Champaign Urbana Ballet’s ‘The Little Mermaid’ receives standing ovation


Photo courtesy of Claire Daly

C-U Ballet performs during the second act of their show of “The Little Mermaid” at the Virginia Theatre.

By Kylie Corral, Assistant buzz Editor

As those in Champaign-Urbana enjoyed the blessing of a weekend full of nice weather, people also filled the seats of the Virginia Theatre to watch the Champaign Urbana Ballet performance of “The Little Mermaid.”

Attendees began filling in the seats of the theatre 30–40 minutes before the show began, carrying flowers and popcorn. The audience was filled of all ages, from small children to the elderly.

The Virginia Theatre was aesthetically and beautifully vintage with a large audience. The entire event was reminiscent of the years before face masks.

As the time encroached upon the moment when the lights would dim and the curtain would rise, most sat readying themselves for the ballet of the night.

The first act: Under the sea

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The first act consisted of the cast being “Under the Sea,” a theme that transformed the setting of the stage and helped to tell the story of how the little mermaid found herself on land.

With the little mermaid in her underwater domain, a colorful display of jellyfish, sea dragons and four hilariously feisty crabs dominated the stage along with the first appearance of the prince.

But before the curtain rose, Kiri Sowers, an instructional coach for Champaign schools, sat near the front of the stage holding a bouquet of flowers. She said she was most excited to see her son perform in the ballet.

“I have two nephews and two nieces also in the show,” Sowers said, “and I watched it last night, and it was the most fun I’ve had in such a long time. It’s just a joyous program, and it’s such a delight. They’ve worked super hard to put this together, so I hope that everyone really enjoys it.” 

Cathy Glosser and Sandra Beech, both from Decatur, came together to watch the ballet. 

“I saw a preview on WCIA, and I am really excited to see the costumes, and I just really enjoy being at the Virginia Theatre,” Glosser said.

While Glosser has been excited to see the costumes since watching The Little Mermaid on WCIA, Beech said that, for her, she was excited to see the ballet for its dancing and music.

“It’s wonderful to be able to come to something like this,” Beech said.

“Yes, with COVID-19, it’s just nice to be able to go to live performances again,” Glosser added.

Intermission and second act: On land

After the little mermaid fell in love with the prince, driving her to give her voice to the sea witch for a pair of legs, the lights returned, and the curtain fell, giving way to the 20-minute interval between the first and second act.

Elias Finkleman, a high school senior from Champaign-Urbana, was in the audience as well. He said that he enjoyed the colors, lighting and costumes. 

“I guess the way the movement coincided with all the colors happening was a very enjoyable experience for me,” Finkleman said.

Finkleman attended the ballet with Ya Eun Jang, another student from his local high school. 

“I think the sets were really well done, and everything seems so elaborate, it is really a very pleasing visual experience,” Jang said.

Finkleman said he’d visited the Virginia Theatre one or two times when he was younger, so it was nice being back for him.

For Jang, it was her first time at the Virginia Theatre. She said she liked being in the theatre, too.  

The first half of the performance was around an hour long, and after the 20-minute intermission, the curtain rose for the ballet’s finale.

The ballet’s end and a standing ovation: Performers reflect on experience

In the second act, the performers transformed along with the stage appearance. Now that the little mermaid was with the prince on land, the audience was introduced to a ballroom of gentlemen, ladies and a comedic chef.

After the on-stage ballroom fiasco, the defeat of the sea witch and the return of the little mermaid’s voice, the ballet concluded. There was a standing ovation as confetti cannons went off.

Elijah Ochs, a junior at the University majoring in kinesiology and minoring in Spanish, has been dancing since 2006. In “The Little Mermaid,” he played the parts of a sea dragon, a gentleman and the chef.

Ochs said his favorite part in playing the chef was the expressiveness of the character. He said it was nice to get out of his comfort zone by acting as he danced.

“Rewarding was just the surprising fan base that I had for a chef,” he said. “I remember the last show we had Saturday, I had a fan with a chef’s hat come backstage and want a picture. It was just a really sweet moment.”

Because of COVID-19, this was Ochs’ first performance since his freshman year of college. He said it was very nice to be able to return to the stage.

Taylor Feddersen, an alumnus of the University of Michigan, works as a software engineer for Microsoft. She has been dancing since she was 3 years old.

Feddersen danced as a bathing beauty, a ballroom lady and the sea witch. She said the ballroom scene was the most memorable because of the chaos on stage. 

“Probably another one of the most rewarding moments was actually not even me dancing, it was watching the little mermaid and prince dance, since they are younger dancers that I’ve helped kind of mentor, and I love seeing them grow as partners and as dancers,” Feddersen said.

She also said that playing the villain was really fun and interesting to explore as the villain of the story.

Both Ochs and Feddersen said that this ballet was far different from other performances being brand new.

Ochs said he was able to have fun with the ballet because of the chance to choreograph new parts without too much pressure to make them look perfect. Feddersen said it was interesting to see how the character changed from rehearsal to performance.


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