Thursday, March 25, 2010

Yuan Yuan Tan

John Neumeier's ballet version of The Little Mermaid makes its U.S. premiere this week at San Francisco Ballet. I saw it with a friend tonight, and will see it again with a different friend Saturday night. Yuan Yuan Tan is beyond praise in this role. She is far more than enough now completely to console one for being born too late to see Sarah Bernhardt on stage.

Summoning the ghost of Bernhardt is more than random hyperbole. Bernhardt's artistry showed itself primarily in vehicles by contemporary playwrights like Sardou, now forgotten except for his association with Bernhardt. And perhaps the excellent dance critic Rita Felciano is right in her online review to say (in essence) that the The Little Mermaid is a spectacular staging of somewhat weak choreography. I'll wait till I've seen it a second time before deciding whether I agree with that or not. But even if posterity does judge the work itself to be only second rate, the ruling will have no bearing at all on the apotheosis that Yuan Yuan Tan achieves with it.