Northern Ballet

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Northern Ballet
General information
NameNorthern Ballet
Previous names
  • Northern Dance Theatre
  • Northern Ballet Theatre
Year founded1969
FoundersLaverne Meyer
PatronEarl of Wessex
Senior staff
Chief ExecutiveMark Skipper DL
Artistic staff
Artistic DirectorFederico Bonelli
Music DirectorJonathan Lo[1]
OrchestraNorthern Ballet Sinfonia
Associated schoolsAcademy of Northern Ballet

Northern Ballet, formerly Northern Ballet Theatre, is a dance company based in Leeds, West Yorkshire, England, with a strong repertoire in theatrical dance productions where the emphasis is on story telling as well as classical ballet. The company tours widely across the United Kingdom.


Northern Dance Theatre, the name by which the company was originally known, was founded in 1969 by Canadian-born Laverne Meyer; a dramatic dancer whose formative years were spent with Bristol-based, Western Theatre Ballet, the first ever British dance company to be based outside London. The company's first performance was on 28 November 1969 at the University Theatre, Manchester, with the orchestra being supplied by musicians of the Royal Northern College of Music.

In the first six years, the repertory included significant revivals, Kurt Jooss's The Green Table and Andrée Howard's Death and the Maiden, alongside new works by Peter Wright, John Chesworth, Charles Czarny, and Clover Roope.[2]

Robert de Warren[edit]

Robert de Warren was appointed artistic director in 1976. A classically-trained dancer, he had previously worked with the Royal Ballet, as well some of the larger West German ballet companies. He renamed the company Northern Ballet Theatre (NBT) and began to work on full-length classical ballets, rediscovered works and brand new dance-drama creations. During 11 years as artistic director he expanded the company to more than 30 dancers and the orchestra to 25 players under Maestro David Garforth and staged works by such diverse choreographers as August Bournonville, Michael Fokine, Walter Gore, John Cranko, Gillian Lynne and Royston Maldoom. Among other collaborators were composers Carl Davis and Joseph Horovitz and stage designers Clive Lavagna and Philip Prowse, then director of Glasgow's experimental Citizens Theatre.

De Warren's creative drive brought many artistic collaborations to the company including choreographers Andre Prokovsky and Geoffrey Cauley who was given space to experiment on such on-off, site-specific, works as "Paradise Lost" and who made what was for many years the company's signature dance-drama piece, Miss Carter wore Pink, music by Joseph Horovitz, based on the autobiographical books of Helen Bradley, with live narration by actress Patricia Phoenix and designs by Philip Prowse.

De Warren brought Dame Alicia Markova to the company as coach on productions of Les Sylphides and Giselle. He secured Rudolf Nureyev as artistic laureate and guest artist, and Princess Margaret as the company's Royal Patron.

The last of his collaborative works for the company was "A Simple Man", based on the life and paintings of L.S. Lowry: Choreographer Gillian Lynne, Music Carl Davis. The piece brought Northern Ballet's future Artistic Director Christopher Gable to the company to create the role of Lowry. "A Simple Man" remained in the repertoire for a decade and was seen throughout the world in repeated showings of the BBC Television filmed version. De Warren left the company in 1987 to go to the Scala, Milan.

Christopher Gable[edit]

The appointment of Christopher Gable as NBT's third artistic director in 1987 saw the company gain a reputation for imaginative new works and for impressive revivals of old classics.

His appointment owed much to chance. In 1987, for the centenary of the birth of the painter L. S. Lowry, Salford City Council commissioned Gillian Lynne to create a new ballet for the company to celebrate the life and work of the Salford-born artist. At this time the company was still under the artistic direction of Robert de Warren. The work with Lynne and Gable would be the last of his inspired artistic collaborations. Lynne was determined in her choice of dancer for the role of Lowry, enticing ex-Royal Ballet star Christopher Gable back to the dance stage for the first time in more than 20 years.

Gable's appointment as artistic director was popular with the company. He focused as much on the theatre as the ballet in the company's title. With the emphasis on classical dance drama, the success of A Simple Man was followed by full-length productions of Swan Lake, Romeo & Juliet, A Christmas Carol, the Brontes, Don Quixote, Dracula, Giselle and The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

Christopher Gable worked closely with Michael Pink who joined Northern Ballet Theatre as associate artistic director in 1993, where he remained until 1998. His choreographic work for the company included Attractions (1983), Memoire Imaginaire (1987), his first full-length work The Amazing Adventures of Don Quixote (1988), as well as acclaimed ballets such as The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Swan Lake,[3] Giselle, and Dracula.[4][5]

Throughout his 11 years with NBT, Gable remained artistic director of the Central School of Ballet, which he co-founded with Ann Stannard in London in 1982. The company was located at Spring Hall, Halifax briefly, in 1990.[6] Gable's death in 1998, from cancer at only 58, left the company with a reputation that was gaining steadily on the worldwide dance stage. Northern Ballet Theatre productions had been requested and performed by other companies including Norwegian National Ballet, Atlanta Ballet and the Royal New Zealand Ballet.

Stefano Giannetti[edit]

Stefano Giannetti became fourth Artistic Director after a career including dancing and creating principal roles at English National Ballet and Deutsche Oper Ballet. His first work was an adaptation of Charles Dickens' Great Expectations. However, he was to leave the company after only a year.

David Nixon OBE[edit]

The fifth appointment to the role of Artistic Director was given to former National Ballet of Canada principal dancer David Nixon in August 2001.

In February 2002 he presented his revised version of Madame Butterfly. That was followed by his tribute to the music of George and Ira Gershwin, I Got Rhythm. Nixon's first full-length new work for the company was Wuthering Heights, a collaboration with composer Claude-Michel Schönberg. It premiered at the Bradford Alhambra Theatre in September 2002.

The company followed this original work with a production of Birgit Scherzer's Requiem!! and Nixon's a new production of A Midsummer Night's Dream, which also saw Northern Ballet perform at the West Yorkshire Playhouse for the first time. This was followed by new productions of Swan Lake, Peter Pan, The Three Musketeers, A Sleeping Beauty Tale, The Nutcracker and Hamlet. Autumn 2008 saw the company tour with another new ballet from Cathy Marston telling the classic Dickens story A Tale of Two Cities.

2009 was the company's 40th anniversary; on Monday, 6 September 2010, the company announced that it was changing its name to "Northern Ballet", dropping "theatre" from its title.[7]

In 2011 Northern Ballet premiered two new works - Cléopâtre[8] on 26 February 2011 and Beauty & the Beast[9] on 17 December 2011 both choreographed by David Nixon OBE at Leeds Grand Theatre. In 2012 Ondine was added to the repertoire,[10] originally created by David Nixon for Ballet du Rhin.[11]

2013 also saw the creation of two new full-length ballets; The Great Gatsby[12] and Cinderella.[13] Both productions were choreographed by David Nixon and again received their world premieres at Leeds Grand Theatre.

In 2012 the company started producing ballet's created especially for young children. The first was Ugly Duckling[14] choreographed by Company dancers Dreda Blow and Sebastian Loe. The second, Three Little Pigs[15] choreographed by dancers Hannah Bateman and Victoria Sibson. The third, Elves & the Shoemaker[16] was choreographed by Northern Ballet Ballet Master Daniel de Andrade with an original score by composer Philip Feeney. The three ballets for children have been adapted by the BBC for CBeebies;[17][18][19] the adaptations kept the music and dance but also incorporated one of the channel's properties, Mr Bloom, into the production to make them more suitable for a television audience.

During 2013, most of the Channel 4 series Big Ballet was filmed at Northern Ballet.[20]

In 2015 Northern Ballet commissioned Barnsley-born choreographer Jonathan Watkins to create a ballet based on George Orwell's novel Nineteen Eighty-Four.[21] A recording of Nineteen Eighty-Four was commissioned by The Space and BBC.[22] It was broadcast on BBC Four on Sunday 28 February 2016.[23] In June 2016 1984 won the South Bank Sky Arts Award for Dance.[24]

In 2017 Northern Ballet produced three new full-length ballets, one based on the Casanova biography by Ian Kelly, the second based on The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne, and a third based on Hans Christian Andersen's The Little Mermaid.[25][26]

In 2021 Northern Ballet announced David was stepping down as Artistic Director.

Federico Bonelli[edit]

Federico Bonelli was announced as Northern Ballet's new artistic director in January 2022 and he officially began on 3 May 2022.[27][28][29]

Rehearsal and performance facility[edit]

Northern Ballet headquarters, Quarry Hill, Leeds

In autumn 2010 the Northern Ballet moved to a new purpose-built dance and teaching facility in the Quarry Hill district of Leeds. Located in the center of the city adjacent to the Leeds College of Music the building is the largest dedicated space for dance outside London. The building was funded through a public / private partnership between Leeds City Council, a grant from Arts Council England and fundraising by the Northern Ballet.[30]

The building features seven dance studios including a 230-seat studio theatre. Six of the dance studios are installed with specialized harlequin floors. Shared with the contemporary dance company, Phoenix Dance Theatre it is the only facility for dance to house both a national classical and contemporary dance company alongside each another.[31]

Academy of Northern Ballet[edit]

Under the direction of ballet mistress Yoko Ichino the academy is housed within the company's Leeds headquarters. The academy offers open classes, an associate program and selective advanced level training for students up to sixteen years of age.[32]

Artistic staff[edit]

Name Role Nationality
Federico Bonelli Artistic Director  Italy
Daniel de Andrade Artistic Associate  Brazil
Yoko Ichino Rehearsal Director  USA
Christelle Horner Rehearsal Director  France
Kenneth Tindall Associate Director for Digital & Choreographer in Residence  UK

Northern Ballet staff[33]


Name Position Nationality Training Other companies
including guest performances
Abigail Prudames Premier Dancer  UK Royal Ballet School
Elmhurst Ballet School
Ashley Dixon Principal Character Artist  UK Central School of Ballet
Joseph Taylor Pincipal Soloist  UK Janice Sutton Theatre School
Elmhurst Ballet School
Minju Kang Pincipal Soloist  South Korea Korea National Institute for the Gifted in Arts
The School of The Hamburg Ballet
Amber Lewis Leading Soloist  Australia Ecole Studios
The Washington School of Ballet
Kevin Poeung Leading Soloist  France English National Ballet School English National Ballet
Sarah Chun Leading Soloist  USA Faubourg School of Ballet
Joffrey Academy of Dance
Oklahoma City Ballet
Kansas City Ballet
Dominique Larose First Soloist  USA Ayako School of Ballet
Tanz Akademie Zürich
Academy of Northern Ballet
Jackson Dwyer First Soloist  Canada Canada's National Ballet School
The John Cranko School in Stuttgart
Jonathan Hanks First Soloist  UK Royal Ballet School Estonian National Ballet
Rachael Gillespie First Soloist  UK Judith Hockaday School
Central School of Ballet
Scottish Ballet
Ballet Central
Saeka Shirai First Soloist  Japan Yuki Ballet Studio
Royal Winnipeg Ballet School
Royal Winnipeg Ballet
Poznan Opera Ballet
Sean Bates First Soloist  UK Royal Ballet School
Filippo Di Vilio Junior Soloist  Italy Teatro alla Scala Ballet School
English National Ballet School
Academy of Northern Ballet
Gavin McCaig Junior Soloist  UK The Dance School of Scotland
English National Ballet School
Scottish Ballet
Heather Lehan Junior Soloist  Canada Canada's National Ballet School
Miki Akuta Junior Soloist  Japan Kazuko Sugihara Ballet School Art
Académie Princesse Grace
Harriet Marden Coryphée  UK Central School of Ballet
Academy of Northern Ballet
Helen Bogatch Coryphée  Estonia Tallinn Ballet School Estonian National Ballet
Aerys Merrill Dancer  USA Richmond Ballet
Alvin Ailey Dance Theatre
Albert Gonzalez Orts Dancer  Spain Estudio de Danza María Carbonell
Academy of Northern Ballet
Alessandra Bramante Dancer  Italy ASDC Dietro le Quinte in Catania
Il Balletto di Castelfranco Veneto
John Cranko School in Stuttgart
Alessia Petrosino Dancer  Italy English National Ballet School Ballet de l’Opéra de Metz
Amy Turner-Daly Dancer  UK Academy of Northern Ballet CAT Programme
Elmhurst Ballet School
Andrew Tomlinson Dancer  UK Academy of Northern Ballet
Canada's National Ballet School
National Ballet of Canada
Antoni Cañellas Artigues Dancer  Spain English National Ballet School National Opera of Bucharest
Archie Sherman Dancer  UK Hilton Hall Dance Academy
Royal Ballet School
Aurora Mostacci Dancer  Italy Royal Conservatory of Dance Mariemma in Spain The Washington Ballet
Finnish National Ballet
Aurora Piccininni Dancer  Italy Conservatory of Valencia
Bruno Serraclara Dancer  Spain Escola de Dansa Marisa Yudes, Barcelona
Académie Princesse Grace, Monte Carlo
The National Ballet of Canada
Gemma Coutts Apprentice  NZ Aree School of Dance Arts, Bangkok
English National Ballet School
George Liang Dancer  Taiwan New Zealand School of Dance
Canada's National Ballet School
The National Ballet of Canada
Harris Beattie Dancer  UK Danscentre in Aberdeen
Central School of Ballet
Ballet Central
Harry Skoupas Dancer  Greece Elmhurst Ballet School Aalto Ballett Theater
Opera Wrocławska
Julie Nunès Dancer  France Ecole Nationale Supérieure de Danse de Marseille
Central School of Ballet
Academy of Northern Ballet
Kaho Masumoto Dancer  Japan Kishibe Ballet Studio
English National Ballet School
Katharine Lee Dancer  USA The Washington School of Ballet
English National Ballet School
Kirica Takahashi Dancer  Japan Elmhurst Ballet School
English National Ballet School
Sena Kitano Dancer  Japan Soda Ballet School
Dutch National Ballet Academy
Stefano Varalta Dancer  Italy Balletto di Verona
Wesley Branch Dancer  UK Tring Park School for the Performing Arts
English National Ballet School
Mackenzie Jacob Apprentice Dancer  UK TLW Dance
Enlmhurst Ballet School



  1. ^ "Northern Ballet appoints new Music Director". Retrieved 22 August 2019.
  2. ^ Walker, Kathrine Sorley. "Meyer, Laverne Ignatius Henry". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/100050. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  3. ^ "'Swan Lake' continues to enchant Milwaukee Ballet's Michael Pink". Wisconsin Gazette. 21 May 2018. Retrieved 27 January 2021.
  4. ^ "Dance: Muddled creatures of the night". The Independent. 19 March 1999. Archived from the original on 21 June 2022. Retrieved 27 January 2021.
  5. ^ "Michael Pink". Wisconsin Public Radio. 30 August 2016. Retrieved 27 January 2021.
  6. ^ West Yorkshire Archive Service: WYAS2702 - Spring Hall, Skircoat, building plan (WYC:1260), WYC:1260 Archived 27 April 2014 at Potted history of Spring Hall from 1871. Retrieved 27 April 2014
  7. ^ "Name change" (PDF). Northern Ballet. 6 September 2010. Retrieved 7 September 2010.
  8. ^ Dougill, David (2 January 2011). "Best new dance of 2011". Sunday Times. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 19 September 2014.
  9. ^ "This week's new theatre and dance". The Guardian. 17 December 2011. Retrieved 19 September 2014.
  10. ^ "The best dance for autumn 2012". The Guardian. 2 September 2012. Retrieved 19 September 2014.
  11. ^ Levene, Louise (14 September 2012). "Ondine, Northern Ballet, at West Yorkshire Playhouse – Seven magazine review". The Telegraph. Retrieved 19 September 2014.
  12. ^ "Northern Ballet: The Great Gatsby – review". The Guardian. 6 March 2013. Retrieved 19 September 2014.
  13. ^ "From splits to stilts: Dancers learn circus skills". BBC. 25 December 2013. Retrieved 19 September 2014.
  14. ^ "Northern Ballet's Ugly Duckling takes to the road". Ballet News. 9 February 2013. Retrieved 19 September 2014.
  15. ^ "Theatre review: Three Little Pigs: A Ballet for Children, Northern Ballet". Yorkshire Evening Post. 9 January 2014. Retrieved 19 September 2014.
  16. ^ "Northern Ballet announces enchanting new ballet for children". Ballet News. 16 April 2014. Retrieved 19 September 2014.
  17. ^ "Northern Ballet produces first performance for children". BBC. 21 February 2013. Retrieved 19 September 2014.
  18. ^ "BBC promises 'strongest commitment to the arts in a generation'". The Guardian. 25 March 2014. Retrieved 19 September 2014.
  19. ^ "CBeebies Elves and the Shoemaker". BBC. 6 April 2015. Retrieved 22 April 2015.
  20. ^ "Big Ballet at Northern Ballet". Retrieved 28 December 2017.
  21. ^ "George Orwell's 1984 is not 'too dark' to be made into a ballet". 28 August 2015. Archived from the original on 21 June 2022. Retrieved 28 December 2017.
  22. ^ "1984 on BBC Four". Retrieved 28 December 2017.
  23. ^ "Northern Ballet: 1984 - BBC Four". BBC. Retrieved 28 December 2017.
  24. ^ Plunkett, John (6 June 2016). "Doctor Foster and Catastrophe win at South Bank Sky Arts awards". Retrieved 28 December 2017 – via
  25. ^ "New works for Northern Ballet - Dancing Times". 19 September 2016. Retrieved 28 December 2017.
  26. ^ "Ballet News September 2016". Retrieved 28 December 2017.
  27. ^ "Federico Bonelli to become new director of Northern Ballet". Dancing Times. 1 February 2022. Retrieved 4 May 2022.
  28. ^ "Announcing our new Artistic Director". Northern Ballet. Retrieved 31 January 2022.
  29. ^ "Royal Ballet dancer Federico Bonelli named Northern Ballet artistic director". The Stage. Retrieved 31 January 2022.
  30. ^ "Building Completion". Northern Ballet. Retrieved 18 March 2018.
  31. ^ "Building Momentum". Building Momentum. Retrieved 26 March 2010.
  32. ^ Winter, Anna (10 February 2017). "Northern Ballet, the lean company that takes the road less travelled". The Stage. Retrieved 22 March 2018.
  33. ^ "Our People". Retrieved 1 June 2021.
  34. ^ "Northern Ballet dancers". Retrieved 25 August 2022.

External links[edit]