K-Arts Dance Company presented the delightful Song of the Mermaid last weekend at City Center with Mariinsky star Kimin Kim as the Prince. The ballet is based on Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid and was choreographed by Artistic Director Sunhee Kim with an original score by Hana Ryou. K-Arts Dance Company was established in 1997 by the Korean Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism and is operated and supported by the government. Dancers are students at the Korean National University of the Arts.
The story centers around the Little Mermaid, who falls in love with the Prince after saving him after a storm. Much of the Act I festivities takes place at the King’s palace for the festival of the sea where the fish show off their dancing skills. The Mermaid leaves the party and runs into humans. The King admonishes her and forbids her to associate with humans, particularly the Prince. Hopelessly in love, she seeks the aid of the evil Blanket Octopus. She agrees to exchange her voice for legs at a price of her life if she cannot make the Prince fall in love with her. After becoming human, the Mermaid and the Prince fall in love. Blanket Octopus foils the plot and uses his magical power to marry the Prince to a Princess from a nearby country. At the end, the Mermaid refuses to kill the Prince, which would save her life. In a sorrowful ending, she sacrifices her life for the Prince as he is beside himself in grief.
The choreography makes use of a number of divertissements to show off the many talented dancers. Nothing subtle as segments resembled a ballet competition, with each dancer trying to top one another with high leaps and endless turns. Even a campy Michael Jackson moonwalk and a floss dance that I could have done without. Sunhee Kim has much to work with; of the 35 dancers listed in the program, 26 have won awards at recent ballet competitions, many at the Valentina Kozlova International Ballet Competition (the Valentina Kozlova Dance Foundation sponsored the performance). Razzle dazzle abounds, particularly from the men with many double tours, double assemblés, and double cabrioles. Apologies to the dancers, but given my lack of familiarity with the work, I couldn’t identify any of the great dancers by name.
The main attraction was Mariinsky Principal Dancer Kimin Kim. Born in Seoul, Kim graduated from the Korean National University of the Arts in 2012 after winning prizes at Rome, Moscow, Jackson, Varna, and Youth America Grand Prix. As I noted in a review of his guest artist performance in ABT’s La Bayadére in June, Kimin is impressive, with very high leaps and effortless turns. Kimin’s biggest asset is his great leaping ability, making even simple assemblés look riveting. His grand jetés have great height and cover much ground such as a towering huge jeté in attitude. Take a look at the video below in which Kimin does a great pirouette/double tour combination with great amplitude, finished off by five consecutive double tours. Very impressive. I hope Kimin makes more appearances at ABT as the company needs star men.
Seonmee Park was the Mermaid. A 2017 graduate of the university, Seonmee took 1st place at the 2018 Youth American Grand Prix, gold medal at the Moscow International Ballet Competition in 2017, and 3rd place at the 2016 Vaganova-PRIX. Seonmee was very impressive with fluid lines, nice extension, and a no arms fouetté section in which her arms were still as she completed her turns. It is easy to see why she was a top performer at prestigious competitions.
Seonmee and Kimin were dramatically in synch as the two fell in love. Their first pas de deux was a bit on the acrobatic side; the second was a grief-stricken dance after her legs weakened due to the spell, done with great emotion. Hoiwoong Ryu commanded the stage with his evil presence as Blanket Octopus, a Lord Voldemort-type character in a gripping performance.