Ballet on Briggate 2010

August 31, 2010 at 3:37 pm (Events, General Information, Learning & Access) (, , , , , , )

Hironao Takahashi & Michela Paolacci - Photo by Ryan Hopkinson

Hironao Takahashi & Michela Paolacci - Photo by Ryan Hopkinson

This Saturday we will be taking to the streets of Leeds with Ballet on Briggate – a chance to see Northern Ballet for free while you do your shopping! We will have a large stage outside Debenhams in the centre of Briggate where there will be performances by Northern Ballet dancers, Northern Ballet Academy and Phoenix Dance Theatre Academy students, prize giveaways, a chance to join in with some ballet moves and much more!

Dancing in the street - Photo: Jo Dean

Dancing in the street - Photo: Jo Dean

The dancers will be performing extracts from The Nutcracker and Swan Lake, and we will be encouraging the public to have a go themselves, with our ballet barre and energizer activities. There will be a chance to win free tickets for Northern Ballet performances, as well as discounts and vouchers for everyone who attends.

Northern Ballet Academy students

Northern Ballet Academy students - Photo: Ryan Hopkinson

There aren’t many opportunities to see your favourite ballet company for free, so pop along to Briggate between 12pm – 2pm on Saturday to join in all the action!

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Northern Ballet Theatre & Phoenix Dance Theatre Summer School

July 28, 2010 at 3:59 pm (Learning & Access) (, , , )

It’s the start of the school holidays, but pupils at Cockburn College of Arts and the surrounding primary schools don’t get a rest as they are taking part in our summer school, in partnership with Phoenix Dance Theatre.

Leaping into action on Monday, the 34 young people aged 9 – 16 years old have been taking a daily class where they are improving their technique and, working with Sharon Watson, Artistic Director of Phoenix, they are developing movement that will form part of a final dance piece that they will perform to parents at the end of the week.

Today is the third day of the course, and with many of them not being used to dancing all day, there were a few sore bodies this morning that needed loosening off in an energetic class! The piece they are creating will also be performed at the launch of our new building in January, and so they have been creating sequences in pairs, inspired by Celebrations and First Meetings – drawing on how they feel when first meeting someone and welcoming them in.

They have all been very keen to learn and to have a go, even if what they are learning is more challenging than they are used to. And it is great to see them working together, helping each other and becoming a team. This will be a real benefit to the pupils from the primary schools that will be coming to Cockburn in September, as they will know familiar faces and will feel confident in their new school.

As choreographer of the final piece, Sharon has been taking the movements that the young people have come up with, and piecing them together into one piece that reflects the excitement of the opening of the new building and the opportunities this presents. This afternoon they have been developing travelling sequences, including supports and lifts, and working on the quality and precision of movement needed when performing.

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Dance helps transition from primary to secondary school

July 27, 2010 at 3:30 pm (Learning & Access, Northern Ballet Theatre Academy) (, , )

NBT and Phoenix Dance Theatre are in Middleton this week with their summer school for young people. The course is being held at the Cockburn College of Arts and will introduce primary and secondary school students to ballet and contemporary dance. As well as honing their dance skills the project aims to ease the transition from primary to secondary school: the younger members are being introduced to their new school and the older members will mentor and help them. Dance artists from both companies are leading the project and Phoenix’s Artistic Director, Sharon Watson, will choreograph a piece which will be performed at the end of the week for the parents.

But that is not all … The group will come back together over 4 weekends in December and January to prepare for a second performance, this time at the official launch of NBT and Phoenix’s new dance centre in Leeds. This will give them the unique opportunity to perform in a professional dance space alongside professional and community groups. The project will open up additional opportunities to work with NBT and Phoenix, through theatre trips, dance projects, after school classes and future dance activities in school.

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Don’t Just Sit There – Opening Weekend 2010

July 22, 2010 at 10:22 am (General Information, Learning & Access) (, , , , , )


To celebrate the Opening weekend of the 2012 London Olympics, imove’s Don’t Just Sit There project will be performing at Headingley Carnegie Cricket ground on Friday, 23rd July, 2010 (15:10 – 15:30 tea break) during the Australia vs Pakistan test match.

The performance consists of eleven Lishi practitioners of traditional Chinese movement dressed in full cricket attire positioned on the Headingley pitch as fielders surrounding two batsmen and a professional dancer from Phoenix Dance Theatre representing the ball!

The piece blurs the line between art, culture and sport, engaging the crowd’s imagination with the links between cricket, dance and traditional Chinese movement. As the Olympic torch is passed from Beijing to London, Yorkshire is getting involved and this thought provoking piece in the sporting heart of the county should inspire and excite.

The piece will be a springboard for further development with schools, youth cricket teams and dance groups across Yorkshire as part of the Don’t Just Sit There 3 year project.

Phoenix Dance Theatre

Phoenix Dance Theatre is a repertory dance company with a reputation for presenting a broad range of work. Over the last 29 years, from small beginnings in inner-city Leeds, the company has grown to be one of Britain’s leading contemporary dance companies and from its home in Leeds tours nationally and internationally, bringing inspiring and entertaining dance to the widest possible audience.


Lishi has been delivering traditional Chinese movement and dance in the UK since 1930. Originating in China, Lishi has developed highly creative approaches to delivering traditional Chinese knowledge and movement so that anyone, from elite sports people to primary school children, can benefit. From the UK, Lishi has spread its success to many countries in Europe and the US.

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“Don’t Just Sit There” at the Great Yorkshire Show

July 16, 2010 at 1:52 pm (General Information, Learning & Access) (, , , )

The Learning team has certainly been out and about over the last couple of weeks. Whilst Jo and Caroline have been carrying out a project during the company’s tour to Hong Kong, Pippa (Learning Coordinator) and Selina (Director of Learning) were busy at the Great Yorkshire Show.

Northern Ballet Theatre is a key partner in Don’t Just Sit There – part of the I MOVE Yorkshire Cultural Olympiad project. Don’t Just Sit There aims to encourage as many people as possible to get moving and thinking about their bodies, up to the 2012 Olympics and beyond. Over the three days of the Great Yorkshire Show, performances of dance, physical theatre, and music were combined to create a wonderful showcase of local talent. Over 130,000 visitors to the show enjoyed watching the performances and were also encouraged to get moving themselves!

Below we have a wonderful collection of images to give you a flavour of how we spread the word of Don’t Just Sit There at the region’s largest agricultural show.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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Bringing the House Down!

July 12, 2010 at 1:19 pm (General Information, Learning & Access) (, , , , , , , , )

Bringing the house down at Wharfedale Festival of Performing Arts!

As part of the Learning team’s involvement with the nationwide ‘Find Your Talent’ project, a small group of dancers were involved in the Wharfedale Festival of Performing Arts last week. Dance artist, Zoe Parker, and three young participants formed the ‘Inspired Youth Dance Co.’ to perform a duet and group piece at the 104th festival, held at the King’s Hall in Ilkley.

The Learning team at Northern Ballet Theatre is currently working hard to investigate the provision in Leeds and the surrounding area for inclusive dance activities for young people. Whilst one-off projects are relatively common, opportunities for those who are perhaps in a wheelchair or have special educational needs to get involved in dance on a regular basis is more limited. Through contacts at ‘Find Your Talent’ and Artforms, as well as support from the Wharfedale Festival of Performing Arts, the chance to bring together a small group to perform at the festival arose. The opportunity was one not to be missed! After just four rehearsal sessions, the participants performed in the Music for a Summer’s Day concert alongside pupils from Bruntcliffe School, North Ridge School, Brooklands School and the ‘Off by Heart’ choir. The two dance pieces – ‘La Valse du Roue’ and ‘Deux’ – received an overwhelming response, including much cheering and clapping from the audience!

The Learning team are now looking to build on the success of this project in the future. If you would be interested in taking part in similar inclusive dance opportunities, then please do get in touch.

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Preparing for Hong Kong

July 5, 2010 at 8:25 am (Hong Kong & Macau 2010, Learning, Learning & Access, Overseas Tour)

As the Company prepare for their tour to Hong Kong and Macau over the next few weeks, preparations are also underway in the Learning & Access Department as they too will be making their way to Hong Kong to deliver a dance project for the British Council.

Working with local dance artists, carers and social workers and adults with learning disabilities, the project will explore the benefits of dance and movement for the learning disabled, and will develop the skills of the dance artists, enabling them to deliver integrated dance projects within their communities.

Dance Education Officer Caroline Burn and Project Manager Jo Dean will be joined by musician Bill Laurance and dance artist Dylan Quinn to deliver the four-day project at the Providence Garden for Rehab centre in the north of Hong Kong. Jo will be sending us updates throughout the project.

With just a couple of days to go before we set off for Heathrow, Caroline and Dylan have been doing the final planning for the project, coming up with ideas and activities to do with the group and creating a resource pack for the dance artists to support their learning. While the main focus of the project will be equipping the dance artists with the skills required to lead integrated dance projects, we will also be introducing the social workers to the benefits of movement in increasing confidence, body awareness and control and communication skills, and giving the participants the opportunity to express themselves through movement.

Check back here next week to find out how the project is going.

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First Experiences of Ballet

June 16, 2010 at 1:31 pm (Events, General Information, Learning & Access) (, , , , , , , )

Pupils from Thorn Park School for the Deaf in Bradford have produced a video reporting on their experiences of learning ballet for Headliners, a UK charity which encourages personal development through journalism. The students were taught by Northern Ballet Theatre‘s Dance Education Officer, Caroline Burn and Learning & Access Musician, Dave Burnett.

They also attended a performance of Wuthering Heights at the Alhambra Theatre, Bradford and they give their thoughts on the production.

Headliners is a UK charity which encourages personal development of young people through journalism.

Original article on Headliners: Ballet a Hit With Deaf Young People

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We’re Going on a Bear Hunt…

June 11, 2010 at 11:03 am (Learning & Access) (, , , , , , , )

Children playing happily waving a large light-weight sheet.

Photo: Brian Slater

Over the last couple of weeks Sophie Alder (Dance Education Officer) has been visiting Shepherds Lane Children’s Centre in Leeds working with the pupils to explore the tale of ‘We’re Going on a Bear Hunt’ through music and dance.

Watched by Sophie Adler Children hunt for the 'bear' in the school's garden.

Photo: Brian Slater

To track down the elusive bear the children used play-dough to represent mud, strips of ribbon for a snow-storm, plenty of water to splash about in and they ventured outside in the final week to roam amongst the trees and bushes. Following the story with Sophie the little ones were able to enhance their coordination skills, sense of rhythm, and aptitude for movement whilst also developing their imaginations.

Developing your co-ordination skills can be fun and achieved through play - running and jumping for starters.

Photo: Brian Slater

In Northern Ballet Theatre’s new building, due to open in January 2011, the Learning & Access team are hoping to work more with under 5s in weekly classes and occasional workshops. If you are interested in NBT’s work with children’s centres in Leeds or getting involved in similar projects, please contact Philippa Plumtree-Varley (Learning & Access Coordinator) on 0113 274 5355.

Sophie and children reaching, stretching and playing together.

Photo: Brian Slater

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Brownies & Guides Take Over NBT

May 12, 2010 at 11:28 am (Academy, Classical Training, General Information, Learning & Access, Northern Ballet Theatre Academy) (, , , , , , , , , )

Cara O'Shea on pointe

Sophie Alder showing the perfect Peter Pan poseOn Sunday 9th May 100 Brownies and Guides descended on Northern Ballet Theatre (NBT) to take part in a fun filled day of dance classes with NBT staff.

Cara O’Shea, Northern Ballet Theatre Academy ballet tutor, led the ballet technique sessions and Sophie Alder, Dance Education Officer, led the creative sessions.

Cara was really impressed with the standard of the students saying:

“Everyone has had a fantastic day. The students have worked so hard and have been really quick to pick up the exercises.”

Sophie taught the students some extracts from NBT’s productions of  Peter Pan and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. They then worked on creating their own pieces based on the steps that they had learnt.

The day was rounded off with a performance to all the parents so they could see what their bidding ballerinas had been up to.

Guides having fun

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Thank yous from Queensferry Primary School

May 5, 2010 at 2:28 pm (General Information, Learning & Access) (, , , , )

At the beginning of March, Sophie Alder (Dance Education Officer) and musician Alan Costello spent some time at Queensferry Primary School during the company’s tour to Edinburgh. Several groups from the school enjoyed taking part in workshops, which enabled them to find out more about Northern Ballet Theatre’s production of Peter Pan and ballet in general.

As you can see from some of the letters we received it seems a great time was had by all:

Thank you for the wonderful piano playing and the fantastic instruction. I really enjoyed the experience of trying ballet out. When I was little I was jumping around in my living room like a ballet dancer I always dreamed of being one.

My favourite part was when we were jumping over the lines in the gym hall and how we were pretending that there [sic] were loads of different creatures in it like piranhas, sharks, jellyfish and lots more.


I would like to start this letter with a big thank you for teaching us a part of ballet and the piano playing was phenomenal.

The ballet was so fun I wish you could come every week.


It was brilliant and I wasn’t expecting it to be that good! My favourite bits was when we were doing the bouncing and jumping. My other favourite bit was the pirate – make up your own dance bit! I loved doing all of it. You taught it so well with extra brilliant music.

I don’t think it would have been as fun if it wasn’t you doing the music and the teaching. I learnt so much in that hour and a half session.

I would like to take this last opportunity to say thank you again on behalf of me, my class and my school. Thanks again.


And we’d like to say thank you to Queensferry Primary for the hospitality of the faculty, staff and pupils.

If your school is interested in repertoire based workshops then drop Philippa Plumtree-Varley an email for details.

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Poppy’s Work Experience With Northern Ballet Theatre

May 4, 2010 at 1:19 pm (General Information, Learning & Access) (, , , , )

During our visit to Norwich Theatre Royal last week, the company were joined by 14 year old Poppy Stevens. Poppy came to undertake a work placement with Northern Ballet Theatre and gain some experience of all the different roles involved in making a production actually ‘happen’.

Poppy has very kindly written about her week and it certainly sounds like she enjoyed her time with us.

Hi I’m Poppy.

On the 26th April 2010 I started my week’s work experience at Norwich Theatre Royal. Northern Ballet Theatre were on their Summer Tour and were at the Theatre performing Peter Pan. On the first day I helped to off-load pieces of scenery from the lorries and I met Laura Sprake and Abigail Wilkinson – they sort of took me under their wing. They showed me how the company worked and introduced me to loads of different people. By the second day I was sitting with Laura during the rehearsals with a set of cans [earphones] on!! I really felt like part of the team. I learnt so much about how a stage works and how things like rig-checks are done – in the space of 2 days already.

On the third day I had really become more confident in having a laugh and talking to the people within the company. Again I sat with Laura in the lighting booth during the actual performance, watching the BEAUTIFUL show whilst listening on my cans to everyone backstage. The show ran really smoothly – I was surprised at how well everyone got on and worked together. On the 4th day I met Caroline Burn when I went to the wonderful workshop, Ballet Explored. I helped out then watched the company ballet class. During the matinee performance I helped Dolly (Georgina Gabbie: Wigs Mistress) with make-up and wigs. It was so much fun. Dolly welcomed me like an old friend just the same as everyone in the company.

On my last day the first thing I did was help out with Caroline’s Mini Movers workshop for the under 5’s and I made a wand! In the afternoon I helped with the Mature Movers workshop and danced with them. During the evening show I was really excited because I was shadowing Liv (Olivia Dermot-Walsh: Stage Manager) and a different Laura on stage. I was allowed to do some cues in the show which was really good. After the show had finished I nearly cried because it was like leaving a new group of friends. I was given a signed programme and poster – thanks to Laura Sprake, Jason Raper and Caroline Burn (who got it signed for me).

It was the experience of a life time and I hope I will see all the Crew very soon.
A big thank you to NBT for welcoming me and being so wonderful!

Poppy Stevens
Age 14

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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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Jo Dean reflects on a terrific START for pupils

March 25, 2010 at 3:36 pm (General Information, Learning & Access, Video) (, , , , , , )

As the Easter holidays approach, the START project has sadly finished for another year, with the last of the school workshops taking place last week. START is a project run by the Learning & Access team and is aimed at giving young people in Leeds the opportunity to visit the theatre and take part in arts activity.

I was able to get out to see some of the workshops taking place in local schools, when I accompanied our photographer to St Patrick’s Primary and Carr Manor High School, and it was great to see the children leaping across the room and really enjoying the sessions. Having been to see our production of As Time Goes By in February, I was amazed by what they remembered from the production and the details that they picked up on, and it was very interesting to find out which bits they enjoyed best.

While most of the schools went to see A Christmas Carol in December, Hugh Gaitskell Primary School was unable to go at Christmas and so attended a performance of Romeo and Juliet in March instead. As I stood outside the auditorium during Act two, I could hear shrieks of laughter as Mercutio teased Tybalt, followed by a gasp of “wow” as the heavens opened and the rain thundered down as the curtain fell. It was refreshing to hear such an emotional reaction to the piece.

We are currently collecting feedback from all the teachers involved in the project which has all been excellent, and we hope our funding application to the Prince’s Foundation for Children and the Arts will be successful so that we can continue running the project for another year. This video highlights some of the great feedback we have had from pupils and teachers.

The START project, supported by The Prince’s Foundation for Children and the Arts, aims to give up to 500 pupils from inner city schools in leeds, the opportunity to take part in high quality arts activity. Pupils participate in two workshops in school and two theatre trips to Leeds Grand Theatre, as well as support and resource packs for teachers, giving pupils an experience they would not normally have access to.

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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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Events at Sheffield…

March 12, 2010 at 11:17 am (Events, Learning & Access) (, , , , , )

Tobias Batley as Heathcliff and Georgina May as Cathy. Photo: Merlin Hendy

Tobias Batley as Heathcliff and Georgina May as Cathy. Photo: Merlin Hendy

Northern Ballet Theatre are returning to the Lyceum Theatre in Sheffield between 16 – 20 March with their powerful adaptation of Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights

Ever wanted to know more about how a ballet such as Wuthering Heights is created?  Intrigued about the set and costumes?  Interested in what goes on ‘behind the scenes’?  Then there are a number of events taking place during NBT’s time at the Lyceum that might be of interest to you!

Ballet Explored:

Thursday 18 March: 11.15am – 12.45pm (Cost £3.50 per person)

Join our Dance Artist to find out more about the process involved in designing and producing the wonderful set and costumes, which help create such a wonderful atmosphere and absorbing setting for the production.  After the talk, you will be able to watch the company take their daily class on stage at the theatre. 

Production Event

Thursday 18 March: Following matinee performance for ½ hour (Free)

After the matinee performance relax in your seats to hear about what’s involved in creating the show you have seen.  You will find out about how our technical team cope with the complex lighting changes involved in our productions and what it means to ‘fly’ scenery, in this captivating behind-the-scenes insight.

Pre-Performance Talk

Thursday 18 March: 6.15 – 6.45pm (Free)

Join Northern Ballet Theatre for a fascinating talk about our current production.  The pre-performance talk will be led by a member of the Northern Ballet Theatre team.

To book for all the above events contact the Box Office at Sheffield Lyceum on 0114 2496000.

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Events at the Theatre: Mature Movers

March 11, 2010 at 11:02 am (Events, Learning & Access) (, , , )

Last Thursday I went down to Leeds Grand Theatre to find out what happens at the Mature Movers and Ballet Explored events. There will be more on the Ballet Explored in a later video but in this you can see how fantastic the Mature Movers events are.

Dance Education Officer, Sophie Alder, led the event warming up the participants before moving on to teaching everyone a segment of The Knight’s Dance from our production of Romeo & Juliet. People were laughing as they strode across Leeds Grand’s raked stage with their Knight’s staffs, dancing in unison with Prokofiev’s famous score played live for the workshop.

Once the moves were perfected people improvised a final section to the dance showing off their new-found skills.

The morning was completed with warm-down exercises and a cup of tea in the theatre’s bar where friendships were forged and people talked about how much fun it was.

We have similar events at many venues on our tour, for more information check our Talks & Events page…

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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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Touch of Dance at St Peter’s Primary School

February 5, 2010 at 2:44 pm (General Information, Learning & Access, Podcasts) (, , , , , , )

St Peter's Primary School students participating

St Peter's Primary School Student dancing

Pupils from St Peter’s Primary School in Leeds are currently enjoying after-school ballet classes with Dance Education Officer, Sophie Alder. Touch of Dance is a 6 week project introducing pupils to ballet through fun and accessible classes which are accompanied by live music. Here you can listen to feedback from the Headteacher and some of the pupils who are taking part.

To learn more about Northern Ballet Theatre Learning & Access projects visit our website.

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Discover Theatre Day

February 2, 2010 at 4:18 pm (Learning & Access) (, , , , , )

Discover Theatre Day

February 6, 10am – 1pm

Over the past few years, we have extended our Audio Description Programme to more theatres throughout the country, ensuring our productions are accessible to even more Visually Impaired audiences.  Being part of the Discover Theatre Day at the West Yorkshire Playhouse (WYP) will allow us to meet people who may find it difficult accessing performances, and talk to them about our Audio Descriptions and explain how it could enhance their theatre experience.

The Discover Theatre Day brings together theatres from across the region to show audiences how we are all working to make theatres more accessible.  It will include a backstage tour of the WYP, demonstrations of how audio descriptions and captioning work, and the chance for the public to meet audio describers and captioners from dance and theatre companies.

If you want to find out more about theatre accessibility, join us at the West Yorkshire Playhouse on February 6 at 10am.

The event is FREE. To book a place or to find out more please contact or tel: 020 7377 0978. To call via Text Relay dial 18002 then 020 7377 0978.

Saturday 6 Feb 2010

10.00am (Coffee and Registration)

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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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Children’s thoughts on their first ballet

December 17, 2009 at 2:46 pm (Events, General Information, Learning & Access) (, , , , , , )

As it draws near to Christmas you might think that things are quieting down here at Northern Ballet Theatre but it’s as busy as ever for the Learning and Access team as our START project gets into full swing.

Last Thursday we had 400 school children come to Leeds Grand Theatre to watch a performance of A Christmas Carol and I have to say, it took a lot of organizing but it was an amazing day and well worth all the effort! From the moment they arrived in the foyer, the children started getting excited as they recognized Caroline and Sophie who had already been into their schools to teach a workshop, and there was an excited buzz around the theatre as children bought sweets and drinks for the show.

As they settled into their seats for the performance, which for some was their first time to a theatre, there were many wide eyes as they admired the ornate Victorian auditorium. David Nixon welcomed them and then the children were engrossed throughout the performance. The cheering and clapping at the end was incredible – I could hear it from out in the foyer! It wasn’t only the children who enjoyed the show, the teachers I spoke to afterwards were in raptures about the performance and one even said it was better than Disney’s new blockbuster film!!

After we had got some of the pupils on to their buses and on their way home, some of the schools stayed behind to see a half hour demonstration by NBT’s technical team about how the production is put together. The stage manager described how she runs the show to make sure all the scenery comes in at the right point and the lights change on time, and the technicians gave away the secret of how the snow is made. The pupils came up with some great questions about how the trap door works, how long it takes to put the show together, and how they made the set, which gave them a new understanding of the creation of the magical show.

The will all be back in the theatre in February to see As Time Goes By and I hope they are as excited second time round because when the auditorium was full of eager children, the atmosphere was electric and the theatre really came to life.

START is supported by The Princes Foundation for Children and the Arts and is in partnership with Leeds Grand Theatre.

Video photos by Brian Slater

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Family Fun Days

December 8, 2009 at 12:51 pm (Events, Learning & Access) (, , , , , )

Saturday morning truly marked the beginning of the festive season for me as we had the first of our Family Fun days, this one based on A Christmas Carol. We played games, re-created our own version of the phantoms ghostly dance, sang carols and Christmas songs from the show and even got dressed as if Scrooge on Christmas morning… Parents and kids alike had a great time (even the dad who had been sent by his wife without a clue of what he’d be doing) and I’m looking forward to the next on Peter Pan.

We’ll become Pirates and Lost Boys as we create our own version of Neverland, learning steps from the show, making up dances and crafts with Caroline (who is known for her love of glitter, paints, glue and anything messy).

Perfect for getting in the festive mood and a break from the shopping… or from the family if you send the kids along with dad!

Dance Education Officer

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Ballet on Briggate

September 7, 2009 at 11:08 am (Learning & Access, Northern Ballet Theatre Academy) (, , , , )

Jo Dean of Northern Ballet Theatre tells us all about the great day in the heart of Leeds…

Saturday morning at 8.30am it was pretty cold on Briggate as Litestructures pulled their vans up in front of Debenhams and started unloading the stage for our Ballet on Briggate event. We had a couple of hours in which to get the stage and banner, generator and sound system setup and to blow up hundreds of balloons so it was all hands to the deck.

Preparing for the afternoon's performances and setting the stage.

Preparing for the afternoon's performances and setting the stage.

Admin staff from all departments, Friends of NBT and parents of the Academy students all helped to give out leaflets throughout the event, to hand out cake and to talk to the public about NBT. There was a real interest from the public about what we were doing and why we were performing in the centre of Leeds.

Lots of information about Northern Ballet Theatre & Phoenix Dance as well as that essential ingredient, cake!

Lots of information about Northern Ballet Theatre & Phoenix Dance as well as that essential ingredient, cake!

Acting as runner for the event, my job was to make sure that the performers were ready to go on stage and that we kept on track with the schedule. I think this was probably the best job to have as all the running around to check on everyone kept me warm in the chilly breeze! The poor performers threw on all their warm clothes and coats the second they got off the stage. The Phoenix dancers in particular, with their bare feet, looked very cold.

The audience however, seemed oblivious to the cold as some of them stood for the whole two hours watching the performances, eating cake and having a go at some moves on our ballet barre. I think some people were surprised to happen upon a ballet performance in the middle of Briggate while they were doing their shopping, but they were soon moving closer to the stage to get a better view.

The whole event went very quickly and it was all too soon that we were packing up boxes of leaflets and taking down the banners. After all the fresh air and running around, I was exhausted but had really enjoyed meeting the public and talking to them about all the opportunities NBT could offer them.

Professional dancers and Academy students put on a great show for an enthralled crowd.

Professional dancers and Academy students put on a great show for an enthralled crowd.

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Barnsley Pupils Show Their Creative Colours

July 9, 2009 at 2:53 pm (Events, Learning & Access)

More than 100 pupils from five primary schools in Barnsley have spent the past six weeks exploring dance with Northern Ballet Theatre (NBT) and Qdos Creates. The pupils have been working with NBT Dance Education Officer Sophie Alder and Katy Marsh, performer and workshop leader from Qdos. They have been busy creating their own unique dance performances based on the theme of colour and will share the work they have created at two special performances this weekend.

The young people would love to see friends, family and NBT supporters there to cheer them on at the performances which are taking place in Barnsley on Saturday 11 July at 11am prior to the Mayor’s Parade in the Town Centre and on Sunday 12 July at 2pm at Locke Park in Barnsley.

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NBT’s Director of Learning & Access takes on new role as Artistic Director of Phoenix Dance Theatre

June 22, 2009 at 1:08 pm (Learning & Access, momentum)

We’re delighted that our partner in our new building, Phoenix Dance Theatre, has announced its new leadership team. The Artistic Director is Sharon Watson who has been working with NBT over the past 10 months as our Director of Learning & Access (maternity cover). Lesley Jackson has been appointed as Phoenix’s Executive Director.

This is Sharon’s last week at NBT, we would like to thank her for her contribution over the past 10 months and wish her good luck for her new role. We look forward to working with you in the new building Sharon!

Selina McGonagle, NBT’s Director of Learning & Access will be returning from maternity leave in July.

Sharon becomes the seventh Artistic Director of Phoenix, which in 2011 celebrates its 30th anniversary. Speaking about her appointment she said: “I feel both honoured and privileged by the company’s faith in me. Since 1989, when I first joined the company as a dancer, Phoenix has been a huge part of my life. This appointment is a wonderful opportunity for me to play a crucial role in the future of this proud and great Yorkshire dance institution.”

A graduate of London School of Contemporary Dance, Sharon worked as a dancer with some outstanding British dance artists such as Michael Clark and Darshan Singh Bhuller prior to joining Phoenix as a dancer in 1989. Sharon remained at Phoenix for nine years where she took on additional roles as teacher and choreographer. She was Artistic Director with her own company ABCDance and has undertaken a large number of diverse commissions from the Royal Armories to Scottish Millennium Festival. Sharon is a fellow of the Clore Leadership Programme, Creative Producer of Arts Beyond Contemporary Dance and has also served as a Lecturer at Northern School of Contemporary Dance for an extensive part of her career.

For more information on Northern Ballet Theatre, press images or to arrange interviews please contact the Press Office on 0113 274 5355

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