Northern Ballet has been awarding funding from Arts Council England’s Strategic Touring fund to create a three-year programme of small scale family productions and to tour each to 15 venues across the North of England. Accompanied by an audience engagement programme, the productions will be created to inspire and engage children and families who may not usually access the arts. The award of £385,407, the largest award made to any applicant in this funding round, was announced this week.
Northern Ballet’s new production of Ugly Duckling has already been funded by Leeds Inspired to be performed in Leeds communities and will be accompanied by education activities at duck ponds across Leeds over the summer. The performance will tour around the region before coming to the Stanley & Audrey Burton Theatre at Northern Ballet’s home in Leeds on 29 October for 14 performances.
Now, with the extra funding from the Strategic Tour Fund, Northern Ballet will be able to extend the tour of Ugly Duckling to a further 15 venues across the North of England next Spring and to create two further ballets for similar tours over the next two years.
Based on the classic Hans Christian Andersen fairytale, Ugly Duckling is the story of a lonely duckling who doesn’t fit in with her friends. Throughout the ballet, the duckling learns about herself and those around her and when she learns to love who she is she turns into a beautiful swan and begins a happy new life. The ballet is being choreographed by Northern Ballet dancers Dreda Blow and Sebastian Loe.
The colourful production for children aged four and up will feature a host of animal characters including cats, frogs and a fox. The performance time will be 40 minutes in length and the music performed will range from classical compositions to the theme tunes of popular children’s cartoons.
This is the first time Northern Ballet will produce a ballet for young children and the aim is to engage families in theatre, art and music in a fun, lively and approachable way. The two further ballets, titles of which will be announced shortly, will be similar in length and format and will provide a perfect introduction to live performance, music and dance.
Northern Ballet’s Director of Learning, Selina McGonagle, said, ‘It’s at the heart of Northern Ballet’s mission that we create great art for everyone. We regularly challenge preconceptions about dance and ballet in particular by developing new work based on familiar stories and by taking inspiration from popular culture. Northern Ballet already has a terrific series of family ballets such as Beauty & the Beast, Peter Pan and The Nutcracker. We’re thrilled to have been awarded this money to create and tour a new series of ballets for very small children for the first time, and to develop a specific programme of related engagement activities especially for them.’