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Northern Ballet - Cinderella - Winter/Spring 2013/14

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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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Philip Feeney has done some wonderful ballet scores for both Ballet Central and NB. Up to now my absolute favourite is his score for NB's Streetcar Named Desire, which was choreographed by Didi Veldman.


One of the joys of seeing Ballet Central is Philip Feeney on the piano!

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I think it's rather a shame that David Nixon didn't decide to resurrect Christopher Gable's Cinderella. Sadly I never saw it but I have seen excerpts put on by Ballet Central and those show a wonderful warmth and beguiling choreography - as you'd expect given what Gable was about and the senior level he worked at as a dancer and actor. Bringing back a rare piece by somebody who really put Northern Ballet (Theatre) on the map would be a fine gesture and usefully broaden the choreographic breadth of NB which is currently very much the work of one person.

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I loved the Christopher Gable production- I'd have been so happy to see it again. I have very fond memories of Jayne Regan and William Walker in the lead roles. Phillip Feeney's score had some beautiful pieces- I still have a CD recording with them on.

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  • 2 weeks later...

The synopsis for the new production of Cinderella has appeared on Northern Ballet's website.


Details of the characters.


Dress up a Dancer game



I was at a Friends' rehearsal and the Cinderella Ball in Leeds last week.  We saw some good snippets being rehearsed.  It is interesting to see that the Stepmother, whilst not as horrible as she is to Cinderella, also rules her daughters with a rod of iron.  Having just read the synopsis one of the sections we saw being rehearsed was between the Magician as Fairy Godfather and Cinderella.  We saw 3 extracts at the Ball.  The costumes are absolutely gorgeous.  There was a delightful duet for Cinderella and the Prince as youngsters, a scene from the Winter Ball and the most ravishingly romantic duet for Cinderella and the Prince.  It's looking good!

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Hi Janet McNulty


I have tickets for this evening's performance in Leeds and will review it in http://jelterps.blogspot.co.uk/ shortly afterwards.


I saw Matthew Bourne's in Bradford a year or so ago and I have seen Ashton's at Covent Garden several times.


I love the Ashton version and remember Fred Ashton and Robert Helpmann as the ugly sisters.  Matthew Bourne's is also good but in a different way.


I am hoping for the best with Nixon's though I have reined in my expectations as I was spoilt by the excellence of the last ballet that I saw (http://jelterps.blogspot.co.uk/2013/12/scottish-ballets-hansel-and-gretel.html) and also by my recollection of the Ashton version.


Hope you had a good Christmas by the way. My expectations for the day (which are never high) were greatly exceeded.


Happy New Year

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Northern Ballet – Cinderella – Leeds – Winter 2013



David Nixon and dramaturge Patricia Doyle have never shied away from taking a well-known story and adapting it.  Cinderella is no exception to this.  The story has been reset in Imperial Russia and most of the “pantomime” elements have been removed.


The story starts with a picnic in the country, with a young Cinderella receiving birthday gifts from family and friends, including the young Prince and his parents.  You can see that her Step-Mother is not overly keen on her and that her Step-sisters enjoy teasing her.  In fact it is this teasing that leads to her Father’s death for which Cinderella’s Step-Mother blames her.  The family move to a new home and Cinderella is forced into becoming a servant. 


Cinderella enjoys the Winter Fair while out shopping and she helps a Magician tidy up his props.  The Prince is there but he does not even notice Cinderella as she is now a servant.  The family have been invited to the Prince’s Ball but her Step-Mother rips up Cinderella’s invitation.  Left alone in the house, when the Magician arrives, cold and hungry, she invites him in.  He performs some magic that enables her to go to the Ball.


At the Ball, the Prince is very attracted to the beautiful Cinderella.  Her Step-Mother realises it is her and attracts her attention causing Cinderella to run away.  The Prince finds her discarded shoe and wants to look for her.  The Prince turns up at the house hold and is horrified when the Step-Mother tells him that Cinderella is the girl he had danced with.  He cannot believe he has danced with a servant and he leaves in disgust.  The humiliation releases Cinderella from the thrall of her Step-Mother.  She leaves the house and goes to the Crystal Lake.  The Prince has already gone there with Friends; he is distraught and realises that he really loves Cinderella.  When she arrives he begs her forgiveness and declares his love…


The set is fantastical and really suits the action.  The two aspects that I wasn’t keen on were the table that kept on being moved in and out for the kitchen scenes and the outside of the Prince’s palace which looks rather cheap compared to the rest of the set.  I love the setting of the picnic scene, the Petrushka-esque backdrop of the Winter Fair and the sketched in ballroom.  The costumes are absolutely ravishing.  I’m a huge fan of Philip Feeney’s ballet scores and this Cinderella is a delight from start to finish.


The fairground scene with jugglers, stilt walkers and the Magician is fun and there is a divine skating scene by the Crystal Lake.  The ballroom scene is enchanting.  The magic when the Magician enables Cinderella to go to the Ball is just fantastic!  David Nixon excels at duets and there are some beauties in this production.  There’s a lovely, romantic duet for Young Cinderella and the Young Prince at her birthday picnic and another really romantic duet for Cinderella and the Prince at his Ball.  The final duet for the Prince and Cinderella is just breath-taking.  David Nixon has always been able to use stillness and he uses it in this duet to heart-breaking effect.


I’ve seen the dress rehearsal and three performances so far, the final one of the three being with a different cast.  I have admired the production more and more with each passing performance.  It is always a pleasure to see Northern Ballet’s acting abilities and the whole company are fully committed to the performance.  As with many of David Nixon’s works, this is a party I definitely want to go to!


Opening night honours went to Antoinette Brooks-Daw and Kevin Poeung as the young Cinders and Prince, with Martha Leebolt and Toby Batley as their mature selves.  Pippa Moore is Step-mother with Hannah Bateman and Michela Paolacci as her Step-sisters.  Hiro Takahashi was Cinderella’s Father and The Magician.  I must say that they are a stellar cast to say the least.  Pippa Moore positively froze the blood in my veins – her gestures were so subtle and so malevolent!  It is obvious that her daughters are terrified of her.  Antoinette Brooks-Daw and Kevin Poeung are a total delight as the youngsters as is Hiro Takahashi as the Magician.  Hannah Bateman and Michela Paolacci are sly rather than vicious towards Cinderella; you could see how they would gang together against a step-sister.  Martha Leebolt and Toby Batley are utterly sublime as Cinderella and The Prince.  They have a very special onstage rapport and I have wept buckets for them during the final duet.  Martha is just divine as Cinderella and I would go as far as saying that Thursday’s matinee was the best performance I have ever seen Toby give, he was totally subsumed into his character and every tiny look and gesture had meaning.  My breath really was taken away by his performance.  


On Saturday afternoon Michela Paolacci and Jeremy Curnier gave a totally different dynamic to the youngsters and I loved their portrayals.  Lucia Solari and Javier Torres were superb as Cinderella and Prince.  Jessica Morgan “acted bigger” and was very effective as Step-Mother and Rachael Gillespie and Theresa Saavedra-Bordes were very vivid in their portrayals of the Step-sisters.  Hiro Takahashi again proved to be amazing as The Magician.  Such a different cast but equally enjoyable.


This really is an enchanting production that has got something for everybody.  I hope I’ve not spoilt the magic if you haven’t seen it yet!


I’ve got another three performances to see this season and I am already chomping at the bit for Saturday.

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Here's the review that I promised you http://jelterps.blogspot.co.uk/2013/12/northern-ballets-cinderella-triumph.html


I loved the score, the choreography, the sets, the magic, the rapport between Torres and Solari, the performing bear and Cinders mobile. Every girl in North Leeds will want one for her 18th birthday, prom or hen party,


Also, do look at Janet McNulty's comprehensive notes above.


Cinderella will be at the Grand until the 4 Jan and in Hull and Cardiff in April, Do go and see it.

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It's funny isn't it how different people see things differently.  In his review in today's Observer, Luke Jennings feels that "This lack of romantic colour distances us from a generally well-told story. We just don't feel the love."


I saw my 4th performance of the run yesterday afternoon, led by Lucia Solari and Javier Torres, and between the opening performance and that matinee the whole company has grown into the roles and deepened the characterisation.  I thought that the matinee on 19th December with Martha Leebolt/Toby Batley and yesterday's matinee were two of the most intensely emotional, deeply felt performances I have seen all year.


I know I am fortunate in that I am able to see more than one performance and that I can see the dancers grow into the characters but how do I see something intensely deep and emotional that others do not or vice versa?  I know we are lucky that we all see things differently but sometimes I would like to know why we do!


Going back to the matinee I must say that Lucia Solari and Javier Torres are developing a wonderful on-stage rapport and I was deeply moved (ok - sobbing out loud) by the final duet.

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OK, so I've seen 2 more performances this week led by Martha Leebolt/Toby Batley and Lucia Solari/Javier Torres and both performances have been truly magnificent!


The current run has now ended but I can't wait to see it again in the Spring!

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  • 2 months later...

Well, it's taken me nearly all week to go into "print" about my weekend in Edinburgh.  I've been trying to think of a way of being objective and not too gushing but I'm afraid I have failed miserably!


A friend has a theory that your mood can very much influence your thoughts on a performance.  When I saw Cinderella over the Christmas period I was really down in the dumps and suffering from persistent nagging pain as a result of my toe situation.  Is this why I was so emotionally drawn into the performances.  I was thinking about this as I drove to the Scottish capital pain free and able to walk.


My experience over the three performances I saw in Edinburgh was such that I realised that I just adore this production of Cinderella full stop!  I think the scenario, taking out the panto elements and trying to make sense of Cinderella's change in circumstance really does make sense to me.  I love (apart from the 2 points I raised above) the set, the costumes and the score.  The quality of the dancing and acting from everyone in the company was outstanding.


I was lucky enough this time to catch Dreda Blow with Isaac Lee Baker making his debut as the Prince.  They were just delicious together! 


The final, reconciliation duet just took my breath away in all three performances.  I really do find it profoundly moving.


I can't ever remember seeing Northern Ballet dance as well as they have over the past year - they are absolutely unmissable!

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  • 2 weeks later...

Well my friend and I were a bit naughty and booked both performances of Cinderella on Thursday in Hull as an extra little treat.


We were treated to two truly splendid performances led by Lucia Solari/Javier Torres in the afternoon and Martha Leebolt/Toby Batley in the evening.


Lucia and Javier are sublime together; their onstage rapport has deepened even more since I saw them only a couple of weeks earlier in Edinburgh.  Lucia is a gorgeously expressive dancer and Javier is every inch the Prince.


Martha and Toby in the evening were exceptional and gave another intense and profoundly moving performance.


Hiro Takahashi has been having a wonderful season.  He is magic (no pun intended) as the Magician in Cinderella and as Octavian and Caesar in Cleopatra.  It has been a joy to watch his performances.


Pippa Moore is having an exceptional season too with such a variety of roles.  She is blood-curdlingly chilling as the Step Mother in Cinderella, a very patrician Octavia and a demure (but murderous) handmaiden in Cleopatra.


The whole company is looking fabulous at the moment.  Northern Ballet are on fire!!!

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You'll often hear me rattle on about how Northern Ballet's Beauty And The Beast at the New Theatre, Cardiff, was the ballet that first properly connected with me about two years ago and sealed my love for the art. As a result, they will always have a special place in my heart and I always look forward to my annual pilgrimage over the bridge.


Indulge me a moment a few words about Martha Leebolt, if you wouldn't mind. While watching her, it dawned on me why she is so special to watch. It's because she's in precisely the right place. That she and Nixon have ended up in the same company and working so closely together, it's clear to me now, is simply no coincidence. She is just perfectly suited to exactly the kind of role that Nixon loves to choreograph. Martha doesn't act and dance so much as her dancing and her acting are one and the same thing. Some ballerinas have the technical skill and you can watch their faces for their emotions, but with Martha you feel the role's character defined and explored in every movement. Every step is like a thought or a feeling given motion. As someone who tries to write music from time-to-time, I imagine that for most artists the ultimate goal is to translate what's in the head into reality in whatever art you're practicing. Nixon surely can't believe his luck that, in Martha Leebolt, he's found someone to translate his choreographic vision so effectively to the stage. Watching Martha Leebolt dance sometimes feels like a duet between the dancer and the choreographer. I can't wait to see Cleopatra, a role that was created on Leebolt. I bet that's awesome.  :)


You might have gathered I'm a bit of a fan. 


Anyway, onto other thoughts on the night! I won't be exhaustive, but these are the things that stuck out...


The final pas de deux that Janet has enthused about so frequently certainly didn't disappoint. Its restraint at the start gave me goosebumps. That Nixon doesn't feel the need to show off throughout the PDD means that the audience has time to actually feel the connection between the two characters during their reconciliation. The moment where all the dancing from the last two hours has stopped and Prince Mikhail and Cinderella are merely standing on stage, and he reaches out ever-so slowly to gently touch her arm, is as moving as anything I've seen in a ballet. 


The dancing was excellent throughout. A few dancers stood out, but I'm not certain I could identify them properly. I think one of them was Michela Paolacci, who had a wonderfully classical elegance to her and lovely hands. My Ballet Buddy on this occasion was particularly taken by 'Acrobat Number Two', who I think we managed to identify as Matthew Topliss, but I suspect that was as much to do with his physical appearance sans chemise as artistic performance. ;) Pippa Moore was superb as the stepmother, excelling particularly during the staccato pent-up rage where she's awaiting the errant Cinderella's return. 


The pacing was wonderfully snappy (I get restless through endless variations), especially in the first act, and everything ticked along nicely.


The sets were generally very good, and I need to remind myself it's a touring show, but I found a few of the settings a little bland in places, especially where there was just a plain backdrop. This was made more noticeable by the fact that some truly excellent bits of staging (Cinderella's coach, the moon in the sky and the 'Cinders' drape) were literally only seen on stage for a few seconds. And I don't mean 'literally' in the way people say "I laughed so hard I literally died", I mean they were actually visible for less than a minute. Don't tease us like that! Let's see the fruits of Northern Ballet Technical properly!


As usual, so, so much I could enthuse about but I need to go to sleep at some point so I'll round it off now.


All in all, Cinderella is a terrific production from a company that knows its strengths and plays right to them with consistently excellent results. They have a special place in my heart, but also, I think, an identity that gives them a uniquely special place in the British ballet landscape. Cinderella is brilliant. Go and see it. :)

Edited by BristolBillyBob
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