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Northern Ballet Theatre


Northern Ballet Theatre

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

Northern Dance Theatre (NBT), 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 was appointed as 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 and began to work on scaled down full length classical ballets, rediscovered works and brand new creations.

In 1987, he left after 11 years as Artistic Director, during which time he had seen the company expand to more than 20 dancers and put on works by such diverse choreographers as August Bournonville, Michael Fokine, Walter Gore, John Cranko and Royston Maldoom.

De Warren had also managed to enticed Rudolf Nureyev to become Artistic Laureate and to dance as a regular guest artist, and had secured HRH The Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon, as the company's Royal Patron.

Christopher Gable

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.

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. His untimely death, in 1998. from cancer at the age of 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

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.[2]



Leading artists

Soloists and coryphées

Corps de ballet (dancers)


External links

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