NBT says farewell to Chiaki Nagao

October 29, 2007 at 11:27 am (Artist's News, Company News, Events) (, , , , , , , )

On Saturday night NBT said an emotional farewell to Principal Artist Chiaki Nagao, who gave her final UK performance in the role of Juliet in NBT’s Romeo & Juliet at the Alhambra Theatre, Bradford.

Prior to the performance NBT’s Artistic Director, David Nixon, addressed the audience that included Friends of NBT, Chiaki’s current NBT colleagues as well as many past dancers and collaborators who had returned especially for this very special occassion. Setting the tone for evening he said, “Parting is such sweet sorrow. 20 years ago a young woman arrived in the UK with a dream. She worked hard and followed her dream and today we pay tribute to an extraordinary career that has lasted more than a decade and a half.” He continued, “Tonight we are joined by three very special ladies, Carole Gable (the wife of the late Christopher Gable, NBT Artistc Director from 1987-1998), Ann Stannard (who founded the Central School of Ballet with Christopher Gable in 1982), and Chiaki’s mother who has flown from Japan to be here this evening.” David then spoke directly to Chiaki’s mother in Japanese, thanking her for sharing her daughter with us for so many years. He recognised the sacrifice that Chiaki’s family made in supporting her throughout her career, especially with Chiaki so far away from home.

Romeo & Juliet was performed beautifully by the cast and the orchestra of NBT and as it neared it’s tragic and dramatic climax there was a heightened sense of emtion as everyone knew this would be the last time we would see Chiaki in the limelight. In every sense the death of Juliet on stage was more poignant than ever, the tears of the audience even more so. As the curtain fell the venue errupted into applause, saving the standing ovation for one very special lady.

NBT Chief Executive, Mark Skipper and NBT’s Deputy Stage Manager Chun-Yen Chia, who is also Chiaki’s husband, each presented Chiaki with a bouquet of flowers. Dancers, technicians, and representatives from the Orchestra and each administrative department at NBT then filed on stage to present Chiaki with a rose, to join the flowers that littered the stage thrown on by the audience. David Nixon introduced long-standing Friend and Patron of NBT, Janet McNulty who presented Chiaki with a framed poster of Madame Butterfly on behalf of the Friends. He then paid tribute to Chiaki, “When I first came to Northern Ballet Theatre I recreated Madame Butterfly for the Company. It was a ballet that I had first created for my wife in the role of Butterfly. Chiaki took on that role, she worked so incredibly hard, so many hours in the studio, weekends and evenings, she did all that I asked of her and more. My wife did this for me out of love, Chiaki did this because she is dedicated to her craft, and because she is so generous as a dancer. Every member of the Company and the audience here tonight will have such fond memories of Chiaki, but for me she will always be my Butterfly.” 

Self-effacing and modest as ever, Chiaki was reluctant to step forward to receive the applause of the audience that was so rightly hers for the evening. As the curtain fell on a very special event Chiaki’s colleagues continued the applause and plaudits backstage and afterwards at a party held in her honour. Chiaki said, “It has been an emotional evening and I am very grateful that I was able to celebrate my final performance with friends and family.” Everyone at the Alhambra on Saturday felt equally grateful to have been there to thank Chiaki for sharing her extraordinary gift with us.

Chiaki Nagao as Juliet and Hironao Takahashi as Romeo, in NBT's Romeo & Juliet. Photo: Merlin Hendy.

Chiaki Nagao, receives flowers from NBT Chief Executive, Mark Skipper. Photo: Brian Slater.

NBT colleagues file on stage to present Chiaki Nagao with a rose after her final performance. Photo: Brian Slater.

NBT Principal Artist, Chiaki Nagao, receives applause from audience and colleagues after her final performance. Photo credit: Brian Slater.

David Nixon leads Chiaki Nagao forward to receive applause from audience and colleagues after her final performance. Photo credit: Brian Slater.

David Nixon leads Chiaki Nagao forward to receive applause from audience and colleagues after her final performance. Photo credit: Brian Slater.

Chiaki Nagao with Carole Gable (left) and Ann Stannard (right). Photo credit: Brian Slater.

Chiaki Nagao (centre) with ex-NBT dancers Jeremy Kerridge and Charlotte Talbot. Photo: Brian Slater.

NBT Chief Executive, Mark Skipper with Chiaki Nagao. Photo credit: Brian Slater.

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