NORTHERN Ballet will celebrate its 50th anniversary with a packed programme including three world premières, a star-studded gala and tours of some of the company’s best-loved productions.

World premières in 2020 include Geisha, Merlin and a new children’s ballet.

Much-loved shows Cinderella and The Great Gatsby return for national tours, and Northern Ballet will also perform Three Short Ballets and Little Red Riding Hood.

The company’s anniversary programme begins with a 50th Anniversary Celebration Gala - at Leeds Grand Theatre for one night only in September, 2020 - in which dancers from some of the world’s leading companies unite to celebrate Northern Ballet’s 50-year journey.

Guest stars from the Royal Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, English National Ballet, Scottish Ballet, Birmingham Royal Ballet and Phoenix Dance Theatre will perform excerpts from Northern Ballet’s repertoire and works connected to the company’s history.

In the first of three world premières, Kenneth Tindall, choreographer of Northern Ballet’s acclaimed Casanova, presents Geisha. Based on a true story, it's the haunting tale of two young women trapped in a world of duty and sacrifice, who can only be saved by a promise from beyond the grave. Geisha will feature original music composed by Alexandra Harwood, who created the score for the film The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, an original scenario and dramaturgy by Gwyneth Hughes, who worked on ITV’s Vanity Fair, set and costume designs by Christopher Oram, whose credits include Disney’s Frozen on Broadway.

The second world première of Northern Ballet’s 50th anniversary season is Merlin, which premieres in Bradford, prior to a tour. Merlin is choreographer Drew McOnie's debut with the company. Drew, whose previous projects include Broadway’s King Kong and Baz Luhrmann’s Strictly Ballroom, has created a magical spectacle inspired by the story of legendary wizard. It features original music by Grant Olding, who worked on One Man Two Guvnors at the National Theatre.

Continuing its pioneering programme of short ballets created for young children, Northern Ballet will première a new children’s ballet in October 2020. The title is yet to be announced but will follow in the footsteps of the recently announced world première of Little Red Riding Hood which will tour in spring 2020.

Continuing Northern Ballet’s developments in digital dance, popular children’s ballets Ugly Duckling and Goldilocks and the Three Bears will be screened in cinemas nationwide from January, 2020. The company will also present three new dance films on its Digital Dance platform, including an original direct-to-digital creation by Kenneth Tindall.

The anniversary programme also includes Cinderella, a family favourite by Northern Ballet artistic director David Nixon. In an enchanting adaptation of the rags to riches fairytale, Cinders is whisked away from her wicked stepmother and a desolate life of servitude to the glistening lake of ice where she meets her Prince and changes her destiny forever.

The production features an original score by Philip Feeney, sets designed by Duncan Hayler, lighting by Tim Mitchell and costumes by David Nixon.

Nixon's smash hit The Great Gatsby, set to a toe-tapping score by Sir Richard Rodney Bennett, returns for a new UK tour in the autumn of 2020. Based on the novel by F Scott Fitzgerald, it tells the story of mysterious millionaire Jay Gatsby, as the sparkling façade of his world starts to slip, revealing the loneliness, obsession and tragedy that lies beneath.

The programme sees the return of Three Short Ballets, an exhilarating programme featuring The Kingdom of Back, Powerhouse Rhumba and For An Instant.

As well as its programme of performances, Northern Ballet will hold an exhibition of ballet costumes in Leeds city centre during April and May 2020 followed by a fundraising dinner and performance in the autumn.

Artistic director David Nixon said: "Northern Ballet is a truly extraordinary organisation and has endured so many challenges in its history to arrive, 50 years after its inception, as the successful, confident and innovative company that we are today. I am privileged to be the Artistic Director as we reach this milestone anniversary and to be continuing the incredible work of all the artists and staff who have gone before us. Our programme of events for our anniversary year showcases Northern Ballet’s strengths in creating new work, reviving some of our most popular productions and making exciting progress with our digital ambitions. As we take our next steps in the company’s journey, I wish to thank all our supporters past and present, and we look forward to what the future will bring.’

* The 50th Anniversary Celebration Gala is at Leeds Grand Theatre on January 4.

Geisha is at Leeds Grand Theatre, March 14-21. The Great Gatsby is at Leeds Playhouse, September 3-12. Merlin is at the Alhambra, October 16-17 and the Leeds Grand, December 8-20.


Emma Clayton