Though I wish I could see this ballet, glad that SFB has been honored with the North American premiere. Neumeier really puts an emphasis on characterization & mime - he often names each and every character in a ballet - and I don't think any of the companies on the east coast could have done the dance-acting justice. SFB sounds like it has just the right blend of technical and artistic and acting talent to carry off Neumeier.
I will admit that as much as I love his ballets, Neumeier can tend to go overboard on length. His Midsummers' is nearly 3 hours long (if my memory is correct), and his Romeo & Juliet and The Seagull are both fairly lengthy. But brilliant.
A bit of background, which may help provide some context for the ballet...
The ballet was commissioned as part of the big HC Andersen anniversary in Denmark back in 2005-2006, and helped to inaugurate the new Opera House in Copenhagen. As I said, I've only seen fragments in rehearsal, but it must have been quite amazing at the Operaen, as the theatre has an integral link to water. Not only does it overlook the harbour in Copenhagen, but it's so close that you can walk down to water's edge during intermission, and most people travel to the theatre by water taxi. Hard to find a better place for a ballet about a Mermaid!
The ballet, I think, was - in part - Neumeier's farewell gift to Kenneth and Marie-Pierre Greve, who played the Prince and the Mermaid on opening night. Greve didn't leave to take over the Finnish Ballet for another two years, but it was probably clear in 2005 that The Little Mermaid was the last chance for Neumeier to create a role on him. And the history between Greve and Neumeier went way back - pretty sure that Greve spent a year or two at the Hamburg Ballet before he returned to the RDB. I'm pretty sure that the concept of having the prince play golf is something that was inspired by Greve. Greve's father was a golf pro, and Greve is quite a talented golfer himself. I seem to remember people taking practice swings with the golf club in the studios...
Both of the original princes (Greve, Blangstrup) were of the tall, blond Danish stereotype, whilst the Mermaids were a bit different - Greve is petite and dark haired, Grinder somewhat taller and blond. The original poet was character dancer Mogens Boesen, and I think Erling Eliasson was second cast. Mogens is quite different physically from Riggins, but I can see how they both fit into that character (and they both danced together in the company back in the 1980s). If anyone's interested in Riggins, I interviewed him a few years back for BDm. The original SeaWitches were dancers with big personalities, but tending towards a stockier build - Jean-Lucien Massot and Morten Eggert (who, at 31, has already developed into a mime and character artist of the very highest quality).
You can see press images from the RDB run here: http://www.kglteater.dk/OplevTeateret/G ... x?pgl=true