The Little Mermaid - Montana Ballet Company

Promotional photo for Montana Ballet Company's production of The Little Mermaid. Photo credit: Wimberg Production and Montana Ballet Company

In Bozeman, the classic tale of The Little Mermaid is getting a rewrite with a message for a new generation.

“It’s essentially completely original, apart from being inspired by the Hans Christian Andersen tale,” says Montana Ballet Company Artistic Director Elizabeth DeFanti. Also the director of MBC’s educational facility, DeFanti rewrote the story after rediscovering it while searching for a new ballet for the company.

To make the story more empowering for both performers and audience members, the professional dancer included messages of “self-acceptance and self-truth” in her version.

For generations, The Little Mermaid, the classic tale of a mermaid who gives up her voice and tail to gain the affection of a land-dwelling prince, is one of the first stories many children hear or see. And for DeFanti, it was a great source of inspiration.

The reinterpretation means brand new sets, costumes, design, and even an original orchestral score, something few productions of this size can boast.

“Everything is an original, coming together in a true artistic collaboration,” she notes.

For DeFanti, it was also a chance to send a profound message in a world that all too often seems to be telling us we’re not good enough. She hopes what was originally the story of a girl who gives up her identity in the pursuit of love can instead become a story of growth and strength.

“Our mermaid disavows her true gifts, because she thinks that by doing that, she’ll find happiness outside of herself,” DeFanti explains. “Through her own powers, through her own empowerment, she is going to reclaim her true nature and her true self.”

As a professional dancer and choreographer, DeFanti is fully aware of ballet’s reputation as a sport that values perfection and sacrifice above all else. She admits that dancers have a tendency to aspire, to be constantly critical of their work, and to strive for perfection. But, she says of her young students, “I think it’s nice to reflect on, often there’s nothing that needs changing, you know, in terms of who they are as young men and women.”

The world premiere of Montana Ballet Company’s The Little Mermaid will take place at the Willson Auditorium in Bozeman on February 23rd and 24th.

More information and tickets are available on their website.

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