Saturday, 28 February 2015


Not all my mates are balletomanes. I have a Helvetic friend in Golcar who is into cats, Dr Who, politics, mobile phones, brisk walks in the country, English literature, German conversation, cheese, meat free cooking  - you name it she knows about it - a real polymath - just about everything except ballet. So imagine my joy and surprise when she identified a ballet that she would like to see.

That ballet is 1984 by Jonathan Watkins to a score by Alex Baronowski which Northern Ballet will dance in  Leeds, Nottingham, Manchester and Sheffield this Autumn. I can't tell you much about it. Here is a quote from Northern Ballet's website:


"Winston Smith lives in a world of absolute conformity, his every action is scrutinized by Big Brother. However, when Winston meets Julia he dares to rebel by falling in love.
Based on George Orwell's masterpiece and created by Guest Choreographer and former Royal Ballet dancer Jonathan Watkins, 1984 will change the way you think about ballet.
With a brand new score from Tony nominated Composer Alex Baranowski played live by Northern Ballet Sinfonia, see this iconic classic reimagined for a modern audience.
Tickets for the World Première at West Yorkshire Playhouse are on sale from Friday 27 February by calling 0113 213 7700."
I am eager to learn about the casting.

Who will dance Winston Smith? Poeung perhaps? Or maybe Broadbent or Bates.  Or possibly Watkins will bring on some of the younger talents like McCaig.

And who will be Julia?  My choice would be Bateman or Gillespie.

Tindall would have been an obvious choice for O'Brien but he will leave the company on 2 May 2015 (see Kenneth Tindall 28 Feb 2015).

Northern Ballet promises that "1984 will change the way you think about ballet". It has already done that with someone I know.


  1. Toby Batley for Winston Smith, with Dreda, Hannah or Martha as Julia! I can also see Matthew Topliss in the role, too. For O'Brien I would guess Javier, Joe T and possibly Seb (he's a fantastic character artist)

  2. At least we agree on Hannah Bateman for Julia. Tobias Batley would dance anything well but I think he had too much gravitas for Smith. I could see him more as O'Brien which is quite a complex role in the novel at any rate. Winston Smith is less complex and quite a young man. But everything will depend on the choreographer's choices.

  3. I disagree, that's like saying Batley has too much gravitas for Romeo! Part of Batley's skill as a dance actor is that he gets audience members to emotionally invest in his performance and journey, no matter what he is dancing. Winston is the role that will carry this ballet, just like Winston was the character that carried the novel. Without him at the centre of it, it all loses its impact - Julia, Thought Crime, Hate Week, Room 101 etc etc. - its all just stuff happening without a presence there for it to impact on. The dancer in this role needs to be able to pull us in and along with him.

    I'd also like to see Ashley Dixon have a chance at Winston!

    Regardless of who Watkins casts, I CAN'T WAIT to see it! NB has always put on relevant classical ballet narratives, and I think this one will be the one to finally have an impact on the wider landscape and make audiences think about the stories they want to see on stage, too. I sincerely hope a day comes where workhorses like Swan Lake are put away for a season or five in favour of more relevant stories and narratives like 1984. What I'd love to see next is a choreographer tackle J G Ballard...! Who's brave enough for that?!