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City Ballet stages contemporary ballet 'The Little Mermaid'

City Ballet stages contemporary ballet 'The Little Mermaid'

With elaborate handmade costuming and bright colorful clown fish, The City Ballet School is bringing the sea as well as land to life in the production of “The Little Mermaid.”

The show will be staged at 3 p.m. Sunday, May 6, at The Maryland Theatre in downtown Hagerstown. 

The contemporary ballet follows the lines of Hans Christian Anderson’s version of “The Little Mermaid.” The ballet follows The Little Mermaid as she falls in love with a sailor named Francesco, who is already in love with someone else. And it is the Sea Witch who casts the spell that allows The Little Mermaid to walk on land. The ballet features nearly 100 dancers from the Tri-State.

Maddie Bowers, 17, a senior at North Hagerstown High School will, be ending her career at The City Ballet School in the title role of The Little Mermaid. She’ll graduate and head to George Mason University in the fall where she’ll dual major in forensic science and dance. 

As for her character, Bowers said she’s more complex than the Disney character. 

“She’s very brave, I think, in a way. She kind of leaves everything she knows growing up for land and try to get her soul,” she said. “She’s more complex. It’s really interesting coming into the character and exploring the different aspects of her.”

Maddie said as a dancer it’s exciting to take on a new character, compared to “The Nutcracker” which they stage every year. 

“With ‘The Nutcracker’ we’ve seen it a lot of times, we’ve done it a lot of times, but with this, we get to explore new aspects,” she said. “‘The Nutcracker’ is more classical ballet, but for this, there’s more styles than just ballet.”

For her, “The Little Mermaid” is “very magical,” she said. “The props and the costumes for this play are really cool. The costume moms did a really amazing job with these costumes. This is completely handmade from scratch. A lot of the fish and the starfish are completely handmade. “

Maddie Bowers, left, as The Little Mermaid gets a drink poured by Shaelyn Kaiser as The Sea Witch, as the Sea Witch Apprentices watch from left, Elizabeth Buchheister, Caroline Schnebly, Madeline Semler and Maddy Allingham. (Photo by Crystal Schelle)


Ben Pierce, 13, of Greencastle, Pa., plays Francesco, the man with whom The Little Mermaid falls in love. 

The seventh-grader who attends Corpus Christi Catholic School in Chambersburg, Pa., said this show is filled with emotion compared to other shows he’s been in like “Peter Pan” and “Alice in Wonderland.”

“For me, ‘Peter Pan’ was fun and games ..,” he said. “I feel that ‘The Little Mermaid’ is more about emotion like jealousy and sadness, and, of course, happiness and love.”

Although he admits he’s a little young to have experienced such the range of emotions, Ben, who was accepted into The School of American Ballet in New York City on a full scholarship for the summer, said he did a lot of studying.

“I went to go see the Washington Ballet’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’ to get a better understanding of how you should look in love,” he said,” I noticed all the characters and how they came together.”

That’s why Ben said “The Little Mermaid” is a “deep ballet” and that’s it’s an exciting ballet. 

“I think there are a few plot twists to the ballet, he said. “It’s more interesting because there’s a lot more to relate about the characters than previous ballets.”

Handmade clownfish are one of the many props made for "The Little Mermaid." (Photo by Crystal Schelle)


Shaelyn Kaiser, 17, a junior at James Buchanan High School in Mercersburg, Pa., plays the Sea Witch. 

“The thing I love about my character is that she seems like in the beginning she’s going to be a very simple character, and she’s going to be evil and here to do an evil thing,” she said. “But throughout the plot, she almost turns into a maternal figure for the Little Mermaid. Which is quite interesting, because you’re trying to be role model for this girl, but at the same time you’re the one who put an enchantment on her. It’s definitely the most complicated role I’ve ever played.”

This summer, Shaelyn will be attending Paul Taylor’s summer intensive in New York City. She said she just loves as a dancer being able to approach a new ballet. 

“It’s so interesting because classical ballets have set repertoire or set steps and we all know them because we’re all lovers of ballet. We’ve watched professionals do these so many times, so we know them. ‘The Little Mermaid’ is a contemporary ballet. It’s not really exactly set yet. Everyone uses different music. Everyone uses different choreography, and everyone plays the story in a different way. It’s just quite interesting how it all comes together in the end. Because when we start the journey together in the beginning, it’s not very completely clear where we’re going to take it, so it’s really exciting.

Top photo: Maddie Bowers as The Little Mermaid looks at her newly formed feet in the City Ballet’s production of “The Little Mermaid.” (Photo by Crystal Schelle)

If you go ...

WHAT: The City Ballet School presents "The Little Mermaid" 
WHEN: 3 p.m. Sunday, May 6
WHERE: The Maryland Theatre, 21 S. Potomac St., Hagerstown
COST: $15 to $65. 

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