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Northern Ballet Choreographic Workshop


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On Saturday night Northern Ballet continued its innovatory trajectory by showing ten works of eleven of its dancers. There had only been a four week period for creation, interspersed with rehearsals for different works in the main repertory to be shown in Leeds and on tour.

 

The workshop was co-curated by David Nixon, the director, and Kenneth Tindall, former NB dancer, now an increasingly successful choreographer. They both spoke before the performances. They stressed the need to be 'relevant', so some of the works related to political developments and current social issues. They talked of the increasing importance of film and digital developments. Consequently there were several films of the new works.

 

David Nixon stressed how valuable the active engagement of the dancers had been in the creative process, even stating that in the future, instead of 'dance artists' he would call his dancers "collaborative dancers'.

 

Surprisingly, perhaps, given NB's tradition of dramatic classical ballet, the company had brought in as teachers for a week each, a former Forsythe dancer and an Akram Khan assistant. This influence was evident as a number of the works were more contemporary than pure classical, most notably in the work by Sean Bates, one of the most classical dancers in the company. His work, Khadija, was influenced by the Grenfell Tower tragedy, and at the opening  his use of a group of dancers was not unlike that of Crystal Pite.

There were only a couple of classical style works, one, by Nicola Gervasi, inspired by words by Margaret Atwood, and portraying coping mechanisms in experiences of trauma, passionately danced by Victoria Gibson and Dreda Blow amongst others.

 

Dreda Blow provided the most hilarious piece, funny despite her comments that it was initially inspired by Trump and widespread misogyny. Three of the most charismatic male dancers cavorted around in original movements. Other works were also influenced by reaction to Trump- Gavin McCaig's piece, which was also shown at the start as a film, used clips of Trump, Garage and others. Other social issues that inspired pieces included the personal alienation (my word) caused by undue dependence on digital communication (Data Flow, by Mariana Rodrigues) using quite mechanical movements, plus others focusing on sexual harassment 

 

If this account makes the evening sound rather worthy, it wasn't, it was very varied. All pieces were interesting, the dancers were very well rehearsed and showed their technical and performing qualities, The music was varied, one piece was to Tchaikovsky, others to Rachmaninov, one to minimalism (possibly Nixon in China: unfortunately there was no information on the cast sheet on the composers), others to popular music. One piece, by Mlindi Kulashe, was danced in silence. He told us that he was preparing a ballet for the mixed bill of new ballets programmed for September.

 

This season has seen Northern Ballet develop in exciting new ways, with new works and the excellent MacMillan triple. This workshop demonstrated that the company is continuing to evolve , investing in its future.

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I can't really add to Sheila's comprehensive report except to say that I enjoyed the evening tremendously.

 

As each of the choreographers introduced their works they all commented on how much they had enjoyed the workshop and the creative process.  Lurking in the foyer afterwards most of the participating dancers said how much they had enjoyed it too.

 

Thinking back a few years ago it looked as though the choreographic sharing events were going to be an annual occurrence.  I hope that last night's event is the first of many!

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