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Memories and Highlights of the 2021/22 seasons

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Memories and Highlights of the 2021/22 seasons



I haven’t seen the Royal Ballet or English National Ballet this year but I have seen some wonderful performances by other companies.


I think the autumn/winter season for BRB was about getting back to normality and I was very glad to see them!  My highlight was Celine Gittens and Brandon Lawrence as Juliet and Romeo - I wept buckets!


Northern Ballet thrilled with more performances of Dangerous Liaisons at Leeds Playhouse and a major tour of a new ballet Merlin.


I saw more performances of this Covid-friendly production of Liaisons than perhaps I might have expected to but mainly because I was enjoying it so much!  What I liked about this cut-down version was that it distilled the essence of the story to the bare essentials.  The remarkable Javier Torres gave a number of outstanding performances as Valmont with various partners.  He really has been the most wonderful of dance actors during his time with Northern Ballet and it is hard to believe he has now retired from the stage.


Merlin, choreographed by Drew McOnie was more like a musical without singing than a ballet but it was light and bright and just what we needed at the time.  Needless to say the magnificent Kevin Poeung was fabulous in the title role.


2022 started on a high for me as I finally got to see De Nada Dance Theatre’s Mariposa (a transgender and updated retelling of Madame Butterfly.  I found it intensely moving.  Harry Alexander was outstanding in the eponymous role.


Phoenix Dance Theatre celebrated (slightly delayed because of the pesky pandemic) 40 years and the celebration programme was excellent.  The celebratory gala I saw the following evening was excellent.


Onwards to the meat of my ballet-watching season.  I loved Carlos Acosta’s production of Don Quixote for BRB and was able to catch 9 performances.  My favourite partnership over those performances was Beatrice Parma and Tzu Chao Chou who brought Kitri and Basilio so vividly to to life with enormous warmth and panache.


Northern Ballet gave me so much joy in 2022 with the spring tour consisting of 2 recent favourites - Casanova and The Great Gatsby.  One of the pleasures of this season has been the continued upward trajectory of both Abigail Prudames and Joseph Taylor and I saw them give some truly glorious performances both together and with other company members.


I thought every single one of the performances was top notch and there were a few that I will remember for many years to come.


The Great Gatsby opened in Edinburgh and there were 2 very poignant performances.  The performance on the Thursday evening was just breath taking and made extra special by the dancers doing a moving tribute to departing director David Nixon CBE.


On the Saturday evening, Ashley Dixon gave a valedictory performance as Gatsby with the luminous Antoinette Brooks Daw coming out of retirement to be his Daisy.  It really was a heartfelt performance by the whole company and David Nixon’s final speech as director was a beautiful, emotional speech about Ashley’s career.  The good news is that Ashley is staying with the company as a principal character artist and assistant ballet master.


The final performances of Gatsby that I saw were at Milton Keynes on the Saturday and I must mention the performances of the always wonderful Rachael Gillespie as Myrtle and Gavin McCaig as Tom.  They were both utterly in fabulous and I would love to see both of them in more meaty roles.


The Saturday evening performance of Casanova at Sadler’s Wells was also both memorable and poignant as it marked the retirement of Javier Torres.  He gave absolutely everything to the performance and so did the rest of the company.  Federico Bonelli continued the long standing NB tradition by starting the valedictory speech for Javier and he then handed over the reigns to Ashley who has worked alongside Javier for the entirety of Javier’s career with the company.  It was a glorious evening.


Other non-performance highlights were seeing Federico taking the reins of the company with enthusiasm - he was very visible on tour and I hope that he continues with the grace he started with and, of course, the awarding of the CBE to David Nixon.


There is much to look forward to going forward with Northern Ballet under Federico’s direction.


I also saw and very much enjoyed BalletBoyz’ Deluxe and Alexander Whitley’s Overflow.

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