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Northern Ballet - Perpetuum Mobile/Madame Butterfly Tour - Spring 2015


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Northern Ballet's tour of Perpetuum Mobile and Madame Butterfly started in Doncaster last night.  

 

This tour is going to smaller venues around the UK - INCLUDING LIVERPOOL NEXT WEEK FOR THE FIRST TIME IN 22 YEARS (and oh boy I am sooooooooo excited!!).

 

If you see a performance, do let us know what you think!

 

To start you off, here is a review from Terpsichore.

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I was able to attend the final performance at Doncaster, visiting the Cast Theatre for the first time, an attractive venue with good facilities, a cultural oasis in a depressingly deprived town, comprised almost solely of pound shops, betting shops, charity shops and boarded shops.

My bad luck with programmes this week continued- none at York for BRB mid-week, lucky to get one of the very few left at ROH on Saturday afternoon, none at all left on Saturday night for Northern.

The programme Northern is touring is well-balanced. It opens with Hampson's  attractive Perpetuum Mobile, giving the company a chance to show their classical technique. Joseph Taylor, who has greatly gained in confidence in the last two years, led, with Abigail Prudames, with Kevin Poeung and Isaac Lee-Baker giving him a run for his money.

After a brief pause, it was followed by the first part of the revised Madam Butterfly, the second half coming after the one interval. I don't remember the full version well enough to comment on the changes but like all David Nixon's ballets the narrative is clear and accessible. Personally I felt the occasional touches of humour were not entirely appropriate although they are presumably intended to lighten the show for the general public. I also have reservations about the choreography for Butterfly's final, suicidal, solo. Like the music it is quite different from the rest of the ballet, more intensely Japanese, ritualistic. For me, that lessens the immediacy of the tragedy, but I imagine that for other people it will enhance the drama.

But it is one of Nixon's best ballets and there is no question about the quality of the performances. Pippa Moore's characterisation sensitively reveals the evolution of Butterfly's emotions and compellingly highlights her tragedy. As Pinkerton Kelley McKinlay, a guest dancer new to me, was a good partner and had an attractive style. Matthew Koon, as the marriage broker and Poeung and Lee-Baker, as Pinkerton's friends all danced fluently and Lucia Solari, whose dancing had impressed in Perpetuum Mobile, despite not having a main role, acted well as Pinkerton's wife, not an easy part to convey.

The programme is being widely toured, across the country, not just in May and June but also in the autumn.

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Well I had the most wonderful week last week, starting with seeing the three Cunard Queens meeting at the mouth of the river Mersey!  It was such a wonderful sight and was almost a marine ballet as they manoeuvred around each other to move up the river to the Pier Head.

 

Then on Tuesday Northern Ballet were in Blackpool for the first time in many years before moving on to Liverpool for the first time in over 20 years.  The company are on a midscale tour to smaller venues with a double bill of Perpetuum Mobile and (a slightly cut down) Madame Butterfly as well as Elves and the Shoemaker during the day.

 

I was fortunate to see all three casts for Butterfly over the four performances.

 

Perpetuum Mobile is an attractive start to the evening showing off neat classical lines and very enjoyable choreography.  I particularly enjoyed the cast led by Lucia Solari and Javier Torres but they were all good.

 

In the thread on perfect ballets I listed Madame Butterfly so I was not entirely sure what I was going to think of the cut down version.  While I missed the cut scenes (Butterfly's father's death at the start, several geishas dancing in the tea house scene, the bonze spying on her conversion to christianity, the drum dance at the wedding and a scene between Kate and Pinkerton in Act 2) I would say this version reaffirmed my opinion that Madame Butterfly is a perfect ballet!  I base that on the fact that although crucial-seeming scenes were cut out the ballet still made perfect sense of the story and still flowed beautifully.  Because of the smaller stages there was a new set that consisted of a doorway to Butterfly's house and a couple of panels that came down at strategic moments.  There was also a tree branch over the house.  I have always loved the simplicity of the original set but this cut-down version turned out to be equally effective.  I have to say that the lighting (by Alastair West) was spectacularly beautiful.

 

On Tuesday evening, as mentioned above, I was privileged indeed to see Rachael Gillespie's debut as Butterfly.  I now believe Javier Torres had danced the role before at the end of the previous tour.  Rachael danced the role as though she was born to it.  She looked so frightened and fragile in the tea house and during the wedding scene before blossoming into a young lady in love in that most beautiful of duets at the end of Act 1.  Her heartbreak at the start of Act 2 is palpable and her tragedy at agreeing to give up her son and then ultimately deciding to end her life was heart breaking.  Javier was a fun loving and passionate Pinkerton, who ended as a cowardy custard running off and leaving his wife Kate and the consul Sharpless to persuade Butterfly to give up her son.  They were glorious together in the duet.  There was a great supporting cast too with Ayami Miyata as Suzuki, Ashley Dixon as Goro and Dominique Larose as Kate.  Mlindi Kulashi performed the dual role of bonze/Prince Yamadori and was particularly effective as the aristocratic Prince.  Sean Bates was terrific as Sharpless, the look of disdain on his face when he confronted Pinkerton was priceless.

 

On Wednesday we saw Martha Leebolt and Toby Batley in the leading roles.  I think Martha is the tallest dancer I have seen as Butterfly and it did make the choreography look different.  For me, Martha is not a natural Butterfly but she gave a really interesting interpretation in the early scenes before tragedy took over.  She had more spunk than I have seen before in the tea house - it was as though she was saying "I am a Samurai's daughter and I am only here to earn money" - she looked quite haughty until the marriage broker (Goro) arranged the deal with Pinkerton at which point reality set in.  She was positively terrified at the start of the duet and it was lovely to see her progression to love during its course.  Her onstage partnership with Toby is really special and the duet was breath-taking.  She was also particularly moving in the suicide scene at the end.  I saw this cast again on Saturday night in Liverpool and I enjoyed them just as much.  Kevin Poeung was a powerful bonze/Prince.

 

On Friday night in Liverpool I was very lucky to see Pippa Moore and guest Kelley McKinlay.  Pippa is such a wonderful actress, her every tiny movement has meaning and never more so than in the role of Butterfly.  I think hers was the most obvious transition from shyness/terror to love, but it was also very subtle.  Kelley McKinlay acted strongly and was a super partner.  There seemed to be a real rapport between them on stage.  Matthew Koon was utterly brilliant as Goro, his dancing is beautiful and his sly glances as he was trying to take the Americans for a ride was a joy to behold.  Luisa Rocco was a sympathetic Suzuki and Ashley Dixon brought gravitas to the role of Sharpless.  Lucia Solari brought out Kate's dilemma beautifully.

 

The audiences in both venues were very enthusiastic and I do hope that NB will become regular visitors once again.  I think this tour is bringing ballet to new audiences and that is what it is all about!

 

In the afternoon I saw a performance of Elves and the Shoemaker, which was a delight.  I sat right at the back of the stalls and I have to say that the set looked much more imposing than when I saw the production in Leeds.  Also the full mini-orchestra played so the score sounded much richer.  Ashley Dixon was terrific as the Shoemaker with Teresa Saavedra Bordes as his wife and I loved Miki Akuta and Matthew Koon as the Elves.  Joseph Taylor and Dominque Larose had terrific fun as the different shop customers.  Dominique is proving to be a super actress!

 

All in all a fabulous week!

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Reading so many good things about Northern Ballet have made me want very much to see them in action. Their visit to Bromley on 12th and 13th June gives me an opportunity.

 

Is there any way of finding out the casts of the two performances? I could go to either, and the casting might help me to decide which one to choose. Or perhaps I might decide to go to both!

 

Many thanks to all who have posted useful information, reviews etc., on Northern Ballet in this and other threads - especially the one on "Wuthering Heights", which I would like to see if they ever take it to a venue which is convenient for me.

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Well, if you go to the Friday that would give you the opportunity to go to the Saturday as well if you decide you like it, I suppose :)

 

See you there Nicola!  My naughty laptop booked for me while I wasn't looking!!

 

I hope you smacked its wrist very hard, Janet.  I know my phone dials people without my say-so, but I've never heard of a laptop booking tickets off its own bat before :)

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Well, if you go to the Friday that would give you the opportunity to go to the Saturday as well if you decide you like it, I suppose :)

 

 

I hope you smacked its wrist very hard, Janet.  I know my phone dials people without my say-so, but I've never heard of a laptop booking tickets off its own bat before :)

 

It seems to have booked a flight now too, while my back was turned!!  I'm going to have to go to Bratislava in November to see Daniel de Andrade's new work Nijinsky, God of Dance (score by Carl Davies)!!!

 

Seriously though FrankH, it doesn't matter which cast you see - they all have something to give.  For this tour, NB seems to have been posting the casting on the company website at the start of the week so it is worth keeping an eye out:  http://northernballet.com/?q=madame-butterfly/casts

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Reading so many good things about Northern Ballet have made me want very much to see them in action. Their visit to Bromley on 12th and 13th June gives me an opportunity.

 

Is there any way of finding out the casts of the two performances? I could go to either, and the casting might help me to decide which one to choose. Or perhaps I might decide to go to both!

 

Perhaps you might be able to afford to now? http://www.travelzoo.com/uk/entertainment/-15-Northern-Ballet-s-Madame-Butterfly-Save-up-to-50--2036786/?utm_source=localdeal_uk&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=2037306_html_bromley_deal%3a179683&utm_content=2037306&tz_adid=2037306

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I've never been to the Curve in Leicester before but I definitely want to come back.  It is a super venue.  The building is round and you can walk all around the outside of the auditorium with a nice bar area and bistro.  The auditorium is modern.  As it was a last minute decision to go, I was sat on the extreme side of the auditorium and the sight lines were still very good.  I want to go back...

 

Abby Prudames and Joseph Taylor led last night's performance of Perpetuum Mobile with verve and style. Mlindi Kulashi looked on very fine form too, with beautiful deft feet and lovely lines.  It is a super "amuse bouche" to start the evening before we get to the narrative main course of Madame Butterfly.  

 

Last night's performance led by Rachael Gillespie and Javier Torres was truly outstanding.  I had felt privileged in Blackpool to see Rachael's debut and oh how she has built on an already wonderful interpretation in just over a week!  I can't even begin to tell you how heart-breaking she was!  Javier was everything a Pinkerton should be - happy-go-lucky sailor out for fun who did not realise the consequences of his actions.  Their duet at the end of act 1 was overwhelmingly beautiful and moving.  I am just so glad I booked the extra ticket.

 

There are still 2 weeks of this tour to go - do try and get to see this programme if you can!

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I've never been to the Curve in Leicester before but I definitely want to come back.  It is a super venue.  The building is round and you can walk all around the outside of the auditorium with a nice bar area and bistro.  The auditorium is modern.  As it was a last minute decision to go, I was sat on the extreme side of the auditorium and the sight lines were still very good.  

Personally I would stick to front row at Leicester Curve, I was in Row K stalls, had a quite large person in front of me and 1/3 of stage was obscured. It was annoying as my ticket was a top price one. 

 

Having said that, so worth going to this wondrous NB programme. I was shattered last night hence the just 'it was fab' comment above. 

 

To elaborate a bit more, Perpetuum Mobile is a lovely piece, Clean crisp and classical. Showed off the incredible talents of the NB dancers. I thought it was stunning and loved it.

 

Butterfly, not Butterly as I wrote above while half asleep!!  As Janet said above, this was a very moving piece with some superb choreography, especially in the pdd, The emotion put into last night's performance by the leads Rachel Gillespie and Javier Torres was intense and beautiful - what a priviledge to see. A very fine ballet, delectable choreography and superbly interpreted. 

 

I wholeheartedly concur with Janet on this: go see this NB production  if you can! 

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I was lucky enough to be at the rehearsal at the Richmond Theatre today, to see Rachael Gillespie and Javier Torres dancing their pas de deux. And rather lovely it was too. Here are a few photos:

18630144136_8b2522aa65_z.jpg
Rachael Gillespie, Javier Torres
© Dave Morgan. Courtesy of DanceTabs / Flickr

18033828114_0bf661afd7_z.jpg
Rachael Gillespie, Javier Torres
© Dave Morgan. Courtesy of DanceTabs / Flickr

18468645728_c0c9225f1c_z.jpg
Rachael Gillespie, Javier Torres
© Dave Morgan. Courtesy of DanceTabs / Flickr

See more...
Set from DanceTabs: Northern Ballet - Madame Butterfly
Courtesy of DanceTabs / Flickr

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I had the good fortune to attend the first of two performances of Northern Ballet's (NB) 'Madame Butterfly' programme at the jewel box that is Richmond Theatre (one of this nation's stunning Matcham Theatres).  

 

I too would like to concur and support Janet's full reports above and add but three points:  

 

A: I hugely applaud David Nixon's wisdom for adding Perpetuum Mobile (an early ballet initially created for ENB by Christopher Hampson, now Scottish Ballet's AD) to this bill. The easy flow of the crystalline academics inherent therein not only (i) ensures that the technique and rapid musical response of NB's dancers is ever challenged/developed but (ii) that the development of the audience's eye is further expanded in terms of its own educational outreach from a balletic perspective.  Bravo.  

How wonderful too to have an element from the fine triple bill presented by NB at the capital's Linbury Theare here shared with the nation as a living whole.  It is - as far as I'm concerned - the only way to travel.  One hopes this expanded outreach by NB can become a tradition; understanding of course that a more commercial title - one with concerted audience recognition from a variety of sources - is at least necessary to intrigue the imagination of UK audiences who might not otherwise attend.  Without hesitation the fiscal recognition by ACE for this well matched endeavour by NB has not only been wise but most especially prudent during this period of ongoing fiscal/spiritual challenge for the arts in this country.

 

B: I would simply like to support Janet's assertion that Pippa Moore is a most captivating Butterfly; one both humanely winsome in pulse and ever winning even in the ultimate slash of inevitable sorrow.  I adored Nixon's tormented PDT for Ashly Dixon's benevolently mature Sharpless, Pinkerton (here depicted by Canadian guest, Kelley McKinlay whose stealth proffered some handsome partnering) and Lucia Solari who was as outstandingly resonant as Kate as she had been gracefully dominant in the central PDD of Hampson's blithely enriched Perpetuum.  At that particular instant the twists of Fate's torment were wrought as heart reassuringly eloquent as the stark, ghost-like glimmer of Alastair West's lighting design was vivid in its telling animation.    

 

Finally C: Although no name was given on the cast sheet - I would simply like to recognise the child who played Butterfly's son.  I have never seen a youngster with *more* natural grace in focused attention.  All was apt and entirely - and justifiably - endearing.  That was but another note that boded well towards a brightening future for us all.

Edited by Bruce Wall
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I hadn't realised that Richmond was on the itinerary as well - which means that both ATGs Bromley and Richmond seem to have dropped me off their mailing lists :(.  I did wonder how come Dave had managed to photograph them that far in advance.  I wonder if the two venues are perhaps too close together, and that is why ticket sales have been seemingly sluggish at the Churchill.

 

It also causes me to muse whether the venues are close enough for the dancers to have been able to use the same accommodation 5 days running.  If so, it must make a nice change for them.

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Well I saw my final NB performance of the season tonight in Stoke (well actually the theatre is in Hanley but that is another story).  

 

It was Rachael/Javier's cast again tonight.  They continue to be sublime and have grown ever more into the roles with each performance.  

 

Sean Bates was wonderful as Sharpless tonight.  Not only was his dancing gorgeous to watch but his acting was exquisitie.

 

Abby Prudames and Joseph Taylor led Perpetuum Mobile.  Abby is incredibly elegant and she and Joseph have grown into this ballet more and more as the tour has progressed.  Kevin Peoung continues to be sensational.

 

This was a great performance for me to finish on.

 

I am in Leeds on Saturday for the choreographic sharing day or wild horses wouldn't have kept me away from Aylesbury!

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I managed to get to both the Bromley performances.

 

The good things I'd read about Northern Ballet seem to me to be absolutely justified. The casts for both nights were excellent. Both Pippa Moore and Rachael Gillespie portrayed Butterfly in a sensitive and moving manner - and were complemented magnificently by their partners, Kelley McKinlay and Javier Torres. They are all not just accomplished dancers, but very good actors as well. I was particularly taken with Rachael Gillespie, and will be following her career with interest.

 

The other featured dancers were also accomplished dance actors.This applied also to the "minor" roles. I believe that in ballet, as in opera and other forms of theatrical arts, it is the quality of the acting in the minor roles, and in the Corps de Ballet, operatic chorus etc., which gives a clue as to the general quality of a company. In this the Northern Ballet are next to faultless. I am not qualified to judge whether the NB are "A Company that boasts the best dance actors in the world" (Dance Europe), but am quite prepared to say that they must be among the strongest contenders for that distinction.

 

In fact, since I started getting really interested in ballet last year, all the companies I have seen perform live, have impressed me with the enthusiasm and acting ability of the dancers. This even applies to two sometimes maligned (rather unfairly, from what I could see) Russian touring companies. It certainly applies to the Royal Ballet, Northern Ballet, and Ballet Theatre UK (whose Aladdin I saw a few weeks ago in Croydon).

 

Although not near a full house, both nights at Bromley had reasonable attendances, and the reaction of the audience showed heartfelt appreciation for the dancers. This also for the accompanying very different piece, Perpetuum Mobile, which I thought provided an excellent contrast with Madame Butterfly.

 

So my grateful thanks to all of you (especially Janet McNulty and Terpsichore), whose advocacy drew my attention to this very fine company. I am sorry that their Wuthering Heights is, in the near future at least, coming no nearer to London than Canterbury - it's something I very much want to see. But I note that their Nutcracker is due at Woking in early November, and I am putting that in my diary.

Edited by FrankH
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Perhaps a matinee in Canterbury, Frank?  I couldn't recommend an evening performance for anyone going down by train - the late evening service was never very good, and it now takes at least 15 minutes longer than it did 30 years ago, unless you shell out tons for the high-speed rail link.

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