture the after-pain of ambulating on the newfound limbs in an unfamiliar world no longer of water, but earth and gravity, and finally, the painful lesson that no matter how many barriers a powerful love can overcome, there is no guarantee of reciprocity. The story has resonated throughout the world since it was written in 1837, but it has long ties to Danish ballet including its reigning ballerina posing as the model for Little Mermaid sculpture unveiled in 1913. Neumeier's ballet reunited the story with the Royal Danish Ballet, but his Hamburg Ballet brings it to a new generation and to Segerstrom Center for the Arts, 600 Town Center Dr., Costa Mesa; Fri., Feb. 8, 7:30 p.m.; Sat., Feb. 9, 2 p.m. & 7:30 p.m.; Sun., Feb. 10, 2 p.m.; $25-$100. www.scfta.org or (714) 556-2121.
Fri., Feb. 8, 7:30 p.m.; Sat., Feb. 9, 2 & 7:30 p.m.; Sun., Feb. 10, 2 p.m., 2013