Thursday, 3 June 2021

Nixon - An Appreciation

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On 28 May 2021, Northern Ballet announced the retirement of its artistic director, David Nixon (see David Nixon OBE steps down as Artistic Director of Northern Ballet after 20 years 28 May 2021 Northern Ballet).  He has already held that job longer than any other director of the company. When he stands down at the end of the year he will have been with the company for over 40% of its history.  

Good things have happened to Northern Ballet during that time. The company's move to Quarry Hill will have been appreciated by the artists and technicians but it has also enabled ordinary folk like me to dance in the same studios and occasionally even upon the same stage as the artists. The work of the Academy and the Leeds Centre for Advanced Training are other significant achievements.  There are, of course, adult ballet classes and centres of advanced elsewhere but one of the distinctions of the Academy and the Leeds Centre is whether aiming for a career in dance or simply dancing for fun, all students are trained under the Ichino Technique:
"Under this method, young dancers learn how to cope with the physical and emotional demands of dancing through preventative conditioning, a clear understanding of their individual strengths and limitations and a detailed knowledge of dance technique."

Yoko Ichino, the deviser of that technique, is also Mrs David Nixon.

Nixon is highly regarded as a choreographer.  While I can't say that I have liked all his work he is the author of two masterpieces. One is A Midsummer Night's Dream  which I reviewed as follows in Realizing Another Dream on  15 Sept 2013:

"Perhaps the best way to start this review is at the end. I could not help rising to my feet as the cast took their bows. And I was not the only one. The English, unlike Americans, are very slow to give standing ovations (except at party conferences) and I have only seen other in my lifetime. That was a special evening for Sir Frederick Ashton at Covent Garden in July 1970 when he retired as director of the Royal Ballet. It seems from the tweets and video that Northern Ballet's short season at West Yorkshire Playhouse (6 to 14 Sept 2013) has also been very special."

Nixon's other masterpiece is Madame Butterfly.  In my review I wrote:

"it took my breath away. I have seen a fair selection of Nixon's work and in my humble opinion Madame Butterfly is his masterpiece.
To his credit, Nixon has commissioned major works from his own artists and I have enjoyed these better than many of his outside commissions.  Particularly successful was Kenneth Tindall's Casanova and Daniel de Andrade's The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas.

There has been a lot of speculation about who will succeed Nixon and what he will do next.  I have no idea about either but I know whom I would like to see apply for the role.  I think dance education is very important and two of my favourite candidates are artistic directors of great ballet schools, one in mainland Europe and the other in London.  Both have worked with exceptionally gifted young dancers in the important years between finishing vocational education and joining a company. The other candidate has already been an artistic director.  She has created sensations in San Francisco and London and also worked for Northern Ballet.  As for Nixon, someone on BalletcoForum suggested an important role for him in North America. 

Whether Nixon takes up a new appointment or retires I wish him all the best for the future.

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