“Then the little mermaid lifted her shapely white arms, rose up on the tips of her toes, and skimmed over the floor. No one had ever danced so well.” (Hans Christian Andersen’s – `Den lille Havfrue’ – 1837)
Yesterday evening, The XA Project took pediatric patient families residing at the Children’s Inn at NIH to attend a simply wonderful production of “The Little Mermaid” (adapted from Hans Christian Andersen) by Imagination Stage in collaboration with the Washington Ballet! This beautiful production, held in the intimate Annette and Theodore Lerner Family Theatre Main Stage of Imagination Stage, was a further “exploration of how ballet and theatre can unite to express a story on multiple levels, amplifying the emotions through the dance, and harnessing the drama through dialogue lyrics, and action” (from the Director’s Notes). Masterfully directed by Kathryn Chase Bryer and beautifully choreographed by Septime Webre & David Palmer, the performance achieve all of that and more!
The graceful dancers and gifted actors/singers were seamlessly interwoven into the performance, with puppets and large pieces of flowing fabric also “dancing” on stage to create the illusions of being under the sea and on land. Smiles on the patient families abound as the dancers seem to defy gravity and perform amazing balletic feats on the intimate stage. The performance began with a dancer, or rather mermaid, being lifted high to swim around the stage like a dolphin, or rather mermaid. At another time during the performance, one family member applauded enthusiastically as 3 dancers performed multiple a la second turns with ease. Stand out, Justine Icy Moral (performing the role of Pearl), created many smiles on the faces of the kids and families with her lovely operatic voice. With the performers intermittently dancing through the audience during the performance, the patient families had the opportunity, at times, to see the actors/dancers within arms reach. Moreover, the dynamic set and lighting further transported audience members to the magical world of The Little Mermaid.
The staff members at Imagination Stage went out of their way to accommodate the patient families during the performance, arranging for complimentary seats and graciously helping one patient who requires the use of wheelchair briefly exit the theatre during the performance. The XA Project also wishes to extend our appreciation to Barwood Taxi for providing wheelchair accessible transportation to get to the performance.
Patient families gave RAVE reviews following the performance: “It was awesome!”, “Very very nice!”, “I was the one laughing and cheering the loudest!” Particularly impressive is the fact that English was not the native tongue for some of the patient families (having traveled to NIH from outside the U.S.) and all were smiles during and after The Little Mermaid performance!!
Bravo Imagination Stage and The Washington Ballet! BRAVO! For kids and families dealing with serious medical illness, an evening out at the theatre can provide a much welcomed respite, create much needed joy, and form wonderful/enduring memories. The Arts really do Touch Hearts. <3