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Found 28 results

  1. Thread for all the mixed-company MacMillan celebrations at the Royal Opera House this autumn. It kicks off tonight with Birmingham Royal Ballet in Concerto, Scottish Ballet in Le Baiser de la fée (or The Fairy's Kiss, if you prefer) and a mixed-company performance of Elite Syncopations, if I'm not mistaken. And to start us off, here's a link back to David's notes on Le Baiser de la fée
  2. Northern Ballet is in Bradford from 05-07 October with their mixed programme "A Celebration of Sir Kenneth MacMillan" comprising Concerto, Las Hermanas and Gloria. Please use this thread to record your thoughts on the performances. Here is a short film released by the Company:
  3. It is the world premiere of Northern Ballet's Little Mermaid in Southampton on Thursday. If any members are going to see this production please put your thoughts here. The Company have released a short film of Abigail Prudames talking about creating the title role:
  4. Northern Ballet today released a press release today announcing they are doing two 'surprise' performances of Casanova at Manchester Palace Theatre on 4 and 5 August. Ticket are limited, as not all seats in the house will be on sale due to the production being filmed for broadcast!! Details of tickets on their website. Happy news!!!
  5. Northern Ballet's Casanova has its world premiere in Leeds on Saturday. Please use this thread to give us your thoughts on the production. Northern Ballet has got a comprehensive mini-site with photogallery, scenario, trailer and more: https://northernballet.com/casanova/mini#firstFrame The BBC has also published a photogallery: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/in-pictures-39179575 I will be reporting back after the premiere!
  6. Northern Ballet has just announced that they will be dancing 3 of MacMillan's one act masterpieces to commemorate him: Concerto, Las Hermanas, Gloria. Performances will take place in Bradford (October5-7, 2017) and Leeds (March 16-17, 2018)
  7. Northern Ballet has revived David Nixon's Beauty and the Beast for this section of the Autumn/Winter tour. As part of a mega-day out, I saw the matinee in Nottingham on Thursday afternoon. This production has a delightful charm about it - there are lots of laughs and some darker moments. The basis of the scenario is as we know it - the Prince is vain and is turned into a Beast by an "old woman" whom he spurns. The Old Woman turns out to be a bad-tempered fairy. Her curse is partially lifted by a Good Fairy who says that he can be redeemed by true love. Beauty's family is in dire straits. Her Dad goes into the woods to search for food and comes across the Beast's castle. He takes a rose, which enrages the beast and he is forced to agree to send one of his daughters to the Beast. Of course Beauty goes, goes from terror to love and the Beast is redeemed. Cue happy ending! The Prince and The Beast are played by different dancers which allows for the most beautiful and moving trio at the start of Act 2. The Beast is remembering himself in human form and his human form dances with Beauty. The scene with the bailiffs in Act 1 is absolutely hilarious! It may not be the greatest of David Nixon's works but it is great fun and a delight for all the family! On Thursday afternoon I saw Mlindi Kulashe as The Beast. He brought out all the pathos in the role and proved yet again that he is a wonderful actor. Ayami Miyata was sublime as Beauty and Joseph Taylor was an elegant Prince.
  8. Just saw this in Canterbury and was very pleased. Sadly not sold out but some very good dancing and a lovely little orchestra. I think the Macmillan choreography is a masterpiece, but this was interesting and quite exciting. Short. The friar has a hugely extended role and it all happens on a smallish stage which I guess is also the case in Leeds. Anyone else seen it? I'd be curious to hear views.
  9. Last week Northern Ballet danced Wuthering Heights in the Quarry Theatre of the West Yorkshire Playhouse. As I was in Amsterdam for the Dutch National Ballet's opening night gala for much of last week I had intended to give the season a miss this year. I had seen Wuthering Heights in Sheffield and Bradford the year before and I prefer other works in its repertoire. I hasten to add that is not because there is anything wrong with the choreography or dancing but I am not a big Bronte fan and Wuthering Heights is my least favourite work by those sisters. Give me Jane Austen any time. Her novels are set in rather more agreeable places than the benighted heaths of 18th century Yorkshire and I might add that her characters are somewhat less disagreeable people. I was persuaded to check the West Yorkshire Playhouse on Friday night by the excellent review that Janet McNulty kindly contributed to Terpsichore and was glad to find that there were still a few tickets left for Friday night. Of the three performances that I have seen over the 18 months or so last Friday's was by far the most enjoyable. Brookes-Daw was a vivacious and passionate Cathy and Dixon was the perfect Heathcliff. Jenny Hackwell and Maria Topliss's were their younger selves. Giuliano Contadini was a great Heathcliff and Pippa Moore represented a sweet and besotted Isabella. The West Yorkshire Playhouse is only a few hundred yards from the company's premises at Quarry Hill and audiences there are fanatically loyal to Northern Ballet. The auditorium is in amphitheatre form and seats about 750 so it has an intimate atmosphere. I think the audience must give the dancers a life and they reciprocate by making a special effort. The net result was a very enjoyable show. Some members of the audience actually gave them a standing ovation. After the show Kiara Flavin and Gavin McCaig, two of the company's younger members, stayed behind to answer questions from the audience. I learned several things that I did not know before from the Q & A. I had featured McCaig in Terpsichore a few years ago so I know him better than most of the dancers and I am glad to see his progress in the company. If anyone is interested, David Nixon, the artistic director of Northern Ballet, will appear at the London Ballet Circle, Civil Service Club, New Scotland Yard off Whitehall at 19:30 on 28 Nov 2016. That meeting is open to all members of the public.
  10. Yesterday Northern Ballet held its second choreographic lab entitled "Tell Tale Steps 2 Narrative Ballet" at the Stanley and Audrey Burton Theatre in the premises that the company shares with Phoenix Dance Theatre in Leeds. It consisted of a panel discussion and then five short performances of works by Charlotte Edmonds, Carlos Pons Guerra and Morgann Runacre-Temple and Northern Ballet's Tobias Batley and Lucia Solari. Although Edmonds's work was the most polished.Guerra's the most dramatic and Runacre-Temple's the most fun I was impressed by Batley's and Solari's. The discussion was also interesting, particularly the contribution from Geraldine Morris of Roehampton University. If anyone is interested I have added a note on the evening to my blog.
  11. Northern Ballet prepares for World Première of Jane Eyre Join one of literature’s most iconic heroines on a journey of courage, romance and tragedy with the World Première of Northern Ballet’s Jane Eyre. Based on the novel by Charlotte Brontë and performed during the 200th anniversary of her birth, Northern Ballet will bring this beautiful love story to life at the Cast theatre in Doncaster from 19 – 21 May 2016before commencing a national tour to Richmond, Aylesbury, Wolverhampton, Stoke and Leicester until June 2016. Orphaned at a young age and cruelly treated by her Aunt, Jane Eyre is a plain but intelligent child who grows up knowing little kindness. Sent away to a charitable school, Jane later accepts a position as a Governess at Thornfield, a gentleman’s manor whose master is the dark and impassioned Mr Rochester. In spite of their social differences, an unlikely bond grows between the pair but as their romance develops, it becomes clear that Mr Rochester has a hidden past that threatens to ruin them both. The ultimate dramatic tale of romance, jealousy and dark secrets, Jane Eyre is the story of one woman’s indomitable spirit overcoming all boundaries. Jane Eyre is choreographed by internationally acclaimed British dance maker Cathy Marston who previously created the Dickens classic A Tale of Two Cities for Northern Ballet in 2008. For this new production, Cathy has brought onboard composer Philip Feeney to compile and arrange a score for Jane Eyre made up of original compositions and existing work. In addition, Patrick Kinmonth, who has worked closely with photographer Mario Testino and has designed over 20 theatrical productions, will design the sets and costumes. Completing the creative team, Alastair West, whose Northern Ballet credits include Giselle, I Got Rhythm, A Christmas Carol and The Architect, will design the lighting. Cathy Marston said: ‘Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre was a novel far ahead of its time and when I think of Jane I feel inspired by images of her passionate but 'impossible' relationship with Mr Rochester, the fire and emotional destruction symbolised by Bertha Mason - the infamous 'woman in the attic', the contrasting icy moorland through which she seems to run from one chapter of her life to another, and of course her final reunion with Rochester. But these images only touch the surface of a character and a book that continue to provoke and move - generation after generation, re-read after re-read.’ Northern Ballet’s Artistic Director David Nixon OBE said: ‘Having already adapted Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights it seems appropriate that Northern Ballet should also immortalise her sister’s Jane Eyre through dance and doing so in the bicentennial anniversary of Charlotte Brontë’s birth makes it all the more special.’ Join Northern Ballet for this beautifully timeless tale told through the Company’s unique blend of classical ballet and drama. Tickets are on sale now, for more details and booking information visit northernballet.com/jane-eyre. -ENDS- Notes to Editors For more details of Northern Ballet's tour, on sale dates and booking information, please visit northernballet.com/whatson. Nominated for Outstanding Company at the 2015 National Dance Awards and voted Best Company at the 2014 TaglioniEuropean Ballet Awards, Northern Ballet is one of the UK’s five large ballet companies. Based in Leeds it performs throughout the UK as well as overseas. Northern Ballet’s productions mix classical dance and theatre, embracing popular culture and taking inspiration from literature, opera, or giving a unique interpretation of popular classical ballets. Northern Ballet is the busiest touring ballet company in the UK and is typically on the road for around 32 weeks of the year. The Company of 45 dancers tours a combination of full-length new work and established repertoire to cities throughout the UK. Northern Ballet also tours widely with its ballets for children, all four of which have been adapted for TV by CBeebies, and also performs a mixed programme showcasing the versatility of its dancers. Production Credits Choreography & Direction Cathy Marston Music Philip Feeney Set & Costume Design Patrick Kinmonth Lighting Design Alastair West Jane Eyre – Tour Dates Doncaster, Cast (World Première) 19 – 21 May 2016 Box Office 01302 303 959 castindoncaster.com Richmond Theatre 31 May – 1 Jun 2016 Box Office 0844 871 7651* atgtickets.com/richmond Aylesbury, Waterside Theatre 3 – 4 Jun 2016 Box Office 0844 871 7607* atgtickets.com/aylesbury Wolverhampton, Grand Theatre 10 – 11 Jun 2016 Box Office 01902 429 212 grandtheatre.co.uk Stoke, Regent Theatre 14 – 15 Jun 2016 Box Office 0844 871 7649* atgtickets.com/regent-theatre Leicester, Curve Theatre 17 – 18 Jun 2016 Box Office 0116 242 3595 curveonline.co.uk See northernballet.com/whatson for updates. Subject to change. *Calls to 0844 numbers are charged at up to 7p per minute plus your phone Company’s access charge.
  12. I have just received an email informing me that Northern Ballet's 1984 will be shown on BBC4 on 28th February! Susan
  13. Is this is a suitable show for a child? My DD (11) loves the ballet but not sure how obvious the story line is. Can anyone advice me
  14. The ballet was very warmly received, especially by those in the front rows and by the members of the company, who were in the best seats (meaning I couldn't couldn't book the seat I wanted!). Both the music and choreography were rather repetitive, perhaps necessarily so, given the theme of the book, although there are some nice solos for Martha Leebolt, as Julia, and one interesting pas de deux for Leebolt and Batley, which impressed people not very familiar with Macmillan. It's a fairly close depiction of the plot of the novel but cannot convey the philosophical complexities fundamental to the work. People unfamiliar with the novel may be confused about what is going on, unless they have bought the programme and managed to read the plot. The choreography for the Proles, and their costumes, were not sufficiently contrasted to those of Winston and his colleagues, and the Prole Woman is not characterised accurately- the audience might feel that Winston fancies her, while in the novel she fascinates him by her vulgarity rather than sexuality. But the dancers are very well rehearsed and individual dancers are convincing, Toby Batley and Martha Leebolt, in the leads but also Javier Torres who gives a chilling performance, very clearly danced. After Leeds, the ballet will be performed in seven theatres, culminating in London, Sadler's Wells, next May.
  15. Leeds summer school advice..

    Hello, has anyone done this summer school, if so, what was your experience? http://www.professionaldanceexperience.co.uk/summerballetcourseleeds.html Or can you recommend an alternative (non-residential) one in the Leeds area for a 12 year old girl, in July or the first half of August only?
  16. I don't think I have been as excited about a performance in the theatre as I am about tonight's Sapphire gala in Leeds since 24 July 1970 when I attended Sir Frederick Ashton's retirement gala. You can see a photo on the House's twitter stream here. Look at the line-up on the curtain call - Nureyev, Fonteyn, Helpmann, Beriosova, Sibley, Dowell and Sir Fred himself. Tonight I shall see many of my favourites of the present such as Parish, Klimentova and Muntagirov as well as my beloved Northern Ballet. Just look at the line-up for this evening. I am particularly looking forward to Javier Torres's interpretation of The Dying Swan as my mother saw Pavlova dance to the same music on the same stage. She must have been very young at the time but it made such an impression on her that she could describe every detail right until the end of her life. I shall be blogging about the performance and I shall try to cut and paste highlights from my review over the next few days.
  17. Northern Ballet are performing David Nixon's Dracula at the wonderful West Yorkshire Playhouse in September. The Company is currently in rehearsal and tweeted this picture today. It reveals 3 Draculas to whet our appetite - Toby Batley, Javier Torres and Giuliano Contadini
  18. Northern Ballet have advertised their summer school for 6-13 year olds of all dance levels. Here is the link to the page On our summer course you will explore Peter Pan's adventures in Neverland to inspire you to create your own story based on the characters and themes from this classic tale. You will take part in a daily ballet class as well as dance and storytelling sessions throughout the week with our expert teachers who will help you to turn your story into a captivating performance for your family and friends. So join us this summer for your chance to be creative, get moving and make memories with new friends. WhenMonday 18 - Thursday 21 August 2014 9.30am – 3.30pm WhereNorthern Ballet, Quarry Hill, Leeds LS2 7PA Who forFor anyone aged 6 – 13 All dance experience levels How to book£120 (£110 with Breezecard)To book, or to find out more, email Shelley Firth at shelley.firth@northernballet.com or call 0113 220 8000
  19. Northern Ballet open their mixed programme at the Linbury tonight. Please use this thread for your thoughts on the performances. The Company has issued a short video of Lar Lubovitch talking about Concerto Six Twenty-two to whet your appetite!
  20. Northern Ballet announces UK Première of Jean-Christophe Maillot’s, Les Ballets de Monte Carlo production of Romeo & Juliet Ahead of tonight’s Les Ballets de Monte Carlo’s UK Première of LAC (After Swan Lake) at the London Coliseum, Northern Ballet has announced that it will open its spring 2015 season with the UK Première of Jean-Christophe Maillot’s, Les Ballets de Monte Carlo production of Romeo & Juliet. The Leeds-based Company, which celebrates its 45th anniversary in 2015, will perform Romeo & Juliet at Edinburgh Festival Theatre from 26 – 28 February 2015, followed by Leeds Grand Theatre in March 2015, and a planned national tour in 2016. Set to Prokofiev’s unforgettable score, which will be played live by Northern Ballet Sinfonia, Romeo & Juliet is choreographed by acclaimed dance-maker Jean-Christophe Maillot, who has been invited by the Bolshoi Ballet to create a new version of The Taming of the Shrew this July. His beautiful interpretation captures the essence of what it means to be young and in love, and tells of the devastating tragedy that unfolds when tenderness and naivety is met with violence and pride. The tour will mark Northern Ballet’s first collaboration with Maillot and the first time that this production of Romeo & Juliet has been performed in the UK. Northern Ballet’s Artistic Director, David Nixon OBE, said: “I have chosen to add Jean-Christophe Maillot's interpretation of Romeo & Juliet to our repertoire as it is an inspired contemporary response to the classic play and his wonderful language will work convincingly with our dancers. I was also looking for a production that would provide a complete contrast and different point of view for our audience and artists from our present signature production of Christopher Gable, Massimo Moricone and Lez Brotherston’s Romeo & Juliet. We will not be losing this version from our repertoire but will be offering a new interpretation for our audiences to experience and to reflect upon. I am very honoured to be the first British company to present Jean-Christophe Maillot's work.” Mark Skipper, Northern Ballet’s Chief Executive, said: “We are delighted to collaborate with Jean-Christophe Maillot for the first time and to be premièring his Romeo & Juliet in the UK during our 45th anniversary year. The Romeo & Juliet story has a special place in the hearts of the Northern Ballet audience and the opportunity to add this version to our repertoire is very exciting for our audience who can look forward to seeing it in the majority of our touring venues during 2015 and 2016.” Tickets for Edinburgh Festival Theatre will go on general sale on 28 April and can be booked online at edtheatres.com or by calling the box office on 0131 529 6000. Please check northernballet.com for updates on Leeds Grand Theatre on sale dates. -ENDS- Notes to Editors Northern Ballet is one of the UK’s five large ballet companies. Based in Leeds it performs throughout the UK as well as overseas. Northern Ballet’s productions mix classical dance and theatre, embracing popular culture and taking inspiration from literature, opera, or giving a unique interpretation of popular classical ballets. Northern Ballet is the busiest touring ballet company in the UK and is typically on the road for around 24 weeks of the year. The Company of 40 dancers tours a combination of new works and established repertoire to cities throughout the UK and is the only large scale ballet company to do so. Visit www.northernballet.com for more information on the Company and tour. Production images and information are available via the online media centre. Romeo & Juliet – Tour Dates Edinburgh Festival Theatre 26 – 28 February 2015 Box Office 0131 529 6000 edtheatres.com On sale 28 April 2014 Leeds Grand Theatre 4 – 12 March 2015 Box Office 0844 848 2700 leedsgrandtheatre.com On sale soon See northernballet.com for updates
  21. Oooh, I have just heard that a young friend of mine has got a place as a Northern Ballet JA for next year. She has been wanting to do that since she was about 6, and has been counting down the years til she could apply. Now her dream is coming true - really exciting! I hope there is good news for any of the forum DCs who auditioned. It sounds like a really great scheme.
  22. To create a ballet set in Ptolemaic Egypt at the time that Rome transitioned from republic to empire covering such momentous events as the assassination of Julius Caesar and the battle of Actium and featuring such important figures from history and literature as Julius Caesar, Mark Antony, Augustus and Cleopatra was quite a challenge. Ashton never tried anything like that. Neither did Macmillan though he did tackle historical events in Anastasia and Mayerling. Nor, indeed, did any of the great choreographers of the imperial or soviet eras. The nearest I can think of is Spartacus which was set in the servile wars. David Nixon and Northern Ballet accepted that challenge and I think that they succeeded. I left the theatre quite dazed. Something that rarely happens to me and never before in ballet. The normal laudatory adjectives - even superlatives - will not do justice to this work so this will be a factual, possibly even clinical, review. The first thing that impressed me was that an enormous amount of work had been done not just by Nixon but also by the other members of the creative team and indeed Martha Leebolt who danced Cleopatra and for whom the role was created. In the programme she wrote that she had prepared for the ballet by reading lots of books, watching the film and everything on TV that she could find. She took in anything and everything because she was aware that even the smallest detail strengthens a character and makes it more realistic. This is a fascinating period of classical history that has interested me since the age of 7 and I know it well. I actually studied it formally for my A levels in Latin and Roman history and informally before and since. I have visited the temples and seen the artefacts of Hellenistic Egypt in the great museums around the world. Even though a ballet does not have to be a historical document it is clear that considerable trouble was taken to get the history and the artistic details right. For those who have yet to see the ballet the story and the characters are set out on the company's website. The score, specially composed by Claude-Michel Schönberg, can be downloaded from Amazon or i-tunes or heard by Spotify subscribers through the music page. The stage designs were spectacular and ingenious transporting the audience seamlessly from Wadjet's temple to Ptolemy's palace, a vessel in full sail, the streets and senate of Rome and back to Egypt. Equally impressive were the costumes from Cleopatra's regalia to the deities of ancient Egypt who appeared in the last scene as Cleopatra's spirit entered the afterlife. The choreography covered two murders, riots and commotion, a great battle, love scenes of Cleopatra with Ptolemy, Julius Caesar and Mark Antony, Cleopatra's confrontation with Octavia and her worship of Wadjet and much more. I cannot begin to describe it all. There is only so much that the senses can absorb but there are sequences that stick particularly in my memory such as the opening and closing scenes of Cleopatra and Wadjet and the battle of wills between Cleopatra and Octavia. A stellar cast danced last night. On stage with Martha Leebolt were her handmaidens Charmian and Iris danced by Pippa Moore and Antoinette Brooks-Daw, three of the company's best. The other strong female role was Octavia performed by Hannah Bateman yet another star. For me, Octavia's encounter with Cleopatra in which both dancers showed their considerable acting skills was the high point of the evening. As for the men, there were impressive performances by Kenneth Tindall as Wadget, Javier Torresas Caesar and Tobias Batley as Mark Antony. Everyone danced well from principals downwards. This is a ballet that has to be seen more than once and probably many times to be appreciated fully. It is to be performed only in two theatres, The Grand in Leeds until 15 March and then The Lyceum in Sheffield between the 25 and 29 March 2014. We have had to wait since 2011 for the return of this work. Goodness knows how long we shall have to wait to see it again.
  23. Northern Ballet Academy Easter School

    My DD has applied for NBA Easter School in Leeds and she has to audition for a place on Sunday. I have just re-checked the website and it seems that this will be a preliminary audition with a possible final audition later in the month. Can anyone advise on whether this is the case as it seems rather a lot for just an Easter school. I am also interested to know if anyone can advise on the standard of the course as I am hearing conflicting views on whether it is of a good standard. I imagine that having to audition (possibly twice!) should mean it is of an excellent standard but just wanted posters views. Thanks.
  24. Northern Ballet Associates

    Hi there, Dc is thinking about applying to the Intermediate Associates. We don't know anyone who goes. Can anyone give any advice about class sizes, teaching quality etc? It looks great on the website. ... Thanks very much!
  25. The World Premiere of Northern Ballet's new Cinderella is in Leeds on 17th December 2013. Please use this thread for thoughts. The Company has issued interviews with: Northern Ballet’s Chief Executive Mark Skipper, and Artistic Director David Nixon OBE discuss the themes and challenges involved with the new production of Cinderella. Composer Philip Feeney on creating a new score for Cinderella, 20 years after first producing the original score for Northern Ballet. Duncan Hayler on dreaming up magical set designs and turning them into reality. Greentop Circus consultant Trudi Patient, and Magic consultant Richard Pinner reveal how audiences can expect more than dancing in this new production. Interview with David Nixon OBE and Mark Skipper Artistic Director and Chief Executive, Northern Ballet Why did you choose Cinderella as your latest new production? DN – We wanted another addition to our Christmas season ballets that would also be appropriate to perform year-round. MS – In terms of choice, it wasn’t specifically about Cinderella, but the need for a selection of friendly Christmas-type ballets in our repertoire which already includes ballets such as Peter Pan, Beauty & the Beast and The Nutcracker. Cinderella is one of the most popular pantomime titles so it’s the obvious choice, although Northern Ballet’s production will be nothing like the panto. What are the key elements of the story that will be brought forward? DN – My Cinderella is far from the pantomime interpretation. Amidst all the action, magic and fun lies the story of a real woman and man who must travel separate roads to ultimate happiness even though that journey is fraught with challenges. Cinderella is ultimately a joyous story but it isn’t without pain, grief and loneliness. What inspired you to set the story in Imperial Russia? DN - Patricia Doyle and I were looking for a different setting and toying around with a few ideas before one of us started to think of Russia, which really started to fit as the scenario developed. Historically Russia has had a lot of princes, meaning that we wouldn’t need a King’s son for the story and it was also a time of superstition and belief in magic which really lends itself to the scenario. We also wanted a winter scene for the ballet and Russia is identified with very cold and very beautiful winters. What has it been like to have a completely new score for the ballet? And how did this come about? MS - It’s amazing to have new music and when you have the opportunity to create new music for dance then you have to do it. We have been very fortunate to have had the opportunity to create new scores for many of our ballets such as Wuthering Heights and Cleopatra and the benefit is that the music is created for the story you want to tell rather than having to make the dance fit to existing music. Of course it adds a new financial aspect to the production with the composition fee but royalties can often be huge and securing rights on existing music can also be very challenging. We have had a relationship with Philip Feeney since 1987 when he produced a score for our short ballet Memoire Imaginaire. He creates exciting music for dance and is well respected in the field working with many other dance companies. We trust Philip as you know we’re going to get a high quality score rather than taking the risk with someone you don’t know. With a new production you need to keep some areas of stability. DN - I was never completely happy with the Prokofiev score so I was pleased to be able to build it from the bottom up and the opportunity to work with Philip Feeney again is always a wonderful thing. What are the challenges of pulling a new production together? DN - The Company’s touring schedule has been a challenge as we have been trying to rehearse here and there whilst also working on the rep that we’re touring. Another challenge is that the production is so huge, it’s been touted by our technical department as Northern Ballet’s biggest show to date. Time management is the biggest challenge as there are so many elements to pull together including the circus tricks and the magic which the dancers need training in. MS - Coordination of the various elements is the biggest challenge when producing any new production as there is so much to pull together, from the lighting, to the set design, to choreography and so on. The music needs to be composed in advance so the choreographer has something to work with but of course the Composer needs the scenario first before he can produce the music. Lead time is the most important thing so that you have enough for it all to come together and then add in the extra elements like we have done with the magician and circus elements in Cinderella. You also have to take into account that the costumes and props will develop with the story and the choreography so you often don’t know what you will need from the outset. Ideally two years would be the optimum time to start work on a new production but normally we work to a much tighter schedule. When did planning start for this new production? DN - We started planning in autumn 2012 but the scenario wasn’t finalised until the end of February this year so we have really had a short time. What can the audience expect from the production? MS - A magical family production which is an interesting interpretation of the story – not Disney-fied. DN - Audiences can expect something that is beautiful and fantastical to look at. The dancing, as with all Northern Ballet productions, will be of the highest level and there will something unexpected. Interview with Philip Feeney - Composer You have had a long relationship with Northern Ballet. How does it feel to be working with the Company once more, and what is it that keeps bringing you together? To some extent, Northern Ballet feels like home. I cut my teeth in composing full-length ballets over twenty years ago. I have also developed collaborative associations with the dancers and have, in Ballet Central, composed scores with Northern Ballet choreographers including David Nixon himself, but also Kenneth Tindall, who Signature 31/30 was included in the pick of the Edinburgh Fringe earlier this summer, and Daniel de Andrade, for whom I am currently creating a score for this year’s Ballet Central annual tour. Furthermore, it goes without saying that I hold the musicians of the Northern Ballet Sinfonia, and the Northern Ballet music staff in great respect. When composing for companies across the world I have often missed the dynamic interchange and sheer expertise that they would bring to a project. It is Northern Ballet’s dedicated commitment to narrative ballet and to new scores that keeps bringing us together. A specially commissioned score opens up so many possibilities with a narrative ballet, allowing for great dramatic swiftness of foot which can be blocked by using existing music and tugging and pushing it into shape in order to fit the synopsis. I also admire Northern Ballet’s ambition. The Company has never been cramped by their modest size into modest aspirations. David Nixon has triumphantly continued in the tradition set up by Christopher Gable of a can-do culture of pioneering narrative work. You have previously composed a score for Northern Ballet’s Cinderella in 1993. What was it like to work with Cinderella again? It’s very rare for a composer in opera or ballet to tackle the same story twice. There are a few examples in Metastasian Baroque Opera, but we don’t have two Magic Flutes or two Coppélias. There’s no doubt that it was a challenge as initially I was quite ensure of how to engage with a subject that I had already created music for. However, David Nixon and Patricia Doyle’s synopsis took the story into quite different territory. Whereas Christopher Gable’s Cinderella is a visceral re-telling of the Grimm’s Tale, by setting it in 19th century Russia, David Nixon provided quite a different and tempting context which enabled me to think afresh when dealing with this timeless and ancient folk-tale. Of course we still have the prince and the dysfunctional family, and it was at these moments when I needed to dig deep and find a new way of depicting it rather than falling back on the solution I had discovered twenty years ago. Undoubtedly, the collaboration with David Nixon has provoked different ideas and different musical avenues. In the score, the work is entitled Zolushka which is a Russian name for Cinderella. I use that to give it a separate distinct identity. How does the new score compare to the one produced for the 1993 production? My score for Christopher Gable’s Cinderella is still very dear to me and had many elements that are still fresh, raw and emotional even now. When writing the new ballet, one area where I was slightly intimidated was in the two pas de deuxs that Cinderella has with the Prince in Act 2 which must be at the heart of any score dealing with the Cinderella story. I feel that the new score also creates its own unique sense of magic, a beautiful Japanese bell and a hesitant violin jeté fashioning an enchanted space where young love can take hold, and David Nixon’s choreography has done the rest. In many ways however the new score is a tighter score in which we can follow Cinderella’s narrative by means of the thematic growth of the music. The gentle lost music heard soon after the opening, symbolic of the love of Cinderella’s dead mother, provides the basis for most of the musical material in the score, acting almost like a protective angel, and like Cinderella, coming good in the end. Has it been difficult to avoid allowing the previous score to influence the new one? When debating exactly what my approach should be when embarking on a second version of Cinderella, I turned to an old Cambridge friend and colleague, the independent curator and Professor of the Bath School of Design, Mike Tooby. How was it, I thought, that while composers baulk at the idea of returning to the same subject, painters and visual artists seem quite content, even inspired, to do so? Tooby encouraged me with the idea of embracing the first version, and to allow it to inform the newer account. While none of the music of the 1993 production is used in the new score, there are points when it is self-referential. Devotees of the earlier score will, I’m sure, hear resonances at certain points in the story which are equivalent. An enriched and spatially infinite piano glissando that periodically creates moments of wonderment in the new score could be said to have its origin in the beautiful moment of Jayne Regan’s flying release from persecution at the end of Act 1 of Gable’s production. What have been the challenges with producing this new score? The challenge is the same as any undertaking that adds music to a story told through movement; to find a music world that is not only the equivalent of the dramatic situation on stage, but can actually control its dynamic. Other challenges have to do with the standard balance at Northern Ballet between creative ambition and small forces. I know there are passages, like the closing bars of Act 2, for the percussion that are unplayable; they would need a percussion section consisting of six rather than two musicians. However, I have left it up to them to find a way, so that we can have a flavour of glockenspiel, tamtam, timpani, cymbals and tubular bells to send us all out in a glow of celebration. The extraordinary thing is that they will! How has the music influenced how the story will be told? That is the real value of a new score expressly composed for a specific production. The entire score underlays David Nixon’s story; at points the choreographer allows the music to tell the story and create the shadows and texture that are so powerful in the Cinderella story. This allows for choreography which is not histrionic, but honest and which communicated with genuine emotion. When Cinderella flees from the ball, it is the music and the set coming alive that reflects the young girl’s desperate turmoil. What external influences or musical styles have you used when producing this new score? Some of my scores take on something of an eclectic channel-hopping technique where diverse and contradictory musical styles are co-opted to tell the tale; something which has a long and respected tradition in the theatre. This Cinderella isn’t really one of those. While there are resonances of other musical worlds, in particular there are several strains of waltz that appear in the ballroom scene (where else?!), the focus of the score is upon compiling an integrated score that is a backdrop and a regulator of what happens on stage. The Russian flavour is quite prominent in the score, certainly in the heady mix of street-fair music that explores the same tradition harvested by Stravinsky in Petrouchka. But there are also quite a few audio references to Russian folk instruments such as the balalaika and the dulcimer, digital software which can be heard as part of the orchestral texture. I did ask whether anyone in the orchestra could play the balalaika but the disappointing answer was that it was much too risky – what if they went off sick? However the harpist, Celine, Saout, suggested that she could do a fair balalaika on the harp, and so at perhaps the most delicate moment of the entire score, an ethereal tremolando signals the start of Cinderella’s ballroom solo. One thing I did borrow, but only from myself, was the opening distant humming theme, beautifully sung by actor/dancer Heidi Hall which was taken from a work I wrote while in Rome thirty years ago. It was a setting of Taleisin, a Welsh bardic poet from the dark ages; I felt that its unusual antique melody could be symbolic of ancient mystery, emblematic not only of Cinderella’s mother, but also of a pre-literate past wherein lies the origins of the Cinderella myth. What are your highlights or favourite pieces of the score? I don’t really do favourites but one of the things that most attracted me to David Nixon’s new Cinderella synopsis was the emphasis placed on magic. It was an invitation to be as inventive as I could while retaining a fundamental simplicity and this I found stimulating. Interesting combinations of woodwind, pizzicato strings and exotic ringing percussion could create its sound-world coupled to the sound of the harp, and two lonely chords on the piano. An encounter with the theories of anthropology giant, Professor Chris Knight, concerning the interpretation of fairy-tales underscores the ballet. Knight speaks of how in fairy-tales a world of enchantment is entered, where reality is suspended, which transforms the protagonist unlocking demons and ultimately empowering her forever. Here in David Nixon’s ballet, the agent of this magical transformation is the enigmatic magician. At his entry, the music jumps up a semitone, ending the first act in the wrong key. Gradually, as the magic begins to work, the music climbs through all the tonalities until it finally reaches the key of the opening, only an octave higher. Cinderella has found her lost happiness and won a prince to spend the rest of her days with. Interview -Duncan Hayler Set Designer, Northern Ballet This isn’t the first time you’ve worked with Northern Ballet. Which other sets have you designed for the company? The first ballet I worked on for the Company was A Midsummer Night’s Dream followed by Beauty and the Beast. Cinderella is the third set I have worked on with Northern Ballet. Your set design comes across as quite magical in itself, how do you go about achieving this? My approach to design is that I never want to just produce decoration, which means that I want any design that I create to be really multi-functional. It needs to look good and give the public an idea of where they are. The fascinating thing when you play with the forms, the shapes and the colours is that you start an intriguing little game in your mind which develops ideas of how to change one form into another, or how to change one location into different location. That’s why I enjoy working with David Nixon, as it allows me to design a quick transformation that happens when the public really aren’t expecting it. You set up the convention of the public thinking they know where they are, then switch it; it’s that surprise switch that creates a magical element in the piece as far as it comes to design. When designing for a production like Cinderella, where do you begin? I start with the scenario, which for Cinderella was written by David Nixon and Patricia Doyle. Then I focus on the music, which for me, gives a real sense of the space in the production, the timing of possible scenic transitions and how big those possible transitions could be. That is the real inspiration for me, it’s what the music is doing and what sort of atmosphere it is creating which then transfers into a visual approach of what one could do the piece. So with Cinderella, I just tried to dream up as much as I could. My ideas seem to drop out of the sky once I have a certain amount of information concerning the music and I know what David Nixon wants to do with the scenario, I try to respond to that. Have you created any magical sequences for Cinderella? There are magical sequences within Cinderella although I shan’t reveal them so they will stay magical for a bit longer. I also think it’s important for the public to discover those magical moments themselves and not for me to pinpoint them. How long does the process take from your initial ideas to everything actually being created? After the initial request, I met the composer where we discussed ideas before I went away for a few weeks and came back with small model boxes to give a three dimensional sketch of what I think we should do. Then comes the fun part for me when David gives me the freedom to go off and be creative and invent everything. After these smaller models have been approved, I then create a bigger model which is used by the workshops until it becomes a full size reality on stage. I think the process from the beginning to the drawings being ready takes anything from four to six months before anyone has actually built anything. What are the biggest demands when it comes to being a designer? It’s a big demand on the designer to make a piece of set fit 10 or 15 different theatres. You really have to think a lot in advance about the biggest place you’re going and the smallest place you’re going, how the sets are going to adapt to the new place and how that will affect the dancers. It also means the timings for moving pieces of scenery are different because there might be more distance to travel, it has to be a really flexible thing. How much involvement do you have once you’ve handed those designs over to the workshop for them to start building it? I generally do around two or three checks around the building process. In today’s day and age, photos can be sent in order to give an update. It’s not the same as actually seeing it in reality but it gives an indication and helps me to give somebody a quick answer, but when I do come to visit it’s about rounding up and solving as many questions as possible. Interview with Richard Pinner and Trudi Patient - Magic and Circus Consultants for Cinderella Richard, you’ve had a very interesting career in the arts, can you tell us a bit about your career, starting with how you became interested in the magic and who inspired you to become a magician? RP - My father was a professional magician and so I learnt the family business and I never considered doing anything else. I remember having a conversation with my mum when I was young and when she asked me what I wanted to do, I said, “I want to be a Magician like my dad but I want to be a carpenter too so I can make things.” I’m far from a carpenter, but that’s why I studied design and performing arts so I could be either a performer myself or create magic for theatre. You are a Member of the Inner Magic Circle, what does that mean? RP - The Inner Magic Circle is a members club where most of its members are amateurs or enthusiasts of magic and we have various degrees. You can join by performing an exam, and if you pass, you become a Member of the Magic Circle. If you choose to you can do a further performance exam and if you are good enough you become an associate of the Inner Magic Circle. Our highest degree is Member of the Inner Magic Circle which is by gift of the President which you gain by being at a certain level professionally, and a certain standard of performance and notoriety. You are a consultant for theatrical magic, how did that come about and how long have you worked as a theatrical consultant? RP - It was around 1990 when I consulted on my first professional show which was Some Sunny Day at the Hampstead Theatre with Rupert Everett (before he was famous). My brief was ‘his character transforms into a floating orange blob and flies out the window’. I spent weeks trying to work out how to do it and when I showed it to the Director he said, “No, more like this.” So I changed it and did it in half an hour. That taught me a lesson early on that you can’t be precious about the magic and tricks you create. Trudi, can you tell us a bit more about Greentop Circus and what it does? TP - Greentop is a circus arts charity, which aims to use human circus skills to transform lives and bring about positive social and individual change. We offer professional training and artist development to circus professionals, workshops and master classes for the public, Youth Circus provision and regular cabaret performances. We also act as an entertainment agency providing circus entertainment across the UK. Have either of you worked with a ballet company before? RP - This is the first time I’ve worked with ballet, it’s usually theatre and musicals. I’ve done one Opera but there is a lot that’s very different to ballet; the creation process, the rehearsal process, not letting the dancers near the show until we’ve finished ‘tech-ing’; it is just a completely different way of working. So working with Northern Ballet is a whole new world for me. TP - No, this our first experience of working with a Ballet Company. It has been very good working with learners that are already body aware as they have been able to pick up a variety of more complex skills with relative ease. What are the different skills that you are working on with Northern Ballet? TP - Acrobalance, Stilt walking, Manipulation – ball, ring and club Juggling, Diabolo, Plate spinning, flower sticks. RP - We’ve agreed what we are trying to achieve, there’s lots of magic ‘peppered’ throughout this show and when I was first asked about it, it wasn’t the obvious elements. There’s no pumpkin turning into a coach, this is not a pantomime. The magic is incidental as well as integral and the set itself is quite magical. With our Magician character, his magical journey is from not being able to do a card trick to near Jedi as his powers grow stronger and stronger. How difficult is working with performer with no circus or magic experience? How quickly did the dancers pick up the skills? TP – From a basic level, the students picked up the skills quickly, and once the basics were grasped we moved on to more complex tricks and styles. We work with lots of different client groups, many of which are not performers or have no circus experience. It has been very easy to work with the dancers, as they have taken the sessions seriously and worked professionally to perfect their skills, having fun but with a serious purpose and dedication to their learning. RP - It’s better to teach someone with no magic experience. It’s much easier to teach actors to do magic than a magician to act. I’ve been asked in the past should we cast a magician for this and my answer is always “No we shouldn’t”. Dancers have this amazing skill of picking up steps in minutes as they have so much to learn, so I’m hoping it’s the same with magic even though it is completely new skills. Northern Ballet have been fantastic to work with and David Nixon’s attitude has been great. It’s always been “What’s the best we can do? Ok let’s do it”. How do you work alongside other members of the production team – costume designers and so on? TP - We generally don’t get to work with the production team on our projects, so this is really exciting for us to be involved in the production process. RP - I’ve worked alongside the costume department as we create a clever piece of costume that can be both efficient and magical to achieve what we want to. I’ve also worked with the technical department as there is something with air that we want to see if we can achieve. I’ve got an idea in my head, where physics isn’t as important, it works, but we will have to find out if we can do it in reality. The workshop is working with me to accommodate my magical needs and of course, I’m working with the dancers teaching them manipulation. Some things are mechanical and will happen around them, other things, especially manipulation, we are teaching them as early as possible so that it becomes natural. I can’t wait to see them do it. Ballet dancers doing magic, that’s just great. How would you recommend starting to learn magic or circus skills for anyone who is interested? RP - If you are in theatre it’s much easier to see what the play calls for, if you want to do it yourself it’s mastering being a show off without being annoying. Learning good magic is much easier than learning to play the piano or how to dance. The cleverness has already been done for you; the trick has already been created, so you are just learning the sequence of moves. Then you have to learn how to be a good performer and have confidence in your own abilities without coming across as arrogant. TP - The best thing to do is to come and have a go! You could come to one of our beginner’s classes or skill share sessions, book a private lesson, or come as a group of friends. See our website for more details (www.greentop.org) or contact circus schools in your area.
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