|Northern Ballet Theatre 2007-8
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|Author:||David [ Thu Mar 15, 2007 8:19 am ]|
|Post subject:||Northern Ballet Theatre 2007-8|
Northern Ballet Theatre's autumn and winter tour dates and repertory are as detailed below.
"The Nutcracker" is a new production by David Nixon in collaboration with Scottish designer Charles Cusick-Smith. Nixon says, "This will be one of the most traditional works Northern Ballet Theatre will have done in a long time, but it brings tradition to a season of the year when it is most looked for and will provide the company with an opportunity to revel in their more classical side."
West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds: A Midsummer Night's Dream
Theatre Royal, Nottingham: Romeo and Juliet
Palace Theatre, Manchester: The Nutcracker
Lyceum Theatre, Sheffield: The Nutcracker
Alhambra Theatre, Bradford: Romeo and Juliet
Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury: The Nutcracker
Milton Keynes Theatre, Milton Keynes: A Midsummer Night's Dream
New Victoria Theatre, Woking: A Midsummer Night's Dream
27 November - 9 December
Grand Theatre, Leeds: The Nutcracker
The company then leave for a 4-week, 6-city tour of China over Christmas and the New Year.
|Author:||David [ Sun Oct 14, 2007 1:43 am ]|
|Post subject:||The Nutcracker|
‘The Nutcracker’ - Northern Ballet Theatre
Palace Theatre, Manchester, UK; October 13, 2007
It is often said that Christmas seems to come earlier every year, and mid-October does seem a little early for “The Nutcracker” to surface, but with Northern Ballet Theatre off on an extended tour of China over the festive season, artistic director David Nixon decided that an autumnal birth for his new ballet was in order.
He promised Northern Ballet’s audiences a traditional “Nutcracker” and that is exactly what he has delivered. The mild October weather was forgotten the minute you walked into the auditorium and were greeted by a snowy exterior of a house, and into who’s world we were about to enter.
Act I mostly revolves around the Edwards family Christmas party, and all the different characters that seem to have gathered in the house. Apart from Clara, delightfully danced by Pippa Moore, best was Nathalie Leger’s wonderful grandma, who seemed not only to have already had a little too much to drink, but who was determined to check on every little thing that Mrs.Edwards did. There is also a beautifully observed story within a story involving Clara’s sister Louise (Keiko Amemori), and her attempts to ‘accidentally’ grab a quiet moment with her young friend James (Hironao Takahashi); attempts that always seemed to be thwarted by her mother. In a clever twist, these two reappear in Act II as the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier, so, in Clara’s dream at least, she does get her man! The children, all from the company’s Classical Training Programme, were great too, were very natural and seemed genuinely curious and excited by Drosselmeyer’s dancing dolls.
This is a friendly “Nutcracker”, so friendly that even the Mouse King and his cohorts seem quite likeable. I would like to have seen a little more ‘battle’ in the battle scene, but the snowy woodland that follows is a sight to behold. Designer Charles Cusik Smith has really come up trumps yet again with a wonderful forest of knotted icy trees. And boy does it snow! So much, that there is enough for Clara and her Nutcracker, danced here by Christopher Hinton-Lewis, to grab handfuls to throw at each other and at the snowflakes in their gorgeous white and blue-edged dresses.
Of the Act II divertissements I particularly enjoyed the sensuous Arabian dance and the French ballet, danced to the music usually used for the Dance of the Mirlatons. I thought some of flowers in the Waltz of the Flowers looked a little unsteady, but then Amemori aand Takahashi gave us a faultless grand pas de deux with some really solid turns and lifts to round things off, before Clara found herself back in the arms of her father.
I’m sure there will be those who wonder why Northern Ballet Theatre needed a “Nutcracker”. After all, it already has a hugely successful seasonal ballet in Massimo Morricone’s version of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”. It could even be argued that by staging a classic so traditionally he is going against the company’s ethos, although I think not. What Nixon has done is given us another strong and nicely constructed story, with characters that really seem to have personality. And at the same time by making it very classical he has challenged his own dancers. A challenge to which, on the whole, they rose excellently.
Given that the setting is in many ways timeless, it is perhaps a little odd for the programme to specifically state the ballet is set in the early 1800s. That does leave Nixon open to accusations of historical inaccuracy, not least the presence of a Christmas tree, not introduced until later in the century, and of three-wheeled children’s scooters, invented in Germany around 1820 and not seen in Britain until much later, and in some of the costuming. But to be honest, this is nitpicking and it doesn’t really matter.
“The Nutcracker” is important for companies in many ways, not least financially. At last, Nixon has given Northern Ballet Theatre one of their own, and it is certainly a “Nutcracker” that ticks all the right boxes. What really makes it though are all his little touches, from the way each character at the party seems to have their own personality and the real-life excitement and wonder of the children, to the way Clara and the Nutcracker look genuinely happy and enthralled at all the events of Act II. Best of all though comes right at the end. Clara has just been explaining her dream adventure to her father and is being led back to bed, when Drosselmeyer appears at the door and hands her the Nutcracker doll. She takes it and turns to go when, unknown to her, the Nutcracker appears behind him and blows her one final kiss. Magic to the very last.
‘The Nutcracker’ continues on tour to Sheffield (Lyceum Theatre, 17-20 October), Canterbury (Marlowe Theatre, 6-10 November) and Leeds (Grand Theatre, 27 November-8 December).
|Author:||David [ Sun Oct 14, 2007 1:52 am ]|
|Post subject:||Spring/Summer 2008|
Northern Ballet Theatre Spring/Summer 2008 tour dates are shown below.
As you will see, the theme is Shakespeare, including a new production of Hamlet, which premieres in Leeds in Feburary. Set in the early 1940s, a young man arrives home from the front. But his home is no longer his own. His father is dead, his mother has married his Uncle and the enemy occupies his city. It is against this backdrop that Hamlet’s mind unfolds, and all to a new new score by Philip Feeney.
Leeds, Grand Theatre
16-23 February: Hamlet
Canterbury, Marlowe Theatre
26 February-1 March: Hamlet
Edinburgh, Festival Theatre
5-8 March: A Midsummer Night's Dream
Nottingham, Theatre Royal
11-15 March: Hamlet
Belfast, Grand Theatre
1-5 April: A Midsummer Night's Dream
London, Sadler's Wells Theatre
22-26 April: Repertory to be confirmed
Norwich: Theatre Royal
29 April-3 May: A Midsummer Night's Dream
Sheffield: Lyceum Theatre
6-10 May: Romeo and Juliet
Manchester, Palace Theatre
14-17 May: Romeo and Juliet
Milton Keynes, Milton Keynes Theatre
20-24 May: Hamlet
Cardiff, New Theatre
27-31 May: A Midsummer Night's Dream
Llandudno, Venue Cymru
4-7 June: A Midsummer Night's Dream
|Author:||David [ Fri Feb 22, 2008 7:58 am ]|
‘Hamlet’ - Northern Ballet Theatre
Grand Theatre, Leeds, UK; February 21st, 2008
Northern Ballet Theatre’s undoubted and deserved popularity stems largely from its ability to consistently serve up accessible story ballets. Artistic Director David Nixon’s new “Hamlet” is part of a Shakespearean season that tours the UK until June, the other works being Nixon’s own critically acclaimed “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and Massimo Moricone’s ever popular and deeply moving “Romeo and Juliet”. In keeping with most of the company’s works, the latter are family friendly. With “Hamlet” however Nixon has given us something altogether darker and taken the company into new territory.
Nixon has wanted to do Hamlet ever since he took the lead role in Patrice Montagnon’s production for the Deutsche Oper Berlin. For his own production he has abandoned the idea of doing a scene by scene ballet of the play, and instead given us a very new take on Hamlet’s psychological turmoil. For Elsinore, read the grim realities of Nazi-occupied Paris. Hamlet, recently released after being taken a prisoner of war, is mourning the death of his father. Claudius, married to Gertrude, Hamlet’s mother, is working for the Germans as Head of Police and has commandeered Hamlet’s pre-war home as his official residence. Polonius meanwhile is a member of the Gestapo.
While only occasionally really grabbing you by the throat, from the moment Hamlet appears through the steam at the Gare de l’Est, the ballet does hold the attention, helped in no small part by former company principal dancer Christopher Giles’ atmospheric sets, which swiftly and cleverly move us from one location to the next. Even over sixty years on, there is still something quite chilling about those large red banners bearing swastikas. His costumes too are quite realistic, except it has to be said Polonius’ incredibly shiny uniform, which looked more like something from an S&M store.
Nixon’s dancers do him proud. Hironao Takahashi gave us a Hamlet who seemed to be in some world between dream and reality, often staring out as the chaos in his mind takes over. Patricia Hines was a sophisticated Gertrude, whose heartrending final desperate pleas for Hamlet’s life come to nothing. Best of all though was Keiko Amemori’s delicate, fragile, Ophelia, an innocent caught up in events who slowly goes mad. Her long solo when she interrupts a formal ball at the German embassy to give out swastika flags was an incredibly moving and powerful piece of dance-drama. Nixon cleverly highlights the formality of that ball amid all the chaos by putting his ladies in pointe shoes for the only time in the work.
Given that the ballet certainly works as wartime melodrama, and has its moments, it may seem odd to say that taken as a whole it somehow lacks the overall impact it should have. While the feel and mood of the piece are well portrayed, only a few moments really linger in the memory, notably the very graphic and realistic torture and murder of a French resistance worker, which truly made you want to turn away; Ophelia’s haunting solo and violent sexual assault by three German soldiers; and Gertrude’s pleas to Claudius to save Hamlet’s life. It’s no coincidence that these are two of the longer scenes in the work. Many of the others come so thick and fast that they don’t have the time to make that imprint on the memory. Philip Feeney’s music may also be part of the problem. As ever, he has produced a score that is perfectly danceable and more than listenable to. Yet it seems more suitable to some grand epic movie with sweeping landscapes than a hard and dark drama. It sweeps and rolls along, but in the end is far from memorable. There are times when it needs something a bit harder, a bit harsher to match the mood of the dance, or even occasionally a touch of silence.
It is not surprising that Act II, when the drama is really played out, is undoubtedly the more compelling of the two. Why though did Nixon feel the need to suddenly and unexpectedly break the mood and effect he creates with Hamlet’s death? Do we really need to be told by a radio announcement that Paris has been liberated? And do dancers really need to whoop and shout on stage to make the point? By the time Horatio appears alone mourning the loss of Hamlet in what could be a powerful final image, it’s too late. The spell has been broken.
Despite these reservations, Nixon has succeeded in bringing much of the emotional and psychological impact of Shakespeare’s work to life though. I am sure it will have an impact on anyone who sees it. A word of warning though: “Hamlet” does contain some very realistic scenes of sex and violence. It’s not gratuitous and does work in the context, but this is not a ballet for young children.
“Hamlet" continues on tour to Canterbury, Nottingham, London (Sadler’s Wells) and Milton Keynes.
Other forthcoming tour dates feature “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and “Romeo and Juliet”.
See http://www.northernballettheatre.co.uk for details.
|Author:||Francis Timlin [ Thu Feb 28, 2008 3:21 pm ]|
Judith Mackrell reviews "Hamlet" in The Guardian:
|Author:||ksneds [ Wed Mar 05, 2008 6:40 pm ]|
"A Midsummer Night's Dream"
Northern Ballet Theatre
March 5, 2008 – Edinburgh Festival Theatre
Over the last few years, Northern Ballet Theatre has brought a series of mostly underwhelming productions to Edinburgh. This year, however, the company has returned with a revival of the sparkling "A Midsummer Night's Dream". First presented in 2003, Nixon's ballet is a truly original dance version of the Shakespeare classic. Set on the sleeper train from King's Cross to Edinburgh Waverly in the late 1940s*, "A Midsummer's Night Dream" not only strikes a special chord for Scottish audience, but is also the finest example of the dance-theatre hybrid that is the company's trademark. Perfectly attuned to the strengths of his company dancers, Nixon's choreography cleverly captures the passion, chaos, humour, tumult and drama that result when the worlds of fairies and humans collide.
In Nixon's "A Midsummer's Night Dream" the Shakespeare's human characters are re-conceived as members of a ballet company. Lysander, Demetrius, Helena and Hermia are principal dancers, Puck the ballet master and Nick Bottom the company carpenter. To simplify the story line, Nixon eliminates some characters, but slightly oddly chooses to keep the less central Theseus (the Artistic Director) and Hippolyta (the prima ballerina), rather than the fairy rulers Oberon and Titania. Here, Hippolyta is in love with Theseus, but their romance is derailed when he decides in the midst of a rehearsal for "Romeo & Juliet" that it is time for her to retire. After a chaotic rehearsal, the company slides into the berths on sleeper bound for Edinburgh. When Theseus finally drifts off to sleep, his dreams transport the company members into the fairy realm.
To create the 'ballet company' atmosphere, the curtain is left up while the audience is arriving, revealing a semi-staged, semi-natural warm-up. While giving the dancers less privacy, it sets the stage for the ballet by blurring the line between reality and fantasy. The production contrasts stage-real with the stage-fantasy through the use of colour; the palette for the ballet company is black and white, the fairy world a riot of colour. The use of black and white is particularly striking as Nixon (also the costume designer) has an eye for pattern and contrast. The costumes, combined with Duncan Hayler's outstanding sets make the ballet feel like it's snatched out of an old black and white film. Hayler's sets are also some of the finest created for the ballet stage. The centerpiece is the train set –improved from the cramped original – which zooms out of the station and then splits into sections, each representing a sleeper compartment. As the story plays out, the sections are spun around to reveal cramped berths. The constant 'open and shut' motion of each section allows the story to move back and forth between characters and interactions.
But it is not the sets alone that define this production, but the combination of clever scenery with inventive choreography and top notch dancing. In some other Northern Ballet Theatre productions, Nixon's choreography comes across as a poor second to the storyline. However, in "A Midsummer Night's Dream", the dance flows naturally into the story and vice versa. Mixing Mendelssohn' with a bit of Brahms, Nixon succeeds both in stage skimming corps work and an elegant pas de deux for Hippolyta and Theseus. The highlight of the ballet, though, is a truly inventive and side-splitting series of 'battles' between the four human lovers. When Puck causes chaos by dousing the wrong man in the magic love potion, Helena finds herself wooed by two men, Hermia by none. Chaos ensues in the form of a beautiful choreographed comedic sequence, with the two men grappling, wrestling and playing tug-of-ear over Helena. At one point, all four end up in one of the beds, the men fighting over Helena, whose trying to escape whilst Hermia is battling for attention. A huge amount of precision and strength needed to manage the tricky jumps and acrobatic moves, and all four dancers are outstanding.
Pippa Moore and Christopher Hinton-Lewis appeared in the first tour of the ballet to Edinburgh in 2004, and were superb as Demetrius and Helena. Georgina May and Kenneth Tindall completed the human quartet. Aside from some issues with the diction in his few spoken lines, Hironao Takahashi, tall and elegant, was the perfect Theseus. He had little difficulty with the fast petite allegro steps in his solo, though the floor seemed to magnify the sound of the landings. Keiko Amemori doesn't yet have the gravitas that the now retired Chiaki Nagao brought to the role of Hippolyta, but was touching in her own way. No fault could be found in the partnering between Takahashi and Nagao, which was smooth and natural.
While the leading dancers were of high quality, the corps dancing – particularly that of the men – was noticeably weak. The company has seen a number of departures in recent years, especially amongst the up and coming male dancers. Currently the company has but two principal dancers, and just five men above coryphée level. This lack of male talent was likely the impetus to reconceive Robin Puck as a female role. Nixon's Puck, even when danced by a man, was fairly androgynous, so the switch of sexes is not as jarring as might be expected. In fact, Victoria Sibson's take on the crop-haired balletmaster was to me far superior then that of her male predecessors. Sibson has a knack for timing, and the ability to convey a whole thought with the slightest flick of a hand. Where the gender-reversal did come up short was in Act 2. Nixon's choreography was created for a demi-caractere male dancer, and Sibson, though technically clean, lacked the muscular strength and power to really pull off the jumps and beats.
In the end, Northern Ballet Theatre is about dance and theatre, and it's the characters and the details in "A Midsummer Night's Dream" that make it such a delight. Darren Goldsmith's Nick Bottom is a sweet, but simpleminded carpenter who has a brief transformation into a donkey. Goldsmith, one of senior dancers in the company is a consummate actor, as well as a solid dancer. Steven Wheeler's prissy Wardrobe Manager is a howlingly delightful collection of gay clichés, all in good fun. He's matched by the sternly-suited Stage Manager, a black-bobbed Ginnie Ray. The attention of these dancers to the detail in their characters is second to none, and their dedication raises the level of the ballet up a notch.
In the end, all wake up from their dreams, and each lover finds his or her proper match. By the time the sleeper pulls into Waverly, all is well, and the performance in Edinburgh is followed by a trio of engagements. The boogie-woogie 'cast party' doubles as a chance to showcase each couple or dancer, providing a fond farewell. Bravo to Northern Ballet Theatre, and may the company travel up north again with such a wonderful production!
*For those not familiar with British trains, Edinburgh Waverly is the main train station in Edinburgh. There is still a sleeper train from London to Edinburgh, but it departs from Euston Station. In addition, despite the name in the program, I don't thiink there has ever been a sleeper called the Flying Scotsman (which was the name of an engine and also now the nickname for one of the direct afternoon trains to London). The sleeper is know as the Caledonian Sleeper.
|Author:||David [ Tue Jul 01, 2008 6:54 am ]|
A round up of end of season news from Northern Ballet Theatre
The National Ballet of Slovenia has invited NBT's Artistic Director David Nixon to recreate his version of The Nutcracker on the Company, which will première on 7 November 2008.
The Estonian National Ballet has invited David to recreate The Three Musketeers, which will première in April 2009.
This spring, David returned to BalletMet, Ohio, to oversee the revival of his Romeo & Juliet for the Company's 30th anniversary celebrations.
New dancers and departures
Joining NBT this summer are dancers Graham Kotowich from the National Ballet School of Canada; James Pickup from the Ballet de l'Opera National de Bordeaux; and Yoshihisa Arai from the Royal Ballet School. Three new apprentices are also joining NBT: Rym Kechacha, a graduate of the Central School of Ballet, and Antoinette Brooks-Daw and Brice Asnar who are graduates of the Royal Ballet School. Dancers Chantelle Gotobed, Sarah Kundi and Kieran Stoneley are leaving the Company.
Victoria Sibson, Martin Bell and Tobias Batley have been promoted to Junior Soloists, Ashley Dixon to Coryphée and, following their apprenticeships, Thomas Aragones, Rachael Gillespie, Ben Mitchell and Jessica Morgan enter the Company as 1st year dancers.
40th Anniversary and capital campaign
NBT is celebrating 40 years in 2009 and will announce its commemorative tour programme and planned celebrations later this year. NBT also continues with "momentum", the £1.5 million fundraising campaign for a new building in central Leeds with Phoenix Dance Theatre. £10.5million has already been raised for the £12 million building from Leeds City Council, Arts Council England and Yorkshire Forward. NBT is making good progress in reaching its £1.5 million fundraising target following Leeds Metropolitan University's announcement that it is be supporting the momentum campaign. For further information visit http://www.building-momentum.co.uk
This autumn NBT will tour to venues across the UK with A Tale of Two Cities, a new production by guest choreographer Cathy Marston, as well as David Nixon's A Midsummer Night's Dream and The Nutcracker.
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