Caroline Jones, The Little Mermaid, sits in her treasure chest on stage.
Caroline Jones, The Little Mermaid, sits in her treasure chest on stage.
The Mississippi Metropolitan Ballet, under the artistic direction of Jennifer Beasley, will present a brand new full-length ballet based on the famous Hans Christian Andersen tale "The Little Mermaid." Performances will take place April 5 and 6 at 2 p.m. at the Jackson Academy Performing Arts Center on Ridgewood Road in Jackson. Choreographed and conceived by Atlanta-based choreographer Kristy Nilsson, the ballet is a family-friendly presentation that will transport audiences away to a magical undersea world.

The Mississippi Metropolitan Ballet (MMB) is a non-profit regional ballet company that has made its home in Madison for over 20 years. The company annually presents The Nutcracker at Jackson Academy PAC and also a spring production from its repertoire.

The company has previously performed Cinderella to rave reviews and record audiences, and has also presented the original ballets Princess and the Pea and Beauty and the Beast to the metro area. MMB is also the only ballet company in Mississippi who is a performing member of the Southeast Regional Ballet Association, a division of Regional Dance America.

Complete with beautiful costumes, imaginative sets, and all new choreography, the ballet will tell the tale of Andersen's little mermaid, Marina, who dreams of exploring the world above the sea. When a handsome human prince is caught in a sudden sea storm, Marina bravely rescues him from the waves and falls in love with him. Determined to see the Prince again, Marina makes a deal with the evil Sea Witch: Marina's tail is transformed to human legs, but she only has three days to win the love of the Prince. The ballet's exciting conclusion explores whether Marina is able to win the love of the Prince before the Sea Witch and her evil Sirens take Marina back into the sea forever.

"The Little Mermaid" is choreographer Nilsson's eighth full-length ballet commission. Her previous full-length ballets include "Rapunzel," "A Midsummer Night's Dream," and "Aladdin," all choreographed for professional and pre-professional companies in the Southeast. This is the second collaboration between Nilsson and Mississippi Metropolitan Ballet; her contemporary piece, "String Theory," was performed by MMB at the National Regional Dance America Festival held in Montreal, Canada in 2012. Nilsson is a former professional dancer with the Atlanta Ballet, and her choreography has earned awards from Regional Dance America, the Southeast Regional Ballet Association, and Dance Canvas.

"Kristy is a prolific and very innovative choreographer, and we are thrilled for her to have created 'The Little Mermaid' on our dancers at MMB.

"She has created a ballet that will be a delight for audience members of all ages, and will be a thrill for our young dancers to perform. We are excited to present this high-quality original ballet to our community," says Artistic Director Beasley.

The title role of The Little Mermaid will be danced by MMB soloist dancer Caroline Jones, a 17 year old junior at Jackson Preparatory School. Jones has studied at the Mississippi Metropolitan Dance Academy, the official school of MMB, for 12 years and has also won scholarships for her studies at summer dance programs including the Joffrey Ballet School. The role of the Prince will be danced by guest artist Jon Drake, a native of Hattiesburg who is a former professional dancer with Oregon Ballet Theatre and Ballet Oklahoma as well as a semi-finalist in the 2002 USA International Ballet Competition. The remainder of the cast consists of the 75 MMB company dancers, all local students who range in age from 9-21.

The "Under the Sea Tea" will follow the Sunday performance and offers an opportunity for audience members to feast on delicious treats and meet the cast members.

The tea party will recreate the Little Mermaid's underwater wonderland, with reserved seating at tables of ten, edibles both sweet and savory, and a whimsical candy buffet. Tickets for the "Under the Sea Tea" are $20, and must be purchased separately and in addition to performance tickets.

Tickets for the performance range in price from $18 to $22 and can be purchased online at www.msmetroballet.com or by calling (601) 853-4508.