Ballet company performs for first time since lockdown

Dancers for the Northern Ballet during a dress rehearsal at Leeds Playhouse, ahead of Northern Ballet's first live performanc
Dancers for the Northern Ballet during a dress rehearsal at Leeds Playhouse, ahead of Northern Ballet's first live performances in more than seven months.

The Northern Ballet has returned to the stage in what is believed to be the first major UK dance performance in front of a live paying audience since lockdown began.

The company, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary, performed excerpts from a number of ballet classics at the Leeds Playhouse on Wednesday night.

It had to abandon its planned repertoire for 2020 and choose work that would enable dancers, musicians and backstage staff to respect social distancing restrictions.

The Iconic Classics performance on Wednesday included dances from Don Quixote, Swan Lake, Le Corsaire and Giselle.

It was the Leeds-based company’s first live performance in more than seven months, since the world premiere of choreographer in residence Kenneth Tindall’s Geisha in March, and was thought to be the first in the UK in front of a paying audience.

A Northern Ballet spokeswoman said: “We are delighted that Northern Ballet is returning with live performances for the first time in more than seven months.

“We held one performance, the world premiere of Geisha, in March before Covid caused us to have to cancel everything else for the year.

“We believe this was the first significant live dance performance in the UK since lockdown began.”

The Northern Ballet company
Ongoing restrictions have seen dancers have costume fittings, physio and make-up with staff in full PPE (Danny Lawson/PA)

Ongoing restrictions have seen the dancers training and rehearsing while wearing face masks; having costume fittings, physio and make-up with staff in full PPE; social distancing in dressing rooms; a stage without sets; and a socially distanced audience.

David Nixon, artistic director of Northern Ballet, said: “Although we are still far from business as usual, we are thrilled to be able to return to the stage and present a significant run of live performances.

“The year has been incredibly difficult for everyone and the arts is one industry that has been badly affected by Covid-19.

“It is vital for our dancers to be able to return to performing and we feel fortunate that they are now able to do so.

“We recognise the challenges faced by our industry in ensuring the safety of staff and patrons and the financial viability of holding performances with reduced socially distanced audiences.

“So many arts organisations are still fighting for their existence and countless people have been made redundant.

The Northern Ballet company
Dancers rehearse at Leeds Playhouse, ahead of Northern Ballet’s first live performances in more than seven months (Danny Lawson/PA)

“We hope that successfully holding our performances will contribute to setting a path for the curtain to lift on more live performance across the UK.”

Earlier this month, the Royal Ballet performed a one-off live-streamed performance at the Royal Opera House in front of a specially invited small audience, including students and health workers.

The Northern Ballet, which was awarded £744,798 from the Government’s Cultural Recovery Fund, will perform three different hour-long mixed programmes until October 24, followed by four full-length performances of David Nixon’s Dangerous Liaisons between October 28 to 31.

– For more information, visit leedsplayhouse.org.uk

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