Easter Course Day 4

April 14, 2010 at 1:24 pm (Easter course, Learning & Access) (, )

Taking a Bow

The final day of the Easter Course dawned with yet more sun streaming through the windows at West Park. Thirty-one weary looking dancers arrived bright and early to start the final stages of the creative process. After a shorter class than usual, the group worked on the choreography for a short section in the middle of the piece. Earlier in the week they had devised some duets, looking at how counter-balances and lifts could be used, and these were re-worked to fit to Philip Feeney’s music.

All too soon it was time for the group to break for lunch and then, after getting changed, have a couple of final rehearsals of the piece. Shortly after 2.30pm eager friends and family began to arrive. With well over seventy people in attendance the hall was buzzing with chatter and anticipation, providing a really wonderful atmosphere for the first full showing of the piece to an audience. Although there will be re-workings of the piece at later stages, this was the first ‘draft’ and was certainly a testament to the hard work and creativity of the dancers (and Caroline). The audience was also treated to a duet performed by Joe Barnes and Jay Jones, which they had developed during the course and particularly stood out amongst those created by the dancers. It was certainly a sight to behold – at times Jay almost appeared to be tossing a seemingly weightless Joe around in the air, drawing many gasps from family and friends!

As the dancers left West Park to spend time relaxing after a busy week, they were sent home with information about reforming the group and showcasing the piece at a number of events in the future. The development of Northern Ballet Theatre and Phoenix Dance Theatre’s new headquarters has been a key inspiration for the final piece and it will be absolutely wonderful for it to be performed at the official opening of the new dance centre. We hope that the additional rehearsals and performances will give the dancers an opportunity to consolidate what they have learnt during the course and also cement the friendships made along the way! For now though, as I sort through the lost property left behind (!), I leave you with a wonderful photograph of the final performance last Friday.

Philippa Plumtree-Varley
Learning & Access Coordinator

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Easter Course – Day Three

April 8, 2010 at 3:57 pm (Easter course, Learning & Access, Northern Ballet Theatre Academy)

Thirty-one slightly weary dancers arrived at West Park this morning, after a full day of classes and creative sessions yesterday. But there was to be no respite on day 3 of the Easter Course! The morning started as usual with a warm-up session and dance class. With lovely sunshine streaming through the windows, alongside much jumping and leaping around the hall, the group quickly got limbered up and the doors were thrown open to let in extra air. It certainly felt like summer had arrived at Northern Ballet Theatre!

As you can see from the photographs, the exercises which Caroline (Dance Education Officer) has asked the group to undertake during the course have gradually become more challenging. This has allowed the dancers to develop their movement skills and learn new techniques over the last few days. Some moans and groans were certainly heard during one exercise, which involved the group swinging their legs around their heads whilst lying on the floor! Most of us observing the class were standing watching in amazement, but the dancers soon agreed that the exercise really helped stretch their backs and warm-up their aching muscles.

Young people jumping

The group enjoyed a taste of the ‘celebrity’ lifestyle during the late morning, as a press call was held and a photographer from the Yorkshire Post came to see what was going on.

The day then continued with creative sessions, adding to the choreography already in place to fit with Philip Feeney’s music. Having popped into the hall this afternoon and seen the group running through the piece so far, I can safely say that it is going to look wonderful when it is finished. With the new NBT headquarters and its building process as inspiration, the opening section of the piece in particular conveys the sense of excitement and bustling nature of the Quarry Hill site as it develops to form an amazing new dance centre. Those attending the sharing session tomorrow are in for a real treat!

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Easter Course Day Two

April 7, 2010 at 4:05 pm (Easter course, Learning & Access, Northern Ballet Theatre Academy)

Picture of Young People Dancing

Practicing the lifts

Now that all our young dancers are well into the swing of the Easter Course and have been honing their creative and dance skills for a full two days, we thought it would be good for them to tell you what they have been doing. So let’s hear from the group themselves …

“Before the course I was scared and nervous, but I was excited to meet new people and make new friends. We have done counter-balances and done a lot of lifts. We have learnt that lifts need team-work and coordination.” Gemma and Ibuki

“So far, the course has been nothing like I was expecting. I thought it would be rigid and uniform, but instead it is free, creative and expressive – which is so enjoyable and motivating. We are devising our performance to a piece by Philip Feeney. It consists of ever-changing rhythms and melodies, with minor key changes which give the piece a sense of mystery and the unknown. Our piece is developing at a promising rate and we are looking forward to the looming final performance, with is exciting. Roll on day three!” James

“My favourite part so far is the lifts. I can do all of the lifts apart from the headstand one.” Megan

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Easter Course Day One!

April 6, 2010 at 4:05 pm (Easter course, Events, General Information, Learning & Access) (, , )


This morning saw the West Park Centre buzzing with activity, as 31 budding young dancers arrived at NBT’s headquarters for the annual Easter Course.  The early start and the fact that it is the beginning of the school holidays did not seem to deter anyone taking part, the group was raring to go!

The morning began with a short introduction by our Dancer Education Officer, Caroline Burn, who is leading the course.  Caroline introduced other members of the team who will be around during the week – including Megan, Selina and Mike (Michael Berkin, Company dancer) who are going to be ‘on hand’ to provide advice on movement and help develop the choreography.  The group also met the man himself, Philip Feeney, who has written the music on which the final piece is to be based.  Despite the threatened rail strikes, Philip made it up from London to accompany the course today and will be back again on Friday. 

Caroline took the group through a couple of exercises to ‘break the ice’.  One of these exercises involved all 31 dancers putting themselves in order of their birthdays without speaking – simply through miming and using hand signals.  Despite some of the group trying to get away with whispering to each other (tut tut!), it was remarkable how quickly they successfully lined up in more-or-less perfect order.  After a short break it was time to begin daily class.  Although the inclusion of a couple of press-ups was a challenge after a weekend of Easter eggs, the varied exercises got the dancers warmed-up, their muscles stretched, and limbs moving before the serious work began! 

Once the group had heard the music Philip has composed, it was time to brainstorm ideas for the piece including possible themes, types of movement and its general overall dance style.  The creativity continued after lunch with the group learning a small section of choreography to the music, which they then had to expand and develop in smaller groups.  Having looked at partnership work during the morning, the dancers were able to get together in pairs to experiment with lifts, counter-balancing, and explore different contact-points between their bodies.  Dancer Mike Berkin was on hand to help them, giving advice and suggestions to groups as they developed their ideas. 

From a quiet start with little chatting between the course participants, I have just left a hubbub of noise down in the main hall at West Park.  Everyone seems to be thoroughly enjoying themselves and coming up with some wonderful ideas for the piece.  More tomorrow…

Philippa Plumtree-Varley

Learning & Access Coordinator

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Easter Course update from Caroline Burn

April 1, 2010 at 3:57 pm (Easter course, Learning & Access, Northern Ballet Theatre Academy) (, , , , , , )

Easter course update

All the final preparations are taking place and I am looking forward to the Easter course finally starting next week.  All the places have been filled; we will have 33 eager dancers arriving on Tuesday morning where they will meet Philip Feeney and I first thing. They will also meet the rest of the Learning & Access team who will be helping to run the course, and then we will jump straight into dancing! I am planning a fun energetic first warm-up and class to help the group get to know each other, as throughout the week we will be working closely to form our very own company.

Last week whilst I was away on tour with the Company in Woking, Philip sent me through a copy of the music. It sounds fresh, exciting and energetic. I am really looking forward to hearing him play it live for the first time next week, and seeing the reaction of the group. Martin, our Deputy Chief lighting technician put it on to CD for me so I am playing it constantly in the car, and starting to imagine the quality and feel I would like the dancers to have. I am hoping that the young dancers on the course will be as inspired as I am, and create a fabulous original piece.

Dancer Micheal Berkin will be joining me to deliver the course, he will be involved in the creative work, helping to devise the piece. It will be great for the group to learn from him too and to hear all about life as a professional dancer with a national touring company.

Well all that’s left to do now is to make some name badges and put down the dance floor, and we’re ready for action!

Have a great Easter and don’t forget to check the blog out next week with news from our young dancers on how the course is going.


Dance Education Officer

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Easter Course Applications Now Closed!

March 19, 2010 at 8:59 am (Easter course, Learning & Access) (, , , , , )

Thank you to all of you who have sent in applications for Northern Ballet Theatre’s ‘New Beginnings’ course during the Easter holidays. The deadline for all applications has now closed! We have had a huge number of people expressing an interest in the course this year and it is such a shame that we only have a limited number of spaces available. We will be sending out confirmation letters to those who have places on the course over the next couple of days and also letting people know if they are not able to take part.

For those who are going to be joining us at Easter, it looks set to be a wonderful four days. If you are disappointed that you will not be taking part though, or are reading this and wish you had applied, then do not despair! From 26-30 July, Northern Ballet Theatre and Phoenix Dance will be holding their joint Summer School for young people from the ages of 9 to 18. Anyone with an interest in dance is welcome to apply and hopefully take part.

If you think the Summer School would be right up your street, then keep checking the Learning & Access section of NBT’s website for more information. Alternatively get in touch and send me your email/postal address and I will be able to send you details of the course nearer the time. It’s as simple as that!

Philippa Plumtree-Varley
Learning & Access Coordinator

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Boys Wanted!

March 5, 2010 at 1:03 pm (Easter course) (, , , )

Photo: Brian Slater

Photo: Brian Slater

In the Learning & Access department we are currently busy putting together all the arrangements for our forthcoming Easter Course – answering phone enquiries, sending out information, and processing incoming applications… Whilst drinking plenty of cups of tea and eating some yummy biscuits!  A lot of work goes on behind the scenes to make the Easter Course happen, not only involving the stuff Caroline is currently doing on the ‘artistic’ side but purely in administrating the course.  Everyone has to be in the right place, at the right times, and with the right music, equipment and space to work in otherwise the course just simply couldn’t go ahead!

Having been on a number of Easter Courses at Northern Ballet Theatre when I was younger, I am finding it interesting as the new Learning & Access Coordinator to see all the activity that goes on to make such a course happen.  It makes me wish I wasn’t too old to take part!

Photo: Brian Slater

Photo: Brian Slater

We have had a number of applications so far for this year’s course – from young people spread right across the 11 to 16 years age range, as well as those with a great variety of dance experience.  Some have simply done dance classes at school, whilst others attend training on a weekly basis, but all you really need to take part is enthusiasm and a willingness to move about and be creative!

There is one snag with the applications we have received so far though… There is a definite lack of boys!  I imagine men in tights and girls in tutus may be the first thing many people think of when they hear the word ‘ballet’, but this is certainly not the case with the Easter Course!  Not only will one of the company’s leading male dancers be helping to deliver the course, but it will also be a great way to make new friends, unleash your creative side, try out different styles of movement, and get active.  Dance is far from ‘girlie’ – did you know that many rugby and football teams take their warm-up techniques from ballet and admire the great strength dancers have to carry out their daily work?  So lads, why not come and try creative dance out for yourself!

Philippa Plumtree-Varley
Learning and Access Co-ordinator

Photo: Brian Slater

Photo: Brian Slater

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Easter Course Update…

February 12, 2010 at 4:20 pm (Easter course, Learning & Access) (, , , , , , )

Places on this years Easter Course are starting to fill up and I’ve just had an exciting trip down to London to meet up with composer Philip Feeney. We met at Ballet Central where Philip is resident pianist and composer. He is currently working on a full length ballet score for Michael Pink, Artistic Director of Milwaukee Ballet.

We discussed some words that would describe the feeling of the piece and Philip is now going to come up with some short snippets of music. One thing he is going to try is creating a track digitally that will not have one of the parts (instruments) on it. That part will then be played over the track adding a live element to the music but still having the excitement of lots of instruments.

He took me down to his office, where there was an assortment of equipment. On one side of Philip was an electric piano, on the other side computers that he uses to orchestrate the music he creates on the piano. For example he can play something on the piano then let us hear what it will sound like played on strings. It’s really useful software as it can give us an idea what the music will sound like with a number of different instruments playing.

This will be very good for us once Philip has written the music. He will record the music on the computer so that when we are rehearsing we can hear what it will sound like when musicians from NBT’s orchestra play the piece. (At the opening of our new building)

I am not going to give away too much, but I left feeling inspired and excited! I will however share with you that Philip is able to come up to Leeds and play for the course on the 6th and 9th April. This means that you will be able to hear the music played live by the composer and we will be able to make any changes we need as we create our piece.

Don’t forget to book your place as this Easter Course is going to be very special.


Dance Education Officer

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Easter Course!

January 6, 2010 at 3:24 pm (Academy, Company News, Easter course, Learning & Access, Northern Ballet Theatre Academy)

Happy New Year! You may think it is way too early to be thinking about Easter as we have only just leapt into 2010, but I want to give you a heads up on Northern Ballet Theatre’s (NBT) exciting plans for our Easter Course which is open for booking now. 

I am really excited because this year Philip Feeney has agreed to write a brand new piece of music for us to dance to. You might not have heard of Philip, but he has written some exciting and dramatic music for NBT over the years.

Years ago, while I was a student myself, I saw NBT perform Dracula. The dancing was incredible, but what made it an electrifying and memorable experience was the atmosphere created by Philip’s music. On my first tour with NBT to Sadler’s Wells in London (6 years ago) I also saw Philip playing for the NBT dancers, as Philip was playing I could sense his music was making the audience want to dance too.

Philip has worked with choreographers such as Christopher Gable (Director of NBT 1987-1998), David Nixon (Director of NBT 1999-present) and Adam Cooper. I can’t wait to hear the music he creates for us. I will keep you posted on how it is coming along after I go down to London and meet with Philip later this month.

In the past our Easter Courses have been a week of great fun and dancing, finishing with a performance to a live audience. This year we hope to take it even further, the Easter Course is only the beginning…

NBT are getting a new home, a building in the centre of Leeds where the company will rehearse, the Academy will train and where we will be able to hold classes, workshops and more exciting projects. I would like all the dancers who join us for the Easter Course to come back and perform again at the opening of the new building! This would involve extra rehearsals leading up to the opening but also the chance to meet members of the NBT orchestra (who will perform Philip’s music live at the opening) and see the dancers rehearsing.

To book your place just call Jo Dean on 0113 274 5355. Places are limited so make sure you sign up fast!

Caroline Burn

Dance Education Officer

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