Sunday, 16 November 2014

Northern Ballet at its best: The Great Gatsby in Bradford

Northern Ballet "The Great Gatsby", Bradford Alhambra, 18 Nov 2014

I saw David Nixon'a The Great Gatsby for the first time on 7 March 2013 ("Life follows Art: The Great Gatsby" 8 March 2013). It was good then.  It is even better now.

The cast that I saw at the Bradford Alhambra last night were almost the same as last time: Martha Leebolt danced Daisy Buchanan, Tobias Batley Jay Gatsby, Kenneth Tindall Tom Buchanan and Giuliani Contadini Nick Carraway.  On the last occasion I had seen Benjamin Mitchell and Victoria Sibson dance the Wilsons.  Last night those roles were performed by Isaac Lee-Baker and Jessica Morgan respectively.

Each of those dancers excelled in their roles. They had danced those characters well in 2013 but this time they seemed to live them.   Isn't that supposed to happen in every narrative ballet?  Well yes and no. Every landscape is supposed to reflect the scene before the artist's eyes but it takes a work of genius to come to life. Well, yesterday I felt involved in the tragedy as though I was in Long Island and New York City all those years ago and in a way that I didn't before. Not for the first time several members of the audience rose to their feet for the curtain call including me.

Having seen the work before I concentrated on the detail. The choreography is very clever.  For example, Nixon did remarkable things with tyres incorporating one into Wilson's dance as though it were a partner. He slid along it and then hugged it as his wife slipped out of the garage for her liaison with Buchanan. The choreography is also very beautiful - particularly the final ecstatic pas de deux between Gatsby and Daisy which is shown on the clip above. All of this is set to a magnificent score, ingenious scenery and gorgeous costumes - all of which I mentioned in my previous review.

Yesterday I reflected on the treasure that we in the North have in this company. It deserved to win the Taglioni award for best company and it is right that it should be nominated for the National Dance Awards 2014. It has outstanding dancers in Batley, Leebolt, Moore and Tindall with more on the way at every level. A personal pleasure for me in that regard was to see Gavin McCaig on stage for the first time. I had first met this talented and personable young man in the audience for the mixed bill on the 21 June 2014 and again for Dracula on the 13 Sept 2014. On the 3 Sept 2014 Gavin gave me an interview which has proved to be the most popular article in this blog.

A few months ago in London Christopher Marney, my favourite living British choreographer, was asked by a young student to name his favourite dancer. He thought for a moment. "Lauren Cuthbertson" he mused but then the answer came to him "Northern Ballet" he replied "and Martha Leebolt in particular." I was so proud. I don't think Marney has ever worked with Northern Ballet but I hope that one day he will for I am sure that they would create something wonderful between them.

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