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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Gillian Lynne – On Such A Night

December 15, 2009 at 4:38 pm (Podcasts) (, , , , , )

On Saturday night Northern Ballet Theatre performed the world première of On Such A Night, a short dance created especially for the Company’s 40th Anniversary by Gillian Lynne. Best known for her choreography of Cats and Phantom of the Opera, Gillian also created NBT’s own signature work A Simple Man. We spoke to her in the rehearsals of On Such A Night about the work itself and why she so loves working with NBT.

Older podcasts can be listed to on the Northern Ballet Theatre website.

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Work Experience at Northern Ballet Theatre

December 15, 2009 at 4:08 pm (General Information, Interviews) (, , , , )

Jasmine Barber is a Leeds Met student, studying for a Masters degree in Public Relations. She has been doing a one-day-per-week work placement at Northern Ballet Theatre since September. She tells us about her experience to-date.

“My name’s Jasmine and I’ve been on placement in the Media & PR department of NBT for the last few months. After completing three long years studying for a degree in Education at the University of Hertfordshire, I decided I wanted a complete career change and applied for a Masters in Public Relations at Leeds Met.

“The minute I got the acceptance letter for my MA my first thought was that I needed to do some work experience because the competition for PR jobs is fierce. Initially, I researched PR Agencies in Leeds and wrote to a couple, it wasn’t until someone mentioned to me that Northern Ballet Theatre often took on students that I decided to e-mail Laraine, Head of Media & PR here at NBT. Having danced pretty much my whole life until I was 18, I was really excited and hopeful that Laraine would get back to me. Thankfully she did and I have been at NBT one day a week ever since.

“The experience I have gained so far has been fantastic; I have had the opportunity to write press releases, draft an internal newsletter, attend road shows, write for the blog, file press cuttings, collate press quotes and I have learned so much from just being in a professional environment watching what goes on on a day-to-day basis. My highlight so far has definitely been the press launch for A Christmas Carol. Not only was it amazing to watch the show and see it all come to life, but it was great getting first-hand experience meeting the press.

“At NBT no two days are ever the same and being here has really helped me gain a much better understanding of PR and how important it is – and how much work goes into it! My time here has confirmed that PR is the career I want to pursue and has also helped me conclude that I would like to work in-house for a company or organisation one day. I’m so thankful I have been given the opportunity to work at the NBT, not only has everyone been so welcoming and friendly towards me but they have also taught me so many things that will be so beneficial when it comes to my future in PR.”

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NBT Dancers Spread Festive Cheer on School Roadshow

December 10, 2009 at 10:32 am (Events, General Information) (, , , , , )

Pupils at Armley Primary School in Leeds got a special treat on Tuesday when dancers Anna Blackwell and Daniel Clarke came along to speak to pupils as part of Northern Ballet Theatre’s School Roadshow. The Armley pupils were delighted to meet the dancers and were especially excited to see them in costume and even demonstrating a few ballet moves.

Anna said, “It’s great to come and meet school children in Leeds, especially when they are coming to see the performance like these children are on Thursday. They all seemed to learn something new about ballet, it was lovely to meet them all and speak to them about life as a professional dancer.”

Anna Blackwell & Daniel Clarke with pupils from Armley Primary School, Leeds

Anna Blackwell & Daniel Clarke with pupils from Armley Primary School, Leeds

The School Roadshow is now in its third year and Catherine and Stephanie (from NBT’s Communications department) have visited more than 100 schools, introducing more than 8,000 children to the world of ballet.

  • For further information on the NBT School Roadshow please get in touch with Catherine Mullany, 0113 274 5355

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Northern Ballet Theatre Soloist Nominated For Top Dance Accolade

November 5, 2009 at 4:42 pm (Artist's News) (, , , , , , )

Tobias Batley nominated for top dance accolade. Photo: Bill Cooper

Tobias Batley nominated for top dance accolade. Photo: Bill Cooper

Northern Ballet Theatre (NBT) First Soloist Tobias Batley has been nominated for a Critics’ Circle National Dance Award in the category of Outstanding Male Performance (Classical).

Described by the Critics’ Circle as a “versatile dance-actor” and “an able comedian”, Tobias is nominated for his portrayal of Anthony, the leading male role in David Nixon’s Swan Lake, in which “he gave a performance of remarkable and poignant intensity”. He is nominated alongside Sergei Polunin from the Royal Ballet and Esteban Berlanga of English National Ballet.

Tobias joined NBT in 2004 and since then has risen rapidly through the ranks, distinguishing himself in many soloist roles for the Company. His favourite of these include the title role in Dracula, Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights and Demetrius in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

“It’s very exciting to be nominated for such a prestigious award,” he says. “I’m flattered to be considered alongside dancers of such a high calibre. I’m particularly pleased to be nominated for this role as it is one I have really enjoyed performing.”

Ex-NBT dancer Sarah Kundi has also been nominated for an award in the Outstanding Female Performance (Classical) category. Sarah performed with NBT for four years and left to become a member of Ballet Black in November 2008. She has been noted by the Critics’ Circle for her “polished and confident” performances in Will Tuckett’s Depouillement and in Martin Lawrance’s duet Pendulum.

No strangers to the National Dance Awards, NBT received the Audience Award in 2004, 2005 and 2006. Last year the Company was awarded the coveted Patron’s Award which is given to an individual or organisation that has significantly furthered the cause of dance in the UK.

This year’s winners will be announced at a ceremony in London on 21 January 2010.

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Builders Try Ballet

September 18, 2009 at 2:56 pm (General Information) (, , , , , , )

The construction team building the new Northern Ballet Theatre (NBT) headquarters in Leeds city centre put on their dancing shoes yesterday to take part in a sponsored ballet lesson to raise money for The Prince’s Trust.

15 of the site team were taught to plié, jete and pirouette by one of NBT’s dance education officers, Caroline Burn, as part of Wates Construction’s annual Community Day, which sees employees ditch their day jobs for local community and fundraising projects.

The builders learnt ballet moves and explored some of the themes from A Midsummer’s Nights Dream before putting their work together to share with colleagues and NBT Academy students. More used to lugging bricks and concrete, the bending and stretching proved tutu much for some.

BBC Look North was on hand to capture the builders doing ballet… [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/8262012.stm]

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Dracula Cast List – 10 September

September 10, 2009 at 3:00 pm (Casts, General Information) (, , , , )

Click for more information about Dracula.

Click for information about Dracula events at the West Yorkshire Playhouse.

Click to book tickets for Dracula from the West Yorkshire Playhouse.

Please note: all casts are subject to change without notice.

Thu 10 September

Evening: 7.30pm

We’ll post the cast lists for all other performances as soon as we have them.

Please note: all casts are subject to change without notice.

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An Interview With Three Vampires

September 10, 2009 at 1:21 pm (Events, General Information, Interviews, Tour News) (, , , , , , )

(Left to right) Tobias Batley, Kenneth Tindall and Christopher Hinton-Lewis discuss their approach to playing the title role in Northern Ballet Theatre’s production of Dracula.

Dracula is on at the West Yorkshire Playhouse 10-19 September, for details about events at the theatre, audio description, touch tours and more read the Dracula information page.

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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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Ashes Fever Grips Northern Ballet Theatre

August 6, 2009 at 3:54 pm (Artist's News, Interviews) (, , , , , )

You can’t have missed the fact that England is currently gripped by the excitement of the Ashes cricket tournament. The barmy army has followed its team around the country to Leeds, our home city. Headingley is just down the road from NBT’s West Park base. As the saying goes, if you can’t beat them, join them, so we’ve succumbed to Ashes fever led by dancer and cricket fan Jessica Morgan.

21 year old Jessica joined NBT in 2008 and is originally from Newcastle, Australia. Jessica is one of two Australian dancers in the Company (John Hull is the other) and we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to find out – whether she is a cricket fan and whether the Aussie v’s English sporting banter that is prevalent all over the country at the moment exists at NBT.

Jessica Morgan

Jessica Morgan

So, prepare to be bowled over by Jessica Morgan…

Have you been following the Ashes?

I have been but not as much as in past years as I’m so busy working. I’m really excited its in Leeds, it reminds me of watching my brother play cricket when I was younger, it was always a big family thing. It’s great to see the Aussie spirit here.

Do you like cricket?

I love watching cricket, it’s my favourite sport.  I haven’t played it though, my brother used to play a lot. This is my first time in cricket pads – they’re really hard to walk in. I used to do a lot of sport in Australia, I used to swim competitively.

Do you have a favourite player in the Australian cricket team?

My favourite Aussie player is Ricky Ponting because he’s been in the team since I was young so I’ve watched him develop to his position as captain. I also like Brett Lee.

There is a lot of friendly banter between the English and Australians, does any of this exist in the Company?

Not really, I think we’re all slightly more reserved and wouldn’t come out with something so vocally as the cricket fans. I think Australians are naturally quite competitive which suits a career in dance as it is very competitive.

Are your family still in Australia?

No, they have followed me here. I moved to the UK when I was 16 to attend the Elmhurst school which was in Edgbaston in Birmingham. The school was right next door to the cricket pitch there. My brothers and sisters also came over to England so my whole family has made it their home, which is great.

Jessica Morgan

Jessica Morgan

 

Jessica Morgan
Jessica Morgan

 

What do you find is the big difference between England and Australia?

The lifestyle – most weekends in Australia we’d be at the beach. We used to live five minutes walk from the beach. Also the weather, at the end of the day we’d just dive straight in the pool. The fashion is better here, in Australia it’s a very relaxed style, jeans and thongs (flip-flops); so I enjoy shopping here.

 And of course the all-important question, who’s going to win the Ashes?

Australia of course! We’ve only lost it once in my lifetime – that was when it was played in the UK so I hope that’s not a bad omen.

 Good luck to both teams – may the best team win (as long as it’s England).

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Dracula E-Flyer

July 7, 2009 at 1:15 pm (Events, General Information) (, , , )

Dracula is at the West Yorkshire Playhouse 10-19 September, 2009

Dracula is at the West Yorkshire Playhouse 10-19 September, 2009

Go to the Dracula E-Flyer here to get full information on the ticket prices, discounts and Get Closer events scheduled.

On the Dracula pages you can also view some stunning photographs from previous performances, Ali Allen’s model boxes of the set, behind the scenes pictures, read the full scenario of the production as well as a little Dracula trivia

Dracula is on at the West Yorkshire Playhouse from the 10-19 September (except Sundays) with evening performances at 7.30pm and matinée performances on Saturday 12 & 19 at 2.00pm.

Click here to book now. Or call the West Yorkshire Playhouse box office on: 0113 213 7700.

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New Season Tickets Now On Sale…

June 8, 2009 at 9:25 am (40th Anniversary, Fundraising, General Information, Tour News) (, , , , , , , , , )

Tickets for the Autumn/Winter Season are on sale now.

Remember to book early to avoid disappointment.

Click here for full deatils about NBT’s current and forthcoming tour.

Also on sale are tickets and packages for Northern Ballet Theatre’s 40th Anniversary Gala in aid of the momentum campaign.

The event takes place at Leeds Grand Theatre on 12 December.

For full details of packages available for the 40th Anniversary Gala click here.

To book seats which include a glass of champagne and a Gala programme click here.

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Wuthering Heights Resource Pack

June 1, 2009 at 11:36 am (Learning & Access) (, , , , , , , , , )

A resource pack for teachers on Wuthering Heights has been produced and is available for download from the Learning & Access pages.

Click to download the PDF file directly. (Requires Adobe Acrobat Reader)

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Wuthering Heights – Belfasts Casts

June 1, 2009 at 10:52 am (Casts) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

Click here for more information on the production.

Click here to book tickets for Wuthering Heights from Belfast Grant Opera House.

Wuthering Heights - Heathcliff & Cathy (Photo: HANSON)

Wuthering Heights - Heathcliff & Cathy (Photo: HANSON)

NB: All castings are subject to change without notice.

 

Tue 2 June

Evening (7:30pm)

 Wed 3 June

Evening (7:30pm)

Thu 4 June

Matinée (2:00pm)

Evening (7:30pm)

Fri 5 June

Evening (7:30pm)

Sat 6 June

Matinée (2:30pm)

Evening (7:30pm)

NB: All castings are subject to change without notice.

Click here for more information on the production.

Click here to book tickets for Wuthering Heights from Belfast Grand Opers House.

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Wuthering Heights Events at Belfast

May 22, 2009 at 3:25 pm (Events, Learning & Access, Northern Ballet Theatre Academy) (, , , , , )

If you already have a ticket to see Wuthering Heights at Belfast Grand Opera House, why not try one of our Get Closer events to give you an extra insight into the production and Company:

Open Workshop – Ages 13+

A chance to dance some steps from the production and create your own movement. No experience is required
Wed 3 June 5.30 – 7pm. Cost £12 includes ticket to the perf.

Over 55s Workshop

A creative movement workshop that is fully accessible to all, followed by a talk about the production and the Company and the chance to watch the dancers’ daily class on stage.
Thu 4 June, 9.30am – 12.15pm. Cost £28 includes lunch and a ticket to matinee

Ballet Explored – 40 years uncovered

Celebrating their 40th Anniversary, this event includes a talk about the history of NBT and how the Company has grown over the years. You will also watch the Company dancers doing their daily class on stage; a great opportunity to learn about the level of training and preparation involved in being a professional dancer.
Thu 4 June, 10.45am – 12.15pm. Cost £3.50

Pre-performance Talk

Find out more about Wuthering Heights and the Company from NBT staff.
Fri 5 June 6.30 – 7pm. Free

Touch Tour and Workshop for the visually impaired

A chance to walk on stage and get close to the set and the costumes. Then learn movement from the production with the help of some NBT dancers. The workshop is accompanied by live music and is free of charge to visually impaired people and their companion.
Sat 6 June, 10.30am – 1pm. Free

Audio Described Performance

Hear the action on stage described live through headphones.
Sat 6 June, 2.30pm

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Romeo & Juliet – London 2009 Cast List

May 21, 2009 at 11:48 am (Casts, General Information) (, , , , , , , , , )

Click here for more information on Romeo & Juliet.

Click here to book tickets for Romeo & Juliet from London Sadler’s Wells.

NB: All castings are subject to change without notice.

Romeo & Juliet (Photo: Merlin Hendy)

Romeo & Juliet (Photo: Merlin Hendy)

Thu 21 May

Evening (7:30pm)

 Fri 22 May

Evening (7:30pm)

 Sat 23 May

Matinée (2:30pm)

Evening (7:30pm)

NB: All castings are subject to change without notice.

Click here for more information on the Romeo & Juliet.

Click here to book tickets for Romeo & Juliet from London Sadler’s Wells.

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A Simple Man Video

May 19, 2009 at 12:34 pm (General Information, Video) (, , , , , , , )

Footage taken from the 2009 revival of A Simple Man which explores the life and work of Salford artist, LS Lowry. The part of Lowry was made famous by Christopher Gable in the original BAFTA award winning production for the BBC in 1987. Visit northernballettheatre.co.uk for more details.

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Latest Podcast: Gillian Lynne

May 14, 2009 at 11:27 am (40th Anniversary, Company News, Interviews, Podcasts) (, , , , , , )

Gillian Lynne has been invited back to NBT for the revival of the celebrated production, A Simple Man. A Simple Man is the BAFTA award winning piece celebrating the life of LS Lowry.

Right-Click [Apple users, click & hold] and select Save As… to download to your computer.

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Charlotte Talbot Interview

April 30, 2009 at 9:53 am (Artist's News, Company News, Interviews) (, , , , , , )

Jonathan Ollivier and Charlottle Talbot in Wuthering Heights (Photo: HANSON)

Jonathan Ollivier and Charlottle Talbot in Wuthering Heights (Photo: HANSON)

How are you finding working with the Company?

This has been such a fantastic new experience, and such an insight into working on the other side as ballet staff and not as a dancer. I think when you’re a dancer you don’t really appreciate how hard it is and the preparation ballet staff have to put in before rehearsals even start. As a member of the ballet staff team you have to be able to work with all departments, not just the dancers but stage management and all the admin staff, so that’s a new challenge in itself.

I have found the whole experience hugely enjoyable. It’s true to say that just because you were a good dancer it doesn’t mean you will be a good teacher, but thanks to David I’ve been given this fantastic opportunity to try my best and I hope I’ve done a good job.

What are you enjoying most?

Working with the dancers has been amazing; they are such a fantastic bunch of people. They are so open and receptive and willing to try new things and to listen. The consistently give 100% to everything they do, I couldn’t have asked for a better group of dancers to work with.

What are you finding the most challenging?

Time has been a struggle, especially because two other ballets were being rehearsed at the same time. It is also 4/5 years since this ballet was last staged so it’s a long time and it’s new to almost everyone in the Company so it’s been very challenging for everyone, but there’s been such a team effort. Lots of people have come together with lots of different skills. People have been so welcoming to me and very generous in helping me find my feet.

Was dancing Cathy one of your favourite roles? What challenges does she present as a character?

Dancing Cathy was my favourite role. The chance to create a new role with any choreographer is so special, it really is the highlight of a dancers career, very few top dancers even get the chance to create a new role. In some ways I could sympathise with the struggles in Cathy’s character and bring some of my own characteristics to the role.

Apart from dancing Cathy I really enjoyed dancing Juliet. Both were such emotional roles, by the end of each performance I was not just physically but emotionally drained. Particularly for the role of Cathy, it takes a lot of stamina to dance the role. Capturing the emotion is what I really loved as a dancer. I also really enjoyed being able to try something different at each performance, which was always an exciting challenge.

How are the dancers coming along with the ballet?

The dancers have been truly fantastic, they have come along so well and really embraced the ballet. There have been struggles with injuries, but that is the nature of ballet I suppose. Juggling rehearsal schedules can also be quite a challenge. The dancers really have all been fabulous. Their flexibility in dancing different roles and adapting to changes is unbelievable and a credit to their professionalism and experience as artists. All the Heathcliffs and Cathys have a different approach to the role, working with those different personalities has been really interesting to see.

Do you miss dancing with the Company?

I do miss dancing with NBT but I felt very satisfied with what I had achieved in my career and so I’ve never really had the urge to go back to dancing. I think that in order to be a good teacher you have to be happy with what you achieved yourself as a dancer otherwise you are not in the best position to help others achieve their best.

What have you been doing since leaving NBT?

Being a mum to my beautiful 3 year old daughter Lilly, that has kept me very busy!

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40th Anniversary Brochure

April 29, 2009 at 3:48 pm (40th Anniversary, Fundraising, General Information) (, , , , , )

NBT's 40th Anniversary Brochure, 40 Years in the Making

NBT's 40th Anniversary Book, 40 Years in the Making

We have produced a book to celebrate our 40th Anniversary.

This is a beautiful celebratory volume, 40 Years in the Making, which spans NBT’s 40 year history.

With contributions from HRH The Duke of York, David Nixon and many more this is an invaluable addition to the library of dance and theatre lovers everywhere.

It only costs £10 (+P&P).

Click here to order your copy…

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David Sumbler’s Weblog [2]

April 28, 2009 at 8:57 am (David Sumbler's Weblog, Music) (, , , , , , , , )

John Hull as Solor & Keiko Amemori as Nikiya in La Bayadére (Photo: Bill Cooper)

John Hull as Solor & Keiko Amemori as Nikiya in La Bayadére (Photo: Bill Cooper)

Last time I wrote we had not yet started the spring tour.  Now we have already done five weeks touring, performing the Mixed Programme and Swan Lake.

The Mixed Programme really was mixed for the orchestra.  One of the pieces, A Simple Man, was an old favourite for some of us who have been in the orchestra for a number of years – four of us actually took part in the first performances as well as the recent ones.  Copland‘s wonderful Appalachian Spring (the music for Angels in the Architecture) was new for us as an orchestra, although almost everyone knew it and had

Keiko Amemori in Angels in the Architecture (Photo: Bill Cooper)

Keiko Amemori in Angels in the Architecture (Photo: Bill Cooper)

played it before elsewhere.  La Bayadère, on the other hand, despite being the oldest of the three pieces by far, was known to hardly any of the orchestra members.  The style of the music, though, was immediately familiar to those of us who can recall performing NBT’s production of Don Quixote.  Both pieces were written by the 19th century Russian composer, Minkus.

Mention of A Simple Man reminds me of something that happened when the show was still fairly new, in the late 1980’s.  Princess Margaret was Patron of NBT at the time, and sometimes used to come to performances at the Theatre Royal in Bath.  She would stay with her friend Jeremy Fry, who lived at a nearby village – in a converted brewery!  Usually there would be a party at his place after one of the evening performances.

Workers - A Simple Man (Photo: Bill Cooper)

It was in the early stages of one of these parties, when many of the guests had still to arrive, that I noticed a lady standing on her own at the opposite end of the room from where most of us were gathered in a huddle.  Being a sociable sort of person I decided to go and talk to her.  She had her back to me as I approached so I did not immediately recognize who she was.  It was only after a few moments of conversation that I realized I was talking to Princess Margaret.  I asked her if she had enjoyed A Simple Man.  In true diplomatic fashion she did not give me an answer, but asked what my opinion was.  I told her that I thought that the music was very good, but that I had not yet been able to see what was happening on stage.  She suggested that this must make it difficult to play, since I would not know exactly what mood we were trying to convey when I have a solo.  (I thought this was extremely perceptive of her.)

The funny thing was that nobody else would come near us, probably doubtful whether it was right just to come up and talk to her, even at an informal party.  Equally, I hardly felt I could abandon her to go and talk to somebody else, so our conversation went on for a very long time, before I (or she) was rescued by her friend asking her to come and take her place in the kitchen for the meal.  Even then, she refused to go the first time she was asked, and he had to come back and ask her a second time!

Back to the present.  After five performances in Leeds of the Mixed Programme, we had Swan Lake to prepare.  This was a revival of a show that we last performed just a few years ago.  We had six hours rehearsal for the orchestra, followed by two dress rehearsals with the whole company.

Scene From Swan Lake (Photo: Bill Cooper)

This production of Swan Lake (the fourth that NBT has done in the years that I have been in the orchestra) is somewhat unusual, not just in some of the details of the scenario, but also in the selection of music.  All of the music is by Tchaikovsky, but as well as a lot of the original music for Swan Lake, we also include parts of his 3rd orchestral suite and one movement of the 5th symphony.  The latter starts with a massive horn solo.  When we did the show a few years ago our principal horn player was John Thornton, who always played the solo beautifully.  Soon after we had stopped touring Swan Lake John left to go to the Hallé Orchestra.  He spent a few years there, but recently decided that he would like to rejoin the NBT Orchestra – just in time, as it happens, for the revival of Swan Lake.

Swans - Swan Lake (Photo: Bill Cooper)In a symphony orchestra the principal horn would only have to play that solo for one performance, or possibly two or three concerts in a week.  Few could do it flawlessly seven or eight times a week, week after week, but John can manage it!  We really are very lucky to have him.

Musicians in ballet orchestras have mixed feelings about Swan Lake.  On the one hand, we all recognize that it is one of the finest ballet scores ever written, with probably the most brilliant musical ending of any.  The reason for the mixed feelings is that it is also just about the most exhausting piece to play of any – particularly the last few pages, where everybody is playing high and loud for ages.  This is doubly, or perhaps quadruply true for us, because we are such a small orchestra (only a couple of dozen of us).  Swan Lake ideally needs an orchestra three or four times as big.  But we are used to trying to make ourselves sound several times our true size: most people, even colleagues from other orchestras, who have heard the NBT orchestra without knowing its size are astonished when they find out how few of us there actually are.

Now we are about to revive Wuthering Heights, followed a couple of weeks later by Romeo & Juliet.  Next time I write, I’ll let you know a bit about how it is going from the orchestra’s point of view.

Juliet and Paris from Romeo & Juliet (Photo: Merlin Hendy)

Juliet and Paris from Romeo & Juliet (Photo: Merlin Hendy)

Juliet Wuthering Heights (Photo: HANSON)

Wuthering Heights (Photo: HANSON)

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Latest Podcast

April 20, 2009 at 11:39 am (Company News, Podcasts) (, , , )

Listen to the lastest Northern Ballet Theatre podcast in which we talk to dancers and NBT staff about the prospect and benefits of having a new building in the heart of Leeds.

Right-Click [Apple users, click & hold] and select Save As… to download to your computer.

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Peter Grant Rehearses “As Time Goes By”

April 15, 2009 at 11:24 am (Artist's News, Casts, Company News, Events, General Information, Tour News) (, , , , , , )

Peter Grant rehearsing "As Time Goes By" at West Park with Northern Ballet Theatre

Peter Grant rehearsing "As Time Goes By" at West Park with Northern Ballet Theatre

 

Young jazz sensation, Peter Grant, was in rehearsal with the Company at their West Park studios last week.

Peter is a 20 year-old jazz artist from Guiseley, Leeds. His album, “New Vintage” debuted at number 8 in the charts and sold over 100,00 copies. His second album “Traditional” combines easy listening jazz with a younger edge.

Peter will perform live with NBT in the UK première of As Time Goes By. Conjuring up an era of classic glamour, the dancers perform David Nixon’s stylish choreography to a selection of timeless songs such as Moondance, Song and Sophisticated Swing Man.

As Time Goes By will have its UK première in London in May (Sadler’s Wells 19 & 20 May) and will be performed in Leeds early next year.

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Young Jazz Sensation, Peter Grant, Joins NBT for London Performances

April 15, 2009 at 9:19 am (Artist's News, Casts, Company News, Events, General Information, Tour News) (, , , , , , , , )

Peter Grant will be performing live with NBT at Sadler's Wells

Peter Grant will be performing live with NBT at Sadler's Wells

Young jazz sensation, Yorkshire-born Peter Grant, whose debut album sold over 100,000 copies, will perform live with Northern Ballet Theatre during the London performances of the Company’s 40th Anniversary Mixed Programme.

NBT will bring an exciting programme of dance, music, song and theatre to Sadler’s Wells, London this May. The Company will present a Mixed Programme (As Time Goes By, A Simple Man and Angels in the Architecture) alongside one of its most popular and enduring productions, Romeo & Juliet. NBT will perform at Sadler’s Wells from Tuesday 19 – Saturday 23 May and tickets are available by calling the box office on 0844 412 4300.

The Mixed Programme opens with the UK première of As Time Goes By, in which Peter Grant will perform live with NBT. Conjuring up an era of classic glamour, the dancers perform David Nixon’s stylish choreography to a selection of timeless songs such as Moondance, Song and As Time Goes By.

Click to read the press release.

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Farewell Steven Wheeler

March 24, 2009 at 3:04 pm (Artist's News, Casts, Company News, General Information) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Steven Wheeler with Charlotte Talbot in A Streetcar Named Desire and Steven as the Wardrobe Master in A Midsummer Night's Dream

Steven Wheeler with Charlotte Talbot in A Streetcar Named Desire and Steven as the Wardrobe Master in A Midsummer Night's Dream

This week Northern Ballet Theatre is performing Swan Lake and the Mixed Programme at the Lyceum Theatre in Sheffield.

Steven as Lord Capulet with Chiaki Nagao as Juliet in Romeo & Juliet

Steven as Lord Capulet with Chiaki Nagao as Juliet in Romeo & Juliet

It is a week tinged with sadness as we say farewell to a popular and much loved character. Senior Artist Steven Wheeler gives his final performances with NBT after 17 years with the Company.

His very last performance will be as Man in a Quandry in Gillian Lynne’s remarkable production, A Simple Man on Saturday evening.

After joining NBT in 1992 Steven has created many unforgettable roles, audiences have particularly enjoyed his portrayal of the Wardrobe Master in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, a role that he refers to as his alter ego. Most recently Steven created the role of Hamlet’s Father in David Nixon’s Hamlet, and the Marquis in Cathy Marston’s A Tale of Two Cities.

He says; “I’ll miss the camaraderie of the dancers. We are one huge family and I think that shows on stage.”

David Nixon says: “I would personally like to give my thanks to Steven for the contribution he has made to the Company and for his many memorable performances.”

Steven’s parting message to you is: (Tongue firmly in cheek) “Don’t stop supporting NBT just because I’m not here. There are many other fabulous dancers to support. But seriously, thank you for all your support over the past 17 years, it’s been amazing.”

We’ll all miss you Steven and we wish you the very best for the future. Send your messages for Steven by emailing media@northernballettheatre.co.uk or post them at www.ballet.co.uk and click on NBTtalk.

NBT’s dancers add their tribute to Steven

“My top memory of Steve has to be my first years in the Company when we toured together in my old mini. Two of the tallest guys in the Company driving round in a tiny car with our bags must have looked a sight!
I’ve known Steve since I was eight and spent my entire dancing life with him so it is going to be really strange not having him around. His knowledge of NBT shows will be greatly missed.”
Darren Goldsmith, Leading Soloist

“Steven Wheeler is an amazing person to work with. He is very professional and will always give 100% in each performance (even if it is show 110!). He is also a very caring partner in pas de deux and will always make the girl look good even if he is uncomfortable. Every girl’s dream. Steven is one of my favourite people to work with.”
Ginnie Ray, Junior Soloist

“I think I was lucky to have joined the Company at the same time as Steven so I could spend a lot of time with him. He has been so helpful; when I joined the Company 17 years ago he helped me so I didn’t feel lost. We have had a great time working together and I will miss him so much but I wish him all the best for the future.”
Hironaio Takahashi, Principal Artist

“Steven came to Japan with Hiro and I for our wedding, he was our best man. He helped me chose my head-dress and Hiro’s suits. Steven has always been reliable at work. If he was playing my father, such as Lord Capulet in Romeo & Juliet, his acting and timing were perfect so I could therefore perform my role perfectly. He is so considerate and professional on stage, making sure that I looked good out there.”
Keiko Amemori, Principal Artist

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Mixed Programme Cast List – Edinburgh

March 18, 2009 at 9:12 am (Artist's News, Casts, Company News, General Information, Tour News) (, , , , )

Mixed Programme - A Simple Man

Mixed Programme - A Simple Man

Please note: All casts are subject to change.

 

 

Sat 21 Mar (mat)

La Bayadère (The Kingdom of the Shades)

Nikiya – Martha Leebolt
Solar – David Ward
Solo 1 –  Christie Duncan
Solo 2 – Hannah Bateman
Solo 3 – Isabella Gasparini

Angels In The Architecture

Female Dancers – Christie Duncan, Keiko Amemori, Victoria Sibson, Georgina May, Martha Leebolt, Hannah Bateman
Male Dancers – Kenneth Tindall, Darren Goldsmith, David Ward, John Hull, Sebastian Loe, Tobias Batley

A Simple Man

LowryDarren Goldsmith
Lowry’s Mother – Nathalie Léger
Ann – Georgina May
Girls In Red – Hannah Bateman, Lori Gilchrist
Maud / Tennis Player – Julie Charlet
Father Going Home – Ashley Dixon
Children’s Mother – Victoria Sibson
Nymphettes – Christie Duncan, Michela Paolacci
Man In A Quandry – Steven Wheeler
Balloon Sellers – Sebastian Loe, Ben Mitchell


Sat 21 Mar (eve)

La Bayadère (The Kingdom of the Shades)

Nikiya – Julie Charlet
Solar – John Hull
Solo 1 –  Pippa Moore
Solo 2 – Georgina May
Solo 3 – Dreda Blow

Angels In The Architecture

Female Dancers – Christie Duncan, Keiko Amemori, Victoria Sibson, Georgina May, Martha Leebolt, Hannah Bateman
Male Dancers – Kenneth Tindall, Darren Goldsmith, David Ward, John Hull, Sebastian Loe, Tobias Batley

A Simple Man

LowryDarren Goldsmith
Lowry’s Mother – Nathalie Léger
Ann – Georgina May
Girls In Red – Hannah Bateman, Lori Gilchrist
Maud / Tennis Player – Julie Charlet
Father Going Home – Ashley Dixon
Children’s Mother – Victoria Sibson
Nymphettes – Christie Duncan, Michela Paolacci
Man In A Quandry – Steven Wheeler
Balloon Sellers – Sebastian Loe, Ben Mitchell

Please not all casts are subject to change.

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David Sumbler’s Weblog

February 19, 2009 at 1:00 pm (Artist's News, General Information, Music, Tour News) (, , , , , , , , , )

David Sumbler, principal flute player

David Sumbler, principal flute player

David Sumbler, principal flute player, has performed with the Northern Ballet Theatre Orchestra for over 20 years. In his new blog David gives an insight into the life and work of the Orchestra, both on and off tour.

 

I’m sure most of you have been following the fascinating blogs written by Hannah and Rym. Well, now you are going to have the chance to find out what the Orchestra has been up to as well.

   

As the Company is not yet on tour, I thought I would begin by telling you a little bit about how the Orchestra works, and what the musicians’ lives are like.

 

At the moment the dancers are, I am sure, working very hard to learn the productions for the forthcoming tour. But the Orchestra only starts rehearsing for the Mixed Programme on Monday 23 February, just 3 days before opening night!

   

On Monday we will have 6 hours rehearsal in a church in Brighouse, just for the Orchestra, and 9 hours the following day. The first time that dancers and Orchestra try things over together is at the dress rehearsal at Leeds Grand Theatre on Wednesday afternoon. Up until then, the dancers will only have heard the music played on the piano, or perhaps on a recording. We have a second dress rehearsal in the evening, and then we open the show on the Thursday afternoon. Now you know why people talk about first night nerves!

 

As I said, the dancers don’t get to hear the music live until a day or so before the opening night. We, on the other hand, sometimes never see the dancing at all (although the conductor will have been to some of the rehearsals). This is because being in the Orchestra pit it is difficult or impossible for us to see the stage, especially for the brass and percussion who are sometimes actually underneath the stage. It all depends on the theatre and where you are sitting in the pit.

   

We don’t work full time for NBT: we are freelance musicians. It would not make much sense for NBT to put us on full-time salaries, when they only need us for about half the year. At the same time, they don’t want to have a rag-bag of musicians sight-reading the show at every new venue. So we have a you-scratch-my-back-and-I’ll-scratch-yours arrangement: the Company agrees who it wants in the Orchestra and offers the work to us; we accept as much of the work as we can, although there may be occasions when particular players are not available. In this way, NBT gets the players it wants most of the time without the expense of paying retaining fees, and the musicians have about six months work in the year which they can fairly count on, but can still keep up other professional connections so that they are not out of work for the rest of the year.

 

So, if you have ever looked into the pit and noticed that, for instance, a bassoonist called Paul looks suspiciously like a woman, it is most likely that Paul was not available and a “dep” (deputy) has been booked instead. All of our deps are excellent players who work with us frequently and are as much part of the team as those of us who are there the rest of the time.

   

You might be wondering what sort of work the musicians do when they are not working for NBT. Mostly it is freelance work with other Orchestras: various NBT Orchestra members work regularly for the Hallé, BBC Philharmonic, Royal Philharmonic and other such orchestras. There are also TV and film sessions. Most also do some individual teaching of their instrument, either privately or in a music college or school. People also do concerts of chamber music, solo recitals and suchlike.

   

Personally, I used to do all of the above, as well as working as a music examiner, adjudicator, composer, arranger, editor, accompanist and repetiteur. I have even played the piano for rehearsals and ballet class for NBT in the dim, distant past. Now, from choice, I do little paid work other than working for NBT. This is because, as the oldest member of the Orchestra (although not the longest serving) I decided that it was time I just did the things I really enjoy doing, and so far as work was concerned, that meant playing for NBT.

   

And why do I enjoy working for the Company so much? Certainly because of the music and the dance (even though I often can’t see it!) but it is also because of the people I work with. This is even more important than it would be in a normal job, because since we are staying away from home for a week at a time, we tend to spend much of our free time with our colleagues, so they need to be good friends too.

   

So that’s a little bit about the background of the Orchestra and the way we work. Next time I write we shall have begun the spring tour, so I shall tell you something about life when we are actually working for NBT!

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