Northern Ballet 45th anniversary sapphire gala dinner

Northern Ballet 45th Anniversary Sapphire Gala, Leeds Grand Theatre.
Denise Ashworth, Roger Motton,

Northern Ballet 45th Anniversary Sapphire Gala, Leeds Grand Theatre. Denise Ashworth, Roger Motton, Carol Davison. - Credit: Archant

Northern Ballet celebrated its 45th anniversary with a sapphire gala dinner and performance. Artistic director David Nixon looks to the future

Guest artists from across the world joined Northern Ballet on stage at Leeds Grand Theatre to mark another landmark anniversary. The company, formed in Manchester in 1969 by Laverne Meyer, had 11 dancers then and was known as Northern Dance Theatre. Today there are 48 dancers and the award-winning company is based in a state-of-the-art headquarters in Leeds city centre and is led, since 2001, by David Nixon OBE.

‘We have had great dancers throughout the 45 years of the company but as a full company I don’t think we’ve ever performed at the level that we are performing at now,’ said David.

‘The future will be about moving into different areas of repertoire, creating work on different dancers and seeing where that will take the company.

‘We are starting to work with new choreographers more frequently, beginning with Jonathan Watkins who will create our new ballet, 1984, to première in September 2015. Of course when you start to work with new choreographers, they will each take the company in a different direction so there is always the question of how to maintain and clarify your identity. To that end we will potentially be looking for another core choreographer, someone whose work is not used all the time but has an underlying identity to give to the company. Identity is absolutely key; you can’t create and perform work for the sake of it, there has to be a reason and you have to believe that the work suits the identity of the company and that we have the ability to perform it better than anyone else.’

And as the company pursues its ambitious dreams for the future, where does this leave its loyal Yorkshire audience? ‘This company will never lose sight of the fact that we are a northern company. We are based in Leeds; we have a great audience here and have some of our biggest supporters here who are invaluable to us. No matter which direction the company takes in the future, our home and our heart will always be in Yorkshire.

‘One can only achieve the proper recognition by performing in London but the fact that we are a ballet company of the highest standard - and based outside of London - is key to the cultural make-up of the country so we will always be a champion for the arts in the regions and especially Yorkshire. Being 45 is about being who we are; equal to the top companies in the UK on every level.’