San Francisco Ballet brings John Neumeier’s production of The Little Mermaid back to its stage, with a retelling of the story that’s more true to both Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale, and perhaps his life too. One of the characters is ‘the Poet,’ Andersen himself, danced by Ulrik Birkkjaer, whose imagination creates the undersea world, and whose own tale mirrors that of the mermaid.

There’s more information at the San Francisco Ballet website.

“It’s considered to be Hans Christian Andersen’s most autobiographical work,” Birkkjaer explains. “It’s believed that Hans Christian Andersen traveled around to tell his stories from town to town, and one of the families he stayed with, he fell in love with the rich man that lived there. He was getting married, and he couldn’t be involved with Hans Christian Andersen, so it was very sad for him, and it was a big loss of love.” That longing for an unattainable love, or love at a great personal price, is the dilemma of the mermaid who falls in love with a human, and is willing to give up her voice to have a pair of legs and be able to walk on land. But when she does, it’s like walking on broken glass. “It’s a love story, it’s ultimately about love, but a painful version of love. Because Hans Christian Andersen and then the little mermaid love this person so so much, to the point where they want to do everything they can, including not being a mermaid anymore. But it’s still not enough. You can’t force someone to love you, even though you love them so much.” The score, by Lera Auerbach, includes as the ‘voice’ of the mermaid, the eerie sounds of the theremin, played by German theremin virtuoso Carolina Eyck.