Rambert At The Bradford Alhambra. A Lesson In Abstraction

From the startled gazelle-like opening sequence, via a prog-rock live-action video-style entertainment, to a silent movie - albeit with a tub-thumping sound track - Rambert's ramble into the Bradford's Alhambra has delivered three complex, physical and deeply abstract pieces of their art. Presentient The first of Rambert's pieces, Presentient, opened with a gorgeous, slow motion, leggy, graceful perambulation around the stage. Accompanied by American composer Steve Reich's complex piece Triple Quartet, dancer Kym Sojourna immediately captivated the audience. After such a…

Phoenix Dance In Black Waters

Phoenix Dance Theatre burst onto the Leeds Playhouse stage last night with their latest exploration of the lives and history of people of colour. Anybody familiar with the works of Phoenix will have been completely unsurprised at the power and uncompromising nature of the work. Both from an auditory and physical perspective this was a no-holds-barred evocation of two desperately tragic events in history. And by 'tragic' I don't wish to imply that these were accidents; both events were wicked atrocities…

A Fairytale For Christmas - Cinderella

Northern Ballet’s Cinderella is like an exquisite box of chocolates, beautifully wrapped and almost too good to eat. Considering this company gets just a fraction of the financial goodies doled out to the Royal Ballet, you would never know watching this elegant fairy tale, almost perfect in every detail. This is the first revival of Artistic Director David Nixon’s production since its world premiere tour ended in 2014, giving a host of new dancers the opportunity to embody characters from this timeworn…

Cinderella: A Pitch For Frozen 3?

Prokofiev. That's what I'd expect in a ballet featuring sunflower filled Russian meadows, elegantly dressed soldiers, a coalition of princesses and a castle. But no. Northern Ballet have chosen Phillip Feeney to create the dreamy, Vaughn Williamsesque, texture-driven soundscape to their Christmas special. And what a wise choice it is. Out goes the Prokofiev and in come new sounds, new rhythms, new textures: still 'classical', but fresh and modern. By retelling the original Cinderella story, and foregoing the pantomime, we regain…

Dracula. Biting Drama!

David Nixon's Dracula has drawn first blood on the Leeds Playhouse main stage. Accompanied by a fabulous sound track, which gave their new sound system a good run-out, the dancers of Northern Ballet were at their dramatic best, expressing the angst, the pain and the passion of Bram Stoker's eponymous novel with heart-pumping panache. Since its introduction to the world in 1897 this Gothic horror novel by the Irish author has barely been far from the public's imagination. Love it…

Hell Hath No Fury Like Dada Masilo!

Dada Masilo’s Giselle takes no prisoners and certainly does not allow the main protagonist to die in a heap, broken-hearted and victim of two-timing Albrecht! In 90 minutes of dynamic, wonderful dancing, which rips the heart out of the traditional ‘classical’ version of this ballet, Masilo’s South African company brings a refreshing twist to this tale of love, loss and retribution. Dancing the title role Dada, now 34, has already carved a reputation for herself as a choreographer who pummels ‘classics’ into…

Three Short Ballets

Three Short Ballets marks the opening of the new Autumn 2019 season at the Stanley & Audrey Burton Theatre in Leeds and a taster of the delights to come. The action takes place largely inside a constraining, but not limiting, white square in strongly vertically and horizontally lit stage. Monochrome costumes become prominent when picked out by the front of house spotlights and the most exquisite soundtracks accompany every one of the three pieces, and indeed the award winning Silenced -…

Matthew Bourne's Romeo and Juliet. Passion In Three Acts

The distinguishing characteristic of any Shakespearean play is surely the richness of the text. In Romeo and Juliet - an early example of Shakespeare's work - words are used as metaphors, metrical rhythms and abstractions, with the playwright deftly switching between comedy and tragedy to twist the knife (sometimes literally) and to built the tension. So why not turn this great richness into a ballet? Let's throw away all these textual 'gifts from heaven', cut back to the story alone, then…

Rodgers & Hammerstein - A Central Theme

Much dance performance is rarely literal, interpretation invariably being left to the beholder and, even then, six people will give you six versions of what they think they have just seen! In presenting the company’s newly emerging talent, Ballet Central – the touring company of London’s Central School and on tour across the UK until July 20th - was able to reveal its wares to Yorkshire audiences at the Stanley & Audrey Burton Theatre in Leeds. And it was refreshing to see…

The Nutcracker: Well Sparkly!

I couldn't help overhear the enthusiastic audience as they left Leeds Grand's opening night of Northern Ballet's The Nutcracker. One phrase rang out above all the others; it was complimentary, succinct and very 'Leeds': It was simply "Well sparkly". Northern Ballet's The Nutcracker is a hardy perennial, a seasonal treat that should be rolled out every December, like 'Morecambe and Wise' on the telly, or 'It's a Wonderful Life' at your local arthouse cinema. And sparky it certainly is. For those unfamiliar with…

Phoenix Dance, Male Machismo And Ancient Greece

Kirke, sometimes spelled Circe, was a Greek goddess of sorcery who was skilled in the magic of transmutation, illusion, and necromancy. Living on the mythical island of Aeaea with her nymph companions she was visited by Odysseus - and she transformed his men into beasts. Perhaps he should have waited for an invitation... So runs is the narrative for Sandrine Monin's newly choreographed first-look performance. A powerful soundtrack composed by Roberto David Rusconi opens by setting an ethereal, monastic atmosphere and…

Northern Ballet. Movement Without Narrative

Northern Ballet's Autumn Season 2018 has opened with three remarkable pieces. Don't be fooled by the distinctly unpromising title of "Mixed Programme", this trio of performances has joie de vivre aplenty - along with some wonderful musical accompaniments and some gasp-out-loud beautiful lighting effects. Yes, if you are looking for a more balanced review - the negatives as well as the positives - then can I suggest you look elsewhere. I was, and remain, thoroughly delighted with the "Mixed Programme", with…

Powerful And Innovative The BBC? Absolutely!

Ballet British Columbia is a happy contradiction that has just lost its virginity with UK audiences. This exciting, physical company is a fascinating hybrid that on the one hand carries the word ‘ballet’ in its name, and yet is clearly rooted in innovative contemporary dance. Powerful angular moves sit side by side with female dancers en-pointe, and just as you think you are about to get an extended display of classical technique, there is a twist, a turn and the choreography takes…

MacMillan Tribute - A Stark Reminder

The greatest testimony to an artistic luminary is the desire of future generations to either keep the memory of that individual alive, or to ensure that their work remains vibrant for future generations. Last night it was the turn of Northern Ballet to again pay tribute to a more recent master, choreographer Sir Kenneth MacMillan, widely regarded as a man ahead of his time. As Artistic Director, David Nixon explains: “(He used) ballet to tell real stories and reflect on real events…

All Change For The Ballet Beast!

Time is a barometer on life in the same way that true versatility is the ultimate arbiter of talent. So, four years on from when I first watched Northern Ballet's Beauty & The Beast, it was great to see so many familiar faces but, this time, in different roles and at a different theatre; Leeds Grand. Hironao Takahashi, originally the Beast in 2012, but this time the hairy one's manservant, Alfred, must have watched on in envy as his usurper, Ashley Dixon,…