Northern Ballet

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Northern Ballet
General information
Name Northern Ballet
Previous names
  • Northern Dance Theatre
  • Northern Ballet Theatre
Year founded 1969
Founders Laverne Meyer
Senior staff
Chief Executive Mark Skipper DL
Artistic staff
Artistic Director
Music Director John Pryce-Jones
Associated schools Academy 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. It tours widely across the United Kingdom.

Early history[edit]

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.[1]

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 them 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 staged works by such diverse choreographers as August Bournonville, Michael Fokine, Walter Gore, John Cranko and Royston Maldoom.

De Warren's creative drive brought many artistic collaborations to the company including dramatic 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 companies signature piece, Miss Carter wore Pink; a dance-drama based on the books by Helen Bradley and featuring live narration by actress Patricia Phoenix. Among the stage designers brought in by de Warren were Clive Lavagna and Philip Prowse, then director of the highly experimental Glasgow Citizens Theatre.

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 regular guest artist, and HRH The Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon, as the company's Royal Patron.

The last of his collaborative works for the company was 'A Simple Man', the L.S. Lowry ballet, by choreographer Gillian Lynn and starring dancer & actor Christopher Gable.

Robert de Warren left the company in 1987 to go to the Scala, Milan.

Christopher Gable[edit]

The appointment of Christopher Gable CBE as NBT's third Artistic Director in 1987 resulted in a partnership which 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, 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 which would celebrate the life and work of this Salford-born artist. At this time the company was still under the artistic direction of Robert de Warren. The work with Lynn 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 a popular choice with the company. It soon became clear that he would focus as much on the theatre as the ballet in the company's title. With the emphasis on classical dance drama, the popular success of A Simple Man was followed by full length productions of Swan Lake, Romeo & Juliet, A Christmas Carol, The Brontes, The Amazing Adventure of Don Quixote, Dracula, Giselle and The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

Throughout his 11 years with NBT Gable remained Artistic Director of the Central School of Ballet, a school he co-founded with Ann Stannard in London in 1982. The company was located at Spring Hall, Halifax briefly, in 1990.[2] Gable's untimely death in 1998, from cancer at only 58, left the company reeling but firmly secure 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.

1999 to present[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. The fifth, and current, 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.[3]

In 2011 Northern Ballet premiered two new works - Cleopatra[4] on 26 February 2011 and Beauty & the Beast[5] on 17 December 2011 both choreographed by David Nixon OBE at Leeds Grand Theatre. In 2012 Ondine was added to the repertoire,[6] originally created by David Nixon for Ballet du Rhin.[7]

2013 also saw the creation of two new full-length ballets; The Great Gatsby[8] and Cinderella.[9] 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[10] choreographed by Company dancers Dreda Blow and Sebastian Loe. The second, Three Little Pigs[11] choreographed by dancers Hannah Bateman and Victoria Sibson. The third, Elves & the Shoemaker[12] 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;[13][14][15] 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.[16]

In 2015 Northern Ballet commissioned Barnsley-born choreographer Jonathan Watkins to create a ballet based on George Orwell's novel Nineteen Eighty-Four[17]. A recording of Nineteen Eighty-Four was commissioned by The Space and BBC[18]. It was broadcast on BBC Four on Sunday 28 February 2016[19].

In 2017 Northern Ballet are producing 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[20][21].


Dancers [22][23][edit]

Premier Dancers[edit]

Senior Artists[edit]

Leading Soloists[edit]

First Soloists[edit]


Junior Soloists[edit]


Corps de ballet (dancers)[edit]



  1. ^
  2. ^ West Yorkshire Archive Service: WYAS2702 - Spring Hall, Skircoat, building plan (WYC:1260), WYC:1260 Potted history of Spring Hall from 1871. Retrieved 27 April 2014
  3. ^ "Name change" (PDF). Northern Ballet. 6 September 2010. Retrieved 7 September 2010. 
  4. ^ "Best new dance of 2011". Sunday Times. 2 January 2011. Retrieved 19 September 2014. 
  5. ^ "This week's new theatre and dance". The Guardian. 17 December 2011. Retrieved 19 September 2014. 
  6. ^ "The best dance for autumn 2012". The Guardian. 2 September 2012. Retrieved 19 September 2014. 
  7. ^ "Ondine, Northern Ballet, at West Yorkshire Playhouse – Seven magazine review". The Telegraph. 14 September 2012. Retrieved 19 September 2014. 
  8. ^ "Northern Ballet: The Great Gatsby – review". The Guardian. 6 March 2013. Retrieved 19 September 2014. 
  9. ^ "From splits to stilts: Dancers learn circus skills". BBC. 25 December 2013. Retrieved 19 September 2014. 
  10. ^ "Northern Ballet's Ugly Duckling takes to the road". Ballet News. 9 February 2013. Retrieved 19 September 2014. 
  11. ^ "Theatre review: Three Little Pigs: A Ballet for Children, Northern Ballet". Yorkshire Evening Post. 9 January 2014. Retrieved 19 September 2014. 
  12. ^ "Northern Ballet announces enchanting new ballet for children". Ballet News. 16 April 2014. Retrieved 19 September 2014. 
  13. ^ "Northern Ballet produces first performance for children". BBC. 21 February 2013. Retrieved 19 September 2014. 
  14. ^ "BBC promises 'strongest commitment to the arts in a generation'". The Guardian. 25 March 2014. Retrieved 19 September 2014. 
  15. ^ "CBeebies Elves And The Shoemaker". BBC. 6 April 2015. Retrieved 22 April 2015. 
  16. ^ Northern Ballet - Big Ballet at Northern Ballet
  17. ^ Independent, August 2015
  18. ^ Press Release February 2016
  19. ^ BBC iPlayer
  20. ^ Dancing Times September 2016
  21. ^ Ballet News September 2016
  22. ^ "List of Northern Ballet dancers". Northern Ballet. Retrieved 5 July 2015. 
  23. ^ "Northern Ballet dancers joiners and promotions". Northern Ballet. Retrieved 5 July 2016. 

External links[edit]