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Northern Ballet’s 50th anniversary programme

Posted on June 6, 2019

Northern Ballet 50th Anniversary ft. Antoinette Brooks Daw Rachael Gillespie and Pippa Moore. Photo Guy Farrow

Northern Ballet has announced details of its 50th anniversary programme including three world premieres, a star-studded gala and tours of some of the company’s best-loved productions.

World premieres next year include Geisha by Kenneth Tindall, Merlin by Drew McOnie and a new children’s ballet. David Nixon’s Cinderella and The Great Gatsby return for national tours and Northern Ballet will also perform Three Short Ballets in Newcastle and tour Mariana Rodrigues’ Little Red Riding Hood nationally.

Marking the start of the company’s anniversary programme, Northern Ballet’s 50th Anniversary Celebration Gala, which will take place at Leeds Grand Theatre for one night only on January 4, 2020, will see dancers from some of the world’s leading companies unite. The company will be joined by guest artists from The Royal Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, English National Ballet, Scottish Ballet, Birmingham Royal Ballet and Phoenix Dance Theatre performing excerpts from Northern Ballet’s repertoire and works connected to the company’s history.

In the first of three world premieres, Kenneth Tindall, choreographer of the company’s acclaimed Casanova, creates his second full-length work. Based on a true story, Geisha is the tale of two young women trapped in a world of duty and sacrifice, who can only be saved by a promise from beyond the grave.

Geisha will feature original music composed by Alexandra Harwood, an original scenario and dramaturgy by Gwyneth Hughes, set and costume designs by Christopher Oram and lighting by Alastair West. The work will premiere in Leeds on March 14, 2020, followed by a tour to Sheffield, London, Edinburgh and Cardiff until May 2020. For information, click here.

The second full-length world premiere of Northern Ballet’s 50th anniversary season will see Drew McOnie make his debut with Northern Ballet. The choreographer, whose previous projects include Broadway’s King Kong and Baz Luhrmann’s Strictly Ballroom, will create Merlin, a magical spectacle inspired by the story of the legendary wizard.

Northern Ballet 50th Anniversary. Photograph Guy Farrow

Merlin will feature original music by Grant Olding, a scenario by Gwyneth Hughes, set and costume designs by Colin Richmond and lighting by Anna Watson. In addition, Chris Fisher, international illusions and magic associate on Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, has been appointed as illusionist for Merlin.

The ballet will premiere in Bradford on October 16, 2020, followed by a tour to Norwich, Newcastle, Southampton, Woking and Leeds until December 2020. For more information, click here.

Continuing its pioneering programme of short ballets created specifically for young children, Northern Ballet will also premiere a new children’s ballet in October 2020. The title is yet to be announced but will follow in the footsteps of the recently announced world premiere of Little Red Riding Hood, choreographed by Mariana Rodrigues, which will tour nationally in spring 2020. For updates, click here.

In line with the company’s developments in its digital dance offerings, Northern Ballet’s popular children’s ballets Ugly Duckling and Goldilocks and the Three Bears will be screened in cinemas nationwide from January 2020. The company will also present three new dance films on its Digital Dance platform, including an original direct to digital creation by Kenneth Tindall. For updates, click here.

In addition to its programme of performances, Northern Ballet will be holding a number of other activities and opportunities for audiences and supporters to engage with the company during its 50th anniversary year. These include an exhibition of ballet costumes in Leeds city centre during April and May 2020 and a fundraising dinner and performance in Leeds in autumn 2020. For more information on these and other activities as they get announced, see for updates.

David Nixon, artistic director of Northern Ballet, said: “Northern Ballet is a truly extraordinary organisation and has endured so many challenges in its history to arrive, 50 years after its inception, as the successful, confident and innovative company that we are today. I am privileged to be the artistic director as we reach this milestone anniversary and to be continuing the incredible work of all the artists and staff who have gone before us.”

Images: Northern Ballet 50th Anniversary. Photographs by Guy Farrow

Nicola Rayner was editor of Dance Today from 2010 to 2015. She has written for a number of publications including The Guardian, The Independent and Time Out Buenos Aires, where she cut her teeth as a dance journalist working on the tango section. Today she continues to dance everything from ballroom to breakdance, with varying degrees of success. Her debut novel, The Girl Before You, was published last year in paperback, ebook and audiobook.

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