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I've enjoyed two splendid events at Northern Ballet over the last 2 days.


The event yesterday evening was a "thankyou and update" for people who had sponsored dancers through the much publicised "Sponsor a Dancer Campaign". The evening started with a couple of short excerpts from the upcoming Ondine. We saw 2 duets for Ondine and Brand - when they first met and their final embrace - and some ensemble work. David Nixon explained the brief he had been given when he had been commissioned to creat this work for Ballet du Rhin in 2005 (the main one being that he had to use the complete score). Our first glimpses were scintillating and left most of us waiting with bated breath for the opening at WYP on 8th September.


Then we enjoyed a lively Q&A session with 10 dancers led by Vicky Sibson who proved to have a real aptitude for public speaking. All the dancers were articulate and showed their passion for Northern Ballet. During the course of the session, it was revealed that after the broadcast of the Arts Troubleshooter documentary a substantial number of sponsorships flowed in and around £50,000 had been raised to add to the total.


We then had a more formal update from Chief Executive Mark Skipper who ended by introducing us to the 10 new dancers. This was a lovely touch and the dancers were warmly welcomed by the 100+ attenders at the event. One important fact came out. The "Sponsor a Dancer" Campaign will be part of the 2012 Big Give and it has been suggested that, while it is currently open for sponsorships, more money can be raised by waiting till December and donating during the Big Give.


The evening was completed with an opportunity to meet "our" dancers informally over a drink.


The whole evening was heartwarming and very enjoyable.


Today, I was at a Friends Open Rehearsal event. These days are split into three bookable segments - class, reheasal period 1 and rehearsal period 2. It makes for a very full day for spectators from 10:00 up to 18:30. My friends and I had booked for class and rehearsal period 1. Class today was taken by guest teacher Antonio Castilla. It was both interesting and entertaining to watch.


The first rehearsal session was taken by Chris Hinton-Lewis and involved rehearsing various sections of ensemble work. Again we were very impressed with the pieces we saw. At the pause, we were joined by a large group of people who had booked for the "Try before you buy" event. David Nixon led this session. Again he expanded on his thought processes and we saw a couple of duets and a section where Ondine, Brand and Beatrice go out in a boat. The way he had used the dancers to give the impression of the sea and sea sprites was incredibly beautiful. The spectators in this session had been given information packs that contained details about the company, flyers for all the shows in the upcoming season, details of the sponsorship scheme and a detailed scenario for Ondine (they also had packed lunches). At the end of the official "try" session, David invited the spectators to stay to the end of the rehearsal period and quite a few of them did. I later asked a member of the admin staff about bookings for the "Try" event and she told me that around 250 people had booked over the six available sessions. Let's hope that people who were newcomers go on to see performances.


Another initiative by the company was to encourage people to tweet their thoughts - not necessarily during the event. Forms were handed out to people who do not have twitter accounts so that they could submit an "analogue tweet" which would be tweeted on their behalf by Northern Ballet.


To sum up, these two events were very enjoyable and it's good to see the Company taking plenty of initiative to try and encourage a new audience to dance.


Our glimpses of Ondine have generated real excitement for the opening night too.


Thanks to everyone at Northern Ballet who put so much into ensuring that (as well as the serious business of making a production) we all had such an enjoyable time.

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