REVIEW: Northern Ballet’s ‘Swan Lake’ – Milton Keynes Theatre, April 2016

 

Northern Ballet’s Swan Lake is overflowing with dance content and features a love triangle that makes the most of the Company’s premier dancers.

There is no definitive version of the iconic classical ballet so choreographers the world over endeavour to continue the history of this masterpiece in their own unique way. Set during the last days of the Belle Époque, Northern Ballet’s Swan Lake provides a no-nonsense rationale for the main character’s connection to water and, thanks to its focus on three close friends experiencing intense and passionate emotions for each other, plenty of opportunities for dramatic partnering.

An atmospheric Prologue functions as an absorbing mini drama, recounting the lakeside loss that drives David Nixon’s inventive narrative.

 

Northern Ballet’s Swan Lake. Northern Ballet dancers Kenneth Tindall and Keiko Amemori in Swan Lake. Photo by Bill Cooper.

 

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REVIEW: Northern Ballet’s ‘1984’ – BBC Four, February 2016

 

Northern Ballet is renowned for taking inspiration from literature, classical dance, theatre, opera and popular culture to develop new and original productions. The latest masterwork to be put under observation and reimagined through dance by the Company is the cult classic political philosophy novel 1984. George Orwell’s dystopian drama follows the moves of one Winston Smith. Winston lives in a world of absolute conformity where his every action is scrutinised by Big Brother, a sinister surveillance squad. However, when Winston crosses paths with a woman named Julia he dares to rebel by falling in love…

The significance of the surveillance state in our society demonstrates the enduring relevance of Orwell’s perceptive predictions. We may not have gone as far as branding independent thinking as “thoughtcrime” but the persecution of individualism is something that threatens us all as homogeneity and fear of difference reign.

In 1984, darkness always looms and lives are joyless. However, transfixed by a special small-screen showing of choreographer Jonathan Watkin’s interpretation for Northern Ballet on BBC Four last night, I could find nothing but joy in the power of dance to tell this tale of tyranny.

 

1984. Northern Ballet dancers Tobias Batley as Winston Smith and Martha Leebolt as Julia in Northern Ballet's 1984. Photo by Guy Farrow.

 

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REVIEW: Northern Ballet’s ‘Wuthering Heights’ – Milton Keynes Theatre, April 2015

 

Northern Ballet’s Wuthering Heights is an emotive, expressive and eloquent adaptation of Emily Brontë’s absorbing tale of two doomed lovers.

With its deep and interwoven romantic relationships and powerful themes of betrayal and revenge, the narrative could not be more suited to portrayal through dance — and Northern Ballet is the company to watch when it comes to dramatic interpretation.

 

Northern Ballet's Wuthering Heights.

 

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REVIEW: Northern Ballet’s ‘The Great Gatsby’ – Milton Keynes Theatre, April 2013

 

The Northern Ballet take on The Great Gatsby is a stylish adaptation of a classic novel. 

I got my invitation to the “roaring twenties” and I loved it!

 

The heady, indulgent days of the 1920’s are captured within the pages of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel The Great Gatsby and Northern Ballet is currently bringing the era of the moment to life at Milton Keynes Theatre.

Everyone is going gaga for Gatsby — with the resurgence influencing fashion, making its mark in Hollywood and inspiring new London fringe theatre shows — and the inventive dance company’s latest blockbuster adaptation combines all the glamour and opulence of the period. The story focuses on American life straight after the First World War, when the United States and much of the world experienced huge economic expansion. This surging economy meant easy money, hard drinking (flying in the face of Prohibition) and lavish parties.

Peripheral narrator Nick Carraway moves east to New York’s Long Island in the spring of 1922. Here, he rents a house in a wealthy but unfashionable area populated by the ‘new rich’ (those who have recently acquired their money, lack established social connections and are prone to garish displays of wealth). Soon, he is drawn to mysterious neighbour Jay Gatsby – a millionaire with a secret past and a penchant for lavish parties and beautiful women.

Nick spends time with his second cousin Daisy and her husband Tom Buchanan and meets Tom’s mistress Myrtle (married to mechanic George Wilson). Our protagonist then has a tentative romance with pro-golfer Jordan Baker and gets to know Gatsby — reflecting upon just how empty life among the wealthy can be. Ultimately, behind the optimism and frivolity of the decadent jazz age, hypocrisy and shallow recklessness pervade.

Artistic Director David Nixon had the surely daunting task of translating the much-lauded book to ballet. He is passionate about creating innovative full-length ballets and attracting new audiences. Consequently the Company is known for its stunning story-telling (past successes have included adaptations of Peter Pan, Beauty and the Beast and Wuthering Heights).

 

Northern Ballet dancers in The Great Gatsby (photo by Bill Cooper).

 

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REVIEW: Northern Ballet’s ‘Beauty and the Beast’ – Milton Keynes Theatre, April 2012

 

Stunning storytelling and fairytale escapism in Beauty and the Beast

 

It is always a cause for celebration when a new ballet is choreographed and even more so when the story is Beauty and the Beast, a magical tale that we are all familiar with.

Northern Ballet always offer great storytelling but their latest offering in particular has such a strong narrative flow that the glossy printed programme is simply a lovely souvenir, rather than a necessity to follow the plot.

Beauty and the Beast incorporates a distinctly less challenging storyline than the Company’s previous show, Cleopatra, and the production embodies the fairytale with a romantic eloquence. This a classic story, one that balances the forces of good and evil and emphasises the overarching theme that love can conquer all.

*

Northern Ballet dancers Kenneth Tindall as Prince Orian and Martha Leebolt as Beauty in Beauty and the Beast. Production photography by Bill Cooper.

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