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Did you grow up knowing The Little Mermaid story, such as via Disney? Why do you think these fairytales are still so popular?
I did know the story of The Little Mermaid through the Disney version, we definitely had the video in my house.
People just love a fairytale! Adults remember them from their youth and want to share it with their children; or children find something appealing in the title and then their imaginations take them on a journey. In a fairytale there is always a ‘goodie’, a ‘baddie’, a hero or a heroine – there is just something for everyone.
How did it feel to have a title role created on you for the first time? Why is this kind of opportunity important for a dancer?
To have a title role created on you is such a special and unique experience. Every day that I stepped into the studio to create more of the ballet with David Nixon was different. I didn’t set any expectations for the process as I had never experienced this before. I just took each day as it came.
Having this role created on me has added another level to my dancing. I feel personally involved with this character and I am able to express this through the story.
What can you tell us about your character and her journey in the ballet?
You would think that she is quite a simple character but she isn’t! Marilla is the youngest of three mermaids. She has an immature side to her which is most apparent when she is with her friend, Dillion the Seahorse; they like to play games. She is quite naïve about the human world and doesn’t understand why she can’t go to the surface.
She sets her sights on Prince Adair who she falls in love with. Everything on land is new to her so she is in complete wonderment all the time, excited to see other humans and fascinated by them. When her heart is broken by Prince Adair who is in love with another Princess, she experiences unbearable pain in her heart. She also feels excruciating pain in her legs because all this time, her love for Prince Adair has been her coping mechanism for masking the pain in her legs bestowed on her by the Sea Lord. The pain of losing Prince Adair is just too much for her.
Her journey is quite a long emotional one through the story – she fully endures life in the water and on the land with the humans.
What is your favourite element of the costumes you’ll be wearing for The Little Mermaid?
All the costumes I wear are beautiful. They are different to everyone else’s in colour, in material and in the overall look. The costumes that Marilla wears always remind people of the water.
Of course I also have a tail which was a major factor in the creation process as I had to learn how to dance whilst wearing it! I had to learn how the tail moves when it’s attached to me and how much force it needs to be moved, as well as how to make it look most natural.
Is the tail the most challenging costume you’ve ever worn in a Northern Ballet production?
To be honest, no matter what the costume is you always learn to work with it. I don’t really see the tail as part of the costume any more, it is just part and parcel of being Marilla.
At the beginning of the creation process the tail and I weren’t friends, but now it’s safe to say I feel lost without it on.
How does Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid differ from the Disney version?
The Hans Christian Andersen version isn’t as simple as the Disney version. There’s more to get your teeth stuck into!
Even though it is darker than the Disney adaptation, what can children still enjoy about the production?
To start with you have three mermaids in beautiful costumes and Dillion the Seahorse who I think children will love. There are fish and jellyfish that make an appearance every now and then.
There are sailors, women in beautiful costumes and a Sea Lord who will capture the attention of the older children. The colours of the costumes are something that stand out and look stunning under the stage lights.
Also the music is fantastic! There are so many different parts to the music – the underwater world has a different sound to the human world and it really creates a beautiful divide.
Why do you think a story like The Little Mermaid is suitable to be told through ballet?
Why not!? At Northern Ballet, we are always trying to push ourselves and do something to stretch the imagination and creativity.
What can audiences look forward to most about The Little Mermaid?
Northern Ballet bringing another great creation and well-known title to life. Everyone has worked as such a strong team for this ballet and it shows, so I hope the audience will see that too.