5 Questions for “Little Mermaid” Choreographer Mark Diamond

Christopher Record Dance Photography - Charlotte Ballet Little Mermaid

In just a few short weeks, FBP will make a splash at The Vets, bringing Mark Diamond’s bubbly adaptation of Little Mermaid to the stage for the first time in New England. Before taking on his current role as the director of Charlotte Ballet II, Mark Diamond danced with several professional ballet companies in Europe and the US, including Hamburg Ballet, Milwaukee Ballet, andPittsburgh Ballet Theater. Today we are sitting down with the choreographer to learn a bit about his version of the classic fairytale…

Hello, Mark! Let’s dive in (ha). What inspired you to create a ballet version of Little Mermaid?

When Charlotte Ballet asked me to create a family ballet, I felt that the Little Mermaid was a great story because of the juxtaposition of two worlds, the land and the sea. And also, because it is a love story.

Charlotte Ballet - Little Mermaid - Alessandra Ball James & James Kopecky_2_photo by Peter Za.jpg

That beautiful opposition between land and sea must have posed some unique challenges in terms of choreography. How did you go about creating an underwater world? 

The idea of the sea (and under the sea) is that everything is constantly moving with natural beauty; which is what dance is about. The dancer playing the little mermaid can never stand or walk while under the sea; so I have men carriers, which I call the Undertow run and carry her about the stage. Costumes are flowy and representative of different sea elements and creatures. And of course the lighting and projections emphasize the exaggerated colors of the water, and of the constant movement.

Christopher Record Dance Photography - Charlotte Ballet Little Mermaid

Sounds lovely! Can you describe the high-tech elements that were recently incorporated in the show?

The use of projections on top of the scenery really helps with the constant flux of visuals that are under water.

*Pro Tip: For an inside look at the making of the Little Mermaid costumes which include one-of-a-kind 3D printed elements, click here!*

Christopher Record Dance Photography - Charlotte Ballet Little Mermaid

There seems to be a shift in technique used from the dancers under the sea versus those on land. What can the audience expect to see in terms of style? 

In general, the movement under the sea is natural or, in the style of contemporary dance; especially for the Undertow men. The dance styles utilized in the land scenes are all classical or “character” dance.

Christopher Record Dance Photography - Charlotte Ballet Little Mermaid

Little Mermaid is such a classic story. What elements of the original story did you incorporate and what did you make your own? Did the popular Disney adaptation inspire you in any way?

I have followed the story from Hans Christian Anderson (whose works are always a bit dark and depressing) as closely as possible but not always in the details. In dance we always have to take some artistic license to make the translation work.

“I have made the interpretation more colorful and joyful and have incorporated elements of joy, yearning, humor and hope.”

I have choreographed a few storybook ballets and I always try to totally avoid any adaptations used by Disney. I also felt it would be very irresponsible to ask families to bring their children and serve them the ancient, dismal and depressing ending that Hans Christian Anderson used.

Charlotte Ballet - Little Mermaid - Alessandra Ball James & James Kopecky_1_photo by Peter Zay.jpg

Both creativity and balance are so key when it comes to making something exciting and original for children. The Company has been looking forward to bringing this ballet to life! Thanks, Mark!

To see Little Mermaid make a splash on stage, click here for tickets.

Photos via Charlotte Ballet.


This post was written by Kirsten Evans. The author is in her eighth season as a Company Dancer with Festival Ballet Providence. She is also the Company PR & Communications Assistant, as well as the writer of a personal blog, Setting The Barre.

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