Terpsichore

Why is there not more Ballet in Sheffield?

9 posts in this topic

As I mentioned elsewhere I saw Northern Ballet's Cleopatra at the Lyceum in Sheffield last night and I don't think I have ever seen them look better. The Lyceum is a lovely theatre with comfortable seats, a clear view of the stage from just about every point in the auditorium, spacious common areas and above all friendly and efficient staff. There is a multi-storey NCP car park just across the road (though it is not cheap) and several alternative car parks (one of which has a special deal with the theatre) within a few hundred yards.  For those who want to eat after the show, there are also some good, reasonably priced eateries (including probably the best selection of Chinese restaurants in the North of England outside Manchester). In all those respects it is superior to The Grand in Leeds. 

 

That prompts the question of why is there not more ballet in Sheffield? With nearly 1.9 million people in the Sheffield City Region (many of whom are highly educated with a high disposable income for some of our most successful businesses and several fine universities are in the conurbation) there must surely be a market for ballet.  Further, Sheffield is easy to reach from the East Midlands and West Yorkshire so there must be several million more people within an hour's drive of the city.

 

It was good to see Northern Ballet but where are the other great national companies? They are not on Birmingham Royal Ballet's itinerary this year. Nor are they on English National's.  Nor even on the list of some of the smaller companies like Ballet Black and MurleyDance. I tweeted that point earlier today. Birmingham were good enough to reply that they had been to Sheffield in the past and they were coming to Shrewsbury, Durham and Buxton which is great but quite frankly it is easier for folk in South Yorkshire and indeed Summer Wine County to get to Birmingham than Durham and Shrewsbury.

 

I do hope BRB and indeed other companies will consider Sheffield in future. And of course Northern Ballet is always welcome any time.

Edited by terpsichore

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I agree Sheffield does seem to rather left out of the loop nowadays. In the 12 or so years we have lived within easy reach of the city, there has been a very noticeable drop in ballet performances. As you say Terpsichore, The Lyceum is a lovely, well appointed theatre. I much prefer it to Buxton Opera House, which despite being of architectural interest, I find uncomfortable and like being in a time warp. Particularly in the bar, which some find charmingly old fashioned but I half expect Celia Johnson and Trevor Howard to walk in! 

I have seen SPBT many times at Sheffield but they don't go there anymore or appear much in this country at all to be fair. I have also seen some wonderful performances by BRB but nothing since, I think, 2009. The former were very much bums on seats productions. But I felt terribly sorry for BRB as they were wonderful in some things that were new to me, but the theatre was barely half full. I thought how soul destroying to play to such a small,albeit enthusiastic, audience. Added to that, the cost of touring. Then again, I have sat in a half empty Buxton Opera house, wondering where everyone is and why can't people try something that isn't Swan Lake. So how do companies decide where the audiences are likely to be.

Your question of why isn't there more ballet in Sheffield is hard to answer.  I don't know whether there is still an audience for it. There certainly has been in the past. I remember Norther Ballet's production of Romeo and Juliet playing to a full house a few years ago. Now you flick through what's on and there is next to nothing. I suppose one half empty house is one too many. If there is little demand, there will eventually be no supply. Then of course people will say why isn't there any 'whatever' anymore.

Was it a full house for Northern Ballet last night by the way?

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...................

Was it a full house for Northern Ballet last night by the way?

 

Not full but it was quite well attended for a Thursday. I have seen far more empty seats in Manchester and Leeds. I was in the Lowry for the opening night of Rambert's Castaways on the 9 Oct 2013 (which happened to be a schools' night) and the balcony was deserted.

 

As I said in my previous post, folk from Leeds, Bradford, Kirklees, Calderdale and Wakefield in the North and Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire  are within an hour's drive of the city. That must cover several million people.   They could park in Meadowhall all evening for free and take the super-tram or a bus to the city centre for a few pounds.

 

NB I enjoyed yesterday's Cleopatra even more than the first time I saw it. That may have been because I had seen it only 3 weeks earlier and understood it better but it could also have been because I was so much more comfortable than I had been in The Grand and could concentrate on the performance.

Edited by terpsichore

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Scottish Ballet also used to go to Sheffield.

 

I can remember years ago there used to be a special leaflet output about upcoming dance in Sheffield and there was always something of interest.  Sheffield isn't the easiest drive from Liverpool so not really practical for just an evening but I remember being very envious of some of the smaller companies that appeared there.

 

I was very disappointed with the poor turn out for BRB when they performed at Sheffield 2 years running as part of their midscale tour.  Being used to full houses for NB it came as a real shock.

 

Perhaps the current artistic leadership is not as interested in presenting a comprehensive dance programme?

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Don't the Arts Council stipulate where these touring companies go or at least have a say?

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Yes the Arts Council has a say in where companies that it funds go.  This could mean that companies are able to continue going to venues where they do not do so well but can continue to try and build an audience.

 

Many of the smaller companies do not have ACE funding or are funded on a project by project basis.  If companies are not funded then the Arts Council cannot have a say where they go.  I do not know if venues are part of the deal for project funding.

 

Of course non-UK companies are not funded and can go whereever negotiation takes them.

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Building an audience - a point Janet refers to,is key. Ideally there should be a longer term view (perhaps a commitment to perform for 3-5years) with accompanying outreach activities such as in education. Small scale performances in venues like a university campus could be incorporated as additional opportunities to see a company perform. Appearing for a week every couple of years does not an audience grow.

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Although it is great to have a major company and ballet school in Leeds and it is a shame not to see more of the other big companies in Yorkshire.  We do see some of the smaller companies from time to time thanks to the Stanley and Audrey Burton but it would be nice to see the Birmingham Royal, English National and Scottish Ballet from time to time

 

It is ironic that Birmingham Royal Ballet mentions that its artistic director, David Bintley, comes from Huddersfield in its programmes but it rarely if ever dances in his  county. 

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I agree Terpsichore!  I don't know why BRB stopped coming to Bradford (around 10 years ago?).  I used to take the time off work and go for all the performances and, in any spare time go sightseeing to Saltaire or Hebden Bridge or Halifax.  Oh happy days!

 

ENB also used to go to Bradford, in fact Makarova's production of Swan Lake premiered there.

 

Thinking about it, I can think of a number of utterly unforgettable evenings spent in Bradford:

ENB - Makarova's Swan Lake premiere

NB - premiere of Christopher Gable/Michael Pink's production of Dracula

BRB - Michael O'Hare, Robert Parker and Monica Zamora making their debuts in David Bintley's Edward II

NDT - especially Kylian's Sinfonietta

NB - premiere of David Nixon's Wuthering Heights

NB - Chiaki Nagao's retirement performance as Juliet

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