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Northern Ballet's New Home


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Northern Ballet was created, as Northern Dance Theatre, in 1969 and had its headquarters in a rough part of Manchester. After becoming more ballet orientated and changing the name to Northern Ballet Theatre, the company moved to Halifax around 1990 and then to Leeds in 1996. The headquarters in Leeds was a 1970s school building that had seen much better times and was full of leaks and drafts.

For many years the company had dreamed of a new purpose built home that would hold not only the company but an Academy for young dancers.

In October this year the dream was finally realised and the company moved into the purpose built Quarry Hill site in Leeds. At the same time the company was rebranded Northern Ballet.

During the past week, I have had 2 opportunities to see the new home. On Thursday I attended a fund-raising event that gave us an opportunity to tour the new building. The entrance doors lead into a glass atrium that goes all the way to the top of the building. There are spectacular views out over the city of Leeds from the top floor. As well as offices and a treatment centre there are seven studios spread throughout the floor, all beautifully large, light and airy. The adjoining studios on the ground floor can be combined into one gigantic studio (the largest in Europe) or a studio theatre holding up to 230 people. There is a cafe on the ground floor, which is open to the publice.

The building is shared by Northern Ballet, the Northern Ballet Academy and leading contemporary company Phoenix Dance Theatre. It is unique in the UK in that it is home to both a major ballet company and a major contemporary company.

My words do not really do justice to this fantastic new centre for dance in the UK. I wish all the occupants good luck in their new home.

On Thursday we were treated to Yoko Ichino rehearsing two couples and two Suzukis in Madam Butterfly. Julie Charlet and Michela Paolacci both look as though they will be really special in the role. Their Pinkertons were Kenneth Tindall (whom some of you may have seen in the role at the International Festival in Miami a couple of years ago) and John Hull. After a wonderfully informative and entertaining morning we all trouped off for lunch.

On Saturday the Friends' organisation was officially relaunched. Over 200 people came to tour the building and watch excerpts from Romeo and Juliet introduced by ballet master Daniel de Andrade. Romeo and Juliet was created for the company in 1990 and still comes up as fresh as a daisy with each revival. Daniel was a noted Romeo in his day. He talked about what this ballet meant to him, its structure and the choreography. We saw various scenes being rehearsed. Again it was an informative and entertaining day.

Thanks to everyone at Northern Ballet for giving us such enjoyable events as well as introducing their wonderful new home.

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