Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Northern Ballet's New Season

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Last September Northern Ballet opened their new season with Jonathan Watkins's 1984 at the West Yorkshire Playhouse which they then took on tour They danced Wuthering Heights in Bradford and finished with a brilliant Nutcracker at Christmas.  Thus year they are reviving three works: Nixon's Wuthering Heights at the WYP. They are taking Jean-Pierre Maillot's Romeo and Juliet to Sheffield, Canterbury, Belfast, Woking and Bradford. The Christmas show at The Grand will be Nixon's Beauty and the Beast which they will also dance at Norwich, Nottingham, Newcastle and Southampton.

Of those three shows the one that I would recommend without hesitation is Romeo and Juliet.  I saw it twice in Leeds last tear and enjoyed both performances (see Northern Ballet's Romeo and Juliet - different but in a good way 8 March 2915 and Leebolt's Juliet 13 March 2015). I also saw the Bolshoi dance Maillot's Taming of the Shrew earlier in the month and was enchanted by it (see Bolshoi's Triumph - The Taming of the Shrew 4 Aug 2016).  I have become something of a Maillot fan and wrote a short appreciation of his work on 5 Aug 2016.

We saw quite a lot of Wuthering Heights in 2015. I watched it in Sheffield including a dress rehearsal in March and liked it a lot (see Wuthering Heights 19 March 2015). I also caught it in Bradford in November where I was somewhat less impressed (see Northern Ballet's Wuthering Heights in Bradford 22 Nov 2015). I wrote:
"Batley and Leeboilt were good too as they always are but their performance lacked fire. It was like watching World Ballet Day or even company class. Old ladies like me who sacrifice their widow's mite for ballet (now increased by 133% - see The Increasing Prince of Friendship 14 Oct 2015) expect to float when we leave the theatre as I did on Friday when I saw Ballet Black (see Ballet Black's Return to Leeds 21 Nov 2015) or on 12 Nov 2015 when I left the Linbury after seeing Phoenix (see The Phoenix Soars Over London 13 Nov 2015). The reason I floated was that Ballet Black and Phoenix danced as though they were inspired as did Bateman, Takehashi and Gillespie yesterday. I swapped a ticket in the centre of row B of the Stanley and Audrey Burton for yesterday's performance of Ballet Black for one at the side of the top of the auditorium for Friday so that I could see the last performance of Wuthering Heights in Bradford. Had it not been for Bateman, Takehashi and Gillespie I think I would have regretted the exchange."
If Northern Ballet wanted to open their 2016/2017 season with a work inspired by a Brontë novel, my choice would have been Cathy Martson's Jane Eyre which I saw in Richmond at the beginning of June (see Northern Ballet's Jane Eyre: the best new Ballet from the Company in 20 Years 2 June 2016). That was a reminder of the old Manchester based Northern Ballet that welcomed me back to the North in 1985. The company offered real treats in those days such as Gillian Lynne's A Simple Man and Christopher Gable's Christmas Carol (see my review of its 2013 revival Christmas Carol - "A Fine Performance Filled with Joy" 19 Nov 2013). Save for the opening in Doncaster Jane Eyre has not been performed in Yorkshire and it would have suited the Quarry well as it is a more intimate auditorium than The Grand. I had to travel 200 miles to see a ballet based on a novel by a Yorkshire author. I do hope they bring it home soon.

Beauty and the Beast ought to be as popular as Cinderella for when you think about it de Villeneuve's story is simply Cinderella in reverse. Peter Darrell, Darius James and David Bintley have all had a go as I said in my review of David Nixon's 2011 production in IP Yorkshire over a year before I started this blog (see Jane Lambert Ballet and Intellectual Property - my Excuse for reviewing "Beauty and the Beast" 31 Dec 2011). In that article I said:
"Beauty and the Beast is not an easy story to choreograph. Scottish Ballet had a go with Thea Musgrave's score many years ago. I reviewed for "Aien" (St Andrews University student newspaper) when it was premiered at The King's Theatre in Edinburgh in 1969. Ballet Cymru also seems to have had a version in its repertoire. Another link with IP, incidentally, since Ballet Cymru is based in Newport, the same town as the Intellectual Property Office. And, of course, there is the Birmingham Royal Ballet's version. But none of those versions has ever achieved the popularity of works like Coppelia, Giselle, Nutcracker, Sleeping Beauty or Swan Lake. Will David Nixon's version do any better? The answer is that I am just not sure."
Since I saw Nixon's Beauty and the Beast I have seen and reviewed Bintley's and James's. Both Mel Wong and I reviewed James's Beauty but Mel's review is far better than mine (see Mel Wong For grown ups who haven't lost touch with their childhoods - Ballet Cymru's Beauty & The Beast 24 June 2014). In my review of Bintley's Beauty I asked myself which was best.  Here is my reply:
"Well I like them all but in different ways. Musgrave's for the music. Birmingham's for the sets and costumes but also Bintley's choreography. Nixon's for the last Act. Ballet Cymru's for its spirit."
The one thing I remember most about Nixon's ballet is that the family piled into a derelict bus which I found risible but I also remember some great dancing from Martha Leebolt, Hannah Bateman and Victoria Sibson and a sublime final act. Here is what I wrote at the time:
"As for Nixon's choreography the first two acts reminded me of early McMillan - works like Anastasia which are not performed very often nowadays for a reason. But the last Act reminded me of Balanchine and I think it was that Act which saved the ballet. The pas de deux between Beauty - danced exquisitely by Martha Leebolt - and the beast showed just what the choreographer can do. Also impressive were Victoria Sibson and Hannah Bateman who danced the fairies, Hironeo Takahashi, the beast's servant and the coryphées, Michela Paolacci, Ayana Kanda, Christie Duncan and Isabella Gasparini who were four sprites. The last Act of the ballet could well stand as a work in its own right. I hope to see that Act many times again but I would happily skip the first two acts with its old bus and bailiffs."
A curious choice for a Christmas show. I would have preferred G able's Christmas Carol or indeed his Cinderella but I will be in the audience for the final act.

Of course, the show that everybody is anticipating with relish is Kenneth Tindall's Gasanova which opens in Leeds on 11 March 2017. It will then tour Edinburgh, Sheffield, Norwich, Milton Keynes, Cardiff, The Lowry and London. This is Tindall's first full length ballet. His shorter works such as Luminous Junc•ture and The Architect, have attracted favourable critical comment including some from me (see Angelic - Northern Ballet's Mixed Bill 9 June 2013 and A Wonderful Evening - Northern Ballet's Mixed Bill 21 June 2014 23 June 2013). I like Tindall as you can see from my appreciation of 28 Feb 2015. I am therefore looking forward to this work very much indeed.

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