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Northern Ballet - Peter Pan - Leeds - December 2014

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Northern Ballet's Christmas production this year is a revival of David Nixon's Peter Pan.


This production is a real treat for children as the story is very easy to follow and moves along at a good pace.  The set is absolutely brilliant (but bring along booster cushions for youngsters if you are in the front stalls as the stage is raised slightly to accommodate the revolving parts of the set),  The costumes are super too and the music is tuneful and accessible.


What I admire about this production is its production values and the 100% commitment that the dancers give to the roles, really bringing the characters to life.


Yesterday afternoon was a very special performance indeed as it was Darren Goldsmith's valedictory performance.  He is retiring after 21 years with Northern Ballet.  Darren was dancing the duel role of Mr Darling/Captain Hook.


Jeremy Curnier gave a perfectly judged performance in the eponymous role.  He was able to bring out the mischievous Pan but also brought across how torn Peter was between is blossoming romance with Wendy and the chance to live in her family with his desire to remain forever young.  His dancing was beautiful and he was a joy to watch.  Antoinette Brooks Daw was a delight as Wendy,   Hannah Bateman was caring and compassionate as Mrs Darling and the NeverBird.


I'm not a huge fan of adults playing young children but the dancers of Northern Ballet through themselves into their roles with gusto and were very believable.  Matthew Broadbent particularly showed a wonderful sense of comedic timing.  The pirates too were suitably piratical.


Darren himself was a tour de force as Hook and gave a brilliant performance with just the right amount of braggadocio and terror when he could hear the crocodile's ticking.


It was a very enjoyable and, for those of us who had gone to celebrate Darren's career, highly emotional performance.  All the dancers rose to the occasion and gave him a memorable send off.


At the curtain call David Nixon gave a moving speech thanking Darren for giving his career to Northern Ballet and telling us of the highs and lows.


Very best wishes to Darren for the future.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Rachael Gillespie is one of the dancers who lift my spirits after a hard week. She seems to love to dance and her joy is infectious. Watching her perform is almost like participating in the dance. Tonight she was Tinkerbell and she was lovely.  Having seen J M Barrie's play as a child I remember being exhorted to believe in fairies to save brave Tinkerbell. I wondered how David Nixon would translate that moment into ballet. The answer was a voice off stage: "I believe in fairies". It was followed by another and then another. Jeremy Curnier asked "Do you believe in fairies?" adding "Tinkerbell will live if you do".  "Yes" roared the crowd followed by thunderous applause that shook the auditorium. Up sprang dear Rachael with her winning smile. Corny, I know, but great theatre.

Rachael Gillespie was not the only star last night. There was of course Peter danced magnificently by Curnier. Antoinette Brooks-Daw was a natural Wendy. Javier Torres made a splendid Captain Hook. Wicked and devious but also gallant and flamboyant to the end. Did he really have to walk the plank into the jaws of Sean Bates, the ticking crocodile? Also delightful was Lucia Solari as the Neverbird. I admired Torres and Solari in Cinderella when I saw them in Sheffield last month ) and at The Grand last boxing day. They are developing into a really strong partnership of which we enjoyed glimpses when they doubled as Mr and Mrs Darling. All danced well - the Lost Boys, Mermaids, Pirates, everybody - and it would be unfair to single any of them out for special praise.

Nonetheless, I must say a word for Dominique Larose who danced Nana. Having seen Ballet Black's Dogs Don't Do Ballet I doubted that any dancer could dance a dog as well as that company. But Larose's Nana was as canine as Cira Robinson's Bif. I only wish that Vlad the Lad could have been in Leeds last night. I loved all the animals. As I said in my review of Cinderella, if Northern Ballet can do bears not to mention birds, dogs and crocodiles - so well surely one solitary bear was not beyond the Royal Ballet.

To my great delight Nixon followed the Barrie play very closely (see the scenario). Stephen Warbeck's score fitted the story perfectly and afforded ample scope for Nixon's ingenious choreography. You can hear some of the music if you have or can downloadSpotify. Peter Mumford's sets and lighting and Kim Brassley's costumers were magnificent as you can see from the photos.

Yesterday was a splendid evening and just what I needed after a trying fee days.

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