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NBT - Mixed Programme - Leeds - 26 February 2009


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Northern Ballet Theatre celebrates its 40th anniversary in November 2009 and much of the year consists of a back catalogue of favourites. They have started their Spring Season with a triple bill that climaxes with the seminal work “A Simple Man”, based on the life of LS Lowry. The programme starts with two works new to NBT.

NBT have become known over the past 20 years for developing full length narrative ballets, often based on literature, and producing their own take on the classics. How would they fare with a very traditional production of The Kingdom of the Shades (Act 2 from La Bayadere)? Ballet mistress Yoko Ichino has given us a terrific and very traditional production and the performance I saw was exquisite.

The shivers were running down my spine from the second the first Shade set foot on the ramp and the shivers continued to the end. The Shades were immaculate – in perfect harmony and with all their arabesques and arms uniform. The lines on the stage were dead straight. John Hull and Keiko Amemori led the cast. Keiko was delicate and fragile as Nikiya. John has got a wonderful soft leap, and seems to hang in the air forever. They were a very well matched partnership. The three variations were danced by Pippa Moore, Georgina May and Dreda Blow and they were all super.

After the interval we were treated to Angels in the Architecture by American choreographer Mark Godden. It is based on the every-day lives of the Shakers and heavily featured brooms and chairs. It is performed to Apalachian Spring by Aaron Copeland. The choreography is fluid and elegant, containing a mix of ensemble pieces and duets for the six men and six women. Some of the movements were reminiscent of every day tasks in the fields and home and others of birds flying over the fields. I feel this is a work that will bear repeated viewing and I am very much looking forward to seeing it again later in the season.

A Simple Man completed the programme. This work was commissioned by the BBC to celebrate a Lowry anniversary in the late 1980s. It was the start of the late Christopher Gable’s association with the Company as he created the role of Lowry for choreographer Gillian Lynne. The work is based on his tense relationship with his mother and his painting everyday scenes all around him. The cast evoke a number of paintings (many of which can be seen at the Lowry Arts Centre in Salford) and occasionally the actual paintings are projected onto the back-cloth. The choreography for the corps is quite stylised and features much use of clogs, which would have been the standard footwear for many of the people portrayed by the artist. Darren Goldsmith was magnificent as Lowry. Nathalie Leger gave a luminous performance as his elegant and cold mother. It was a very poignant performance for many long-time fans of the company.

Overall, I found this to be a very well balanced programme that allows the talent of the dancers to shine through in a variety of styles. It was a terrific evening.

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