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Joseph Taylor and Antoinette Brooks Daw in Dangerous Liaisons.

Annual Review 2020/21

This was a year like none other in Northern Ballet’s history.

We began April 2020 in national lockdown. Our world première tour of Geisha was cancelled after just one performance the previous month. Most of our tour venues would remain closed for the entire year.

Our Company responded with a renewed spirit of strength, togetherness and ingenuity. We are proud that no member of staff was financially disadvantaged by the pandemic and we honoured all our commitments to freelancers and partners. With a heavy heart we postponed the premières of Merlin and Pinocchio but forged ahead with plans for their creation. We found new ways to showcase our creativity, engage audiences, reach diverse communities and train dancers.

And our supporters stood by us, for which we are incredibly grateful.

Our year in numbers

Mlindi Kulashe as Valmont and Kyungka Kwak as Courtesan Emilie in Dangerous Liaisons. Photo Riku Ito

8 live performances

Two male dancers stand on one arm with opposite arm and foot pointed to the ceiling.

1,255 live audience attendees

Kevin Poeung in Have Your Cake

12 new dance films released

A woman stares into the camera whilst holding out her hand

2,177,589 estimated digital viewers

Four dancers en pointe

18,813 engagements with our Academy classes

Male children reach up with a Dance Education Officer in a dance being taught to them

15,505 engagements with our Learning workshops

A female dancer in black leotard is lifted in the air by a male dance in black trunks and grey vest.

Leeds Playhouse Season

In October 2020 we returned to the stage at Leeds Playhouse for two weeks of performances to socially distanced audiences.

Two dancers leap in the hair, arms aloft

A Celebration of David Nixon OBE

After almost 20 years at the helm we celebrated the work of our Artistic Director with a series of duets from some of his favourite productions:

  • A Midsummer Night's Dream
  • Wuthering Heights
  • I Got Rhythm
  • The Little Mermaid
  • The Great Gatsby
  • A Sleeping Beauty Tale
  • The Three Musketeers

This programme was filmed by our in-house digital team and released online in December 2020.

‘This selection box of goodies highlights Nixon’s versatility of utterance as a creator and his commitment to danced drama.’
Dance Europe
A female dance stand en pointe with her right foot pointed to the ceiling. A male dancer supports her from behind.

Iconic Classics

For one night only Northern Ballet's brilliant dancers performed a series of duets from some of the great classical ballets:

  • The Flower Festival in Genzano
  • Don Quixote
  • La Bayadère
  • The Sleeping Beauty
  • Swan Lake
  • Giselle
  • La Corsaire
‘a testament to the physical and technical excellence of Northern Ballet’s dancers.’
The Telegraph
Minju Kang with Ayami Miyata and Kyungka Kwak in States of Mind. Photo Emma Kauldhar
A male dancer stands topless as a female dancer mimics his movements from behind.
Two male dancers stand on one arm with opposite arm and foot pointed to the ceiling.

Contemporary Cuts

The first week of performances concluded with two evenings of duets from our contemporary ballets, plus the world première of States of Mind - a new creation by Kenneth Tindall. The programme included:

  • Mamela...
  • Little Monsters
  • 1984
  • Jane Eyre
  • I Got Rhythm
  • States of Mind

Kenneth Tindall's States of Mind was filmed and released on BBC iPlayer in January 2021 as part of Dancing Nation.

‘As a reflection upon the contrasting moods of the current pandemic, States of Mind has no equal.’
Dance Europe
Filippo Di Vilio as Chevalier Danceny and Abigail Prudames as the Marquise de Merteuil in Dangerous Liaisons. Photo Emma Kauldhar
Mlindi Kulashe as Valmont and Kyungka Kwak as Courtesan Emilie in Dangerous Liaisons. Photo Riku Ito
Mlindi Kulashe as Valmont and Ayami Miyata as Madame de Tourvel in Dangerous Liaisons. Photo Riku Ito

Dangerous Liaisons

Our second week at the Playhouse saw an adapted revival of David Nixon OBE's Dangerous Liaisons.

The performances earned standing ovations and were filmed by our in-house digital team, under the direction of Artistic Director of Digital Kenneth Tindall and with Leading Soloist Riku Ito behind the camera.

The film was released in cinemas across the UK and Ireland in September 2021 and is now available to watch online

‘a beautifully choreographed ballet... Uplifting, intimate and distinctly dangerous.’
The Yorkshire Times
The ancient and withered Dracula finds sustenance from Harker's vigour
Little Red dances in her shiny red pointe shoes
Winston and Julia in the countryside get the chance to be free
Riku Ito holding Minju Kang, preventing her from falling
Antoinette Brooks-Daw and Kevin Poeung in EGO. Photo Emily Nuttall

The Pay As You Feel Digital Season

At the end of March 2020 we launched our public response to the COVID-19 crisis. The Pay As You Feel Digital Season would give audiences the opportunity to watch our performances on screen from the safety of their homes.

Estimated views on TV and online

In return, we asked viewers for their support in protecting our people and our productions during such unprecedented times.

The response was overwhelmingly positive and through the duration of the season we raised £51,773.94 whilst engaging more than 1.1M viewers.

Pay As You Feel Donations and Income

In October 2020 our Pay As You Feel Digital Season was awarded 'Best Use of Content Marketing' at the Northern Marketing Awards, whilst original short film EGO picked up a collection of awards and nominations.

Winner of Best Performances (EGO)
Experimental Film and Music Video Festival, Canada
Winner of Best Choreography (EGO)
Movie Awards, USA
Winner of Best Experimental film (EGO)
Movie Awards, USA
Winner of Best Experimental Film (EGO)
Gold Movie Awards, UK
Winner of two Awards for Excellence
Accolade Global Film Competition (USA)
Winner of Best Use of Content Marketing
Northern Marketing Awards
A man and a woman stand in a warehouse staring directly into camera

Burberry Inspire

Since September 2018, we have been working in partnership with The Burberry Foundation on a four-year schools programme to measure the impact of immersive arts and culture within the curriculum. Northern Ballet are one of four cultural organisations delivering the project in the UK, and in January 2020, the programme also launched in New York City.

Burberry Inspire partners

Yorkshire, UK New York City, USA
Northern Ballet American Ballet Theatre (ABT)
The Hepworth, Wakefield Studio in a School
Leeds Young Film Reel Works
Leeds Playhouse Creative Arts Team - City University of New York

Prior to the pandemic, students were preparing to create a dance film to share the learning and creative practice they had been developing since September 2019. With schools closed from March 2020, a rethink was needed.

Lockdown presented a unique opportunity to connect across the Atlantic with cultural partners in the USA to share ideas. We were keen for our pupils to still have the opportunity to create dance films that highlighted their creative talents, and were delighted to partner with ABT to bring the students’ ideas to life.

Our Dance Education Officer worked with the teaching artist from ABT and together they created a unique scheme of work for pupils to access at home. The work included various tasks where the pupils found out more about the two companies, learnt repertoire from Northern Ballet’s Jane Eyre, and choreographed a dance piece, using creative writing and drawing to communicate their ideas.

Four of the dance pieces were selected by our Artistic Director of Digital Kenneth Tindall to be developed and performed by Northern Ballet and ABT Company dancers and recorded as dance films. These were released on our Digital Dance platform in August 2020.

Male dancers in black trousers and open black shirts strike synchronised poses, pointing to the sky

Termagant and Men Dances

Leading Soloist Mlindi Kulashe and Junior Soloist Mariana Rodrigues flexed their choreographic talents once again in November 2020.

Men Dances - created by Mlindi Kulashe with assistance from First Soloist Sean Bates - featured nine of the Company's younger male dancers.

Termagant - created by Mariana Rodrigues - featured 11 female dancers from our junior ranks. Rodrigues was awarded Emerging Choreographer in the Dance Open America Competition for this piece.

Both performances were captured for film in our studio theatre - with no audience - and are now available to watch on our digital dance platform.


A woman and a man lay on a bed, the woman stares into a camera

Spring 2021 Digital Season

January 2021 saw another national lockdown imposed, ending hopes of the resumption of our national tour in March. We announced a new digital season which included four original short films and the online première of Victoria - available to watch for free for 30 days.

Make up artist applies face paint to a female dancer

Ballet for all

Community, creativity, and connection during COVID-19.

In 2020/21 the Learning Team worked with 15,505 people, despite the obvious challenges of the global pandemic. Many of our programmes were unfortunately cancelled, some were postponed, or moved online – but others flourished as we found new and innovative ways to connect with our communities.

Highlights include approximately 12,600 people joining us for Movement Mondays alongside Leeds Playhouse during their ‘Daily Dose’ season and launching a free-to-access resource to share our world-leading inclusive teaching practice. Meanwhile continuing to deliver weekly sessions for Ability and Dance for Parkinson’s via the magic of Zoom.

Our Dance Education Officer continued to deliver work in schools and online whenever possible and created 48 digital resources for at-home and in-school lessons. We also supplied Creativity Kits which were gifted to over 1,300 pupils to encourage them to get creative during lockdown.

We also introduced our first audio-described films, working with our partners Vocal Eyes to make our digital work accessible to blind and visually impaired people.

Four academy students stand poised for a dance class

The Academy of Northern Ballet

Our Academy staff and students responded resiliently to the national lockdown, adapting quickly to a new online format of training and delivering classes to 18,813 students over Zoom. When our CAT students were allowed to return to our studios they trained under strict COVID-19 protocols.

Individual class attendances over Zoom

Our introduction of online open classes saw 300 new registrants from areas including Cumbria, Devon, Manchester, Nottingham, Oxford, Norwich, London, Scotland, Canada, Ireland and Spain.

A male dance teacher wearing a face mask
A female dance teacher wearing a face mask leads a dance class
Bring back the magic appeal main image with no text

Supporting our Future

In this challenging year we were fortunate to receive crucial financial support from a number of sources. The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and the Culture Recovery Fund were both critical in ensuring our survival. We also thank our key funders Arts Council England and Leeds City Council for their continued support.

Thanks to the contributions of our generous individual, trust, foundation and corporate supporters, we exceeded our annual target by raising over £975,000 towards the development of Northern Ballet’s work.

This has been a very challenging year, and we wish to thank all of our supporters who helped us find opportunities to let our creativity shine during lockdowns, and ultimately return to the stage. 

Our digital resources and capabilities have proved invaluable in reaching our supporters throughout the year, meaning we were able to quickly pivot to deliver our programme of supporter events online. From choreographer insight talks, conversations with dancers, online wellbeing workshops and show-and-tells from our technical team, we have been delighted to see so many supporters join us virtually for a range of events throughout the year. 

We also had some fantastic successes in attracting new sources of funding. Our spring 2020 Pay As You Feel Digital season enabled us to reach new donors worldwide, generating over £41,000 in donations from viewers in this financial year, and our Bring Back the Magic campaign to bring Merlin to the stage raised over £43,000. 

The continued support of our Trust and Foundation supporters has been unwavering and their understanding and commitment has helped us to adapt with flexibility and creativity to the challenges we faced. We have been successful in retaining funds committed for this year with some allowing us to use restricted project funds for core costs or for delivery of projects in different ways.

    Nominated: Best Virtual Pivot
    Charity Virtual Event Awards 2020
    Nominated: Best Stewardship
    Charity Virtual Event Awards 2020
    Nominated: Best Digital/Online Campaign
    National Arts Fundraising School Emcee Awards 2020
    Nominated: Best Small Fundraising Campaign under £100,000
    National Arts Fundraising School Emcee Awards 2020
    Selected: Regional Showcase study
    Achates Philanthropy Prize 2020

    Fundraising highlights

    • Four new Benefactors joined the scheme and four uplifted their support to Diamond Level.
    • We received almost £25,000 in additional donations from Benefactors to support us through the pandemic.
    • We welcomed 15 new Patrons, and our Patrons collectively donated an additional £6,300 throughout the year. 
    • During the 2020 Big Give Christmas Challenge we raised over £25,000 towards our Bring Back the Magic Appeal, exceeding our original target of £15,000. 
    • We have received two significant legacy donations for which we are incredibly grateful. They have been invested in our endowment fund to support the long-term future of the Company. 
    • We received generous grants from trusts and foundations, supporting us to share the joy of dance on stage, on screen and in the community. These included:
      Liz and Terry Bramall Foundation
      Emerald Foundation
      Garfield Weston Foundation
      Foyle Foundation
      Burberry Foundation
      John Ellerman Foundation
      Paul Hamlyn Foundation
      Leverhulme Trust
      Linbury Trust
    • Our work with long-time corporate sponsor Kleinwort Hambros continued with delivery of bespoke client entertainment and employee engagement events online. 
    • We created our Breaktime Barre virtual wellbeing workshop to attract new support from companies and welcomed a new corporate partner, McInroy & Wood, on board for the year.

    Financial Summary

    Performances and touring income


    Government funding


    Fundraising income


    Other trading income


    Read our Financial Statements

    Kevin Poeung in rehearsals for Merlin

    Photos Emma Kauldhar, Emily Nuttall, Riku Ito, Caroline Holden and Amy Kelly.