50th Anniversary Programme Announced

Press release date 
Wed 5 Jun 2019

We are thrilled to announce details of our 50th Anniversary Programme which will include three world premières, a star-studded Gala and tours of some of our best-loved productions. World premières in 2020 include Geisha by Kenneth Tindall, Merlin by Drew McOnie and a new children’s ballet. David Nixon OBE’s blockbusters Cinderella and The Great Gatsby return for national tours. We will also perform Three Short Ballets in Newcastle and tour Mariana Rodrigues’ Little Red Riding Hood nationally.

50th Anniversary Celebration Gala

Marking the start of our anniversary programme, the 50th Anniversary Celebration Gala will see dancers from some of the world’s leading companies unite in a unique event celebrating our 50-year journey. Our dancers will be joined by guest stars from The Royal Ballet, Joffrey Ballet, English National Ballet, Scottish Ballet, Birmingham Royal Ballet and Phoenix Dance Theatre performing excerpts from our repertoire and works connected to our history. The gala will be a magnificent celebration of the our 50-year story so far.

The 50th Anniversary Celebration Gala will be at Leeds Grand Theatre for one night only on Saturday 4 January 2020. For information visit northernballet.com/gala

Geisha – World Première

In the first of three world premières, Kenneth Tindall, choreographer of the acclaimed Casanova, creates his second full-length ballet. Based on a true story, Geisha is the haunting tale of two young women trapped in a world of duty and sacrifice, who can only be saved by a promise from beyond the grave.

Geisha will feature original music composed by Alexandra Harwood (The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society), libretto by Gwyneth Hughes (ITV’S Vanity Fair), set and costume designs by Christopher Oram (Casanova and Disney’s Frozen, Broadway) and lighting by Alastair West (Casanova). Lesley Downer completes the creative team as Historical Consultant.

Geisha will première in Leeds on 14 March 2020 followed by a tour to Sheffield, London, Edinburgh and Cardiff until May 2020. For information visit northernballet.com/geisha


A family favourite, David Nixon OBE’s Cinderella will tour nationally in the spring. An enchanting adaptation of the world’s most famous rags to riches story, Cinderella is whisked away from her wicked Stepmother and a desolate life of servitude, to the glistening lake of ice where she first meets her Prince and changes her destiny forever.

Cinderella features an original score by Philip Feeney, sets designed by Duncan Hayler, lighting by Tim Mitchell and costumes by David Nixon OBE. The ballet will tour to Leicester, Milton Keynes and Salford from March to June 2020. For more information visit northernballet.com/cinderella

The Great Gatsby

David Nixon OBE’s smash hit The Great Gatsby, returns for a new national tour in the autumn. Based on the novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby tells the story of mysterious millionaire Jay Gatsby as the sparkling façade of his world starts to slip, revealing the loneliness, obsession and tragedy that lies beneath.

Set to a toe-tapping score by Sir Richard Rodney Bennett CBE, with sets designed by Jérôme Kaplan, lighting by Tim Mitchell and costumes by David Nixon OBE, The Great Gatsby will tour to Leeds, Nottingham and Sheffield from September – October 2020. For more information visit northernballet.com/gatsby

Merlin – World Première

The second full-length world première of our 50th anniversary season will see Drew McOnie make his debut with Northern Ballet. The choreographer, whose previous projects include Broadway’s King Kong and Baz Luhrmann’s Strictly Ballroom, will create Merlin, a magical spectacle inspired by the story of the legendary wizard.

Merlin will feature original music by Grant Olding (One Man Two Guvnors, National Theatre), libretto by Gwyneth Hughes (ITV’s Vanity Fair), set and costume designs by Colin Richmond (Grease, UK Tour) and lighting by Anna Watson (A Christmas Carol, Bristol Old Vic). In addition, Chris Fisher, International Illusions and Magic Associate on Harry Potter & the Cursed Child has been appointed as Illusionist for Merlin.

Merlin will première in Bradford on 16 October 2020 followed by a tour to Norwich, Newcastle, Southampton, Woking and Leeds until December 2020. For more information visit northernballet.com/merlin

Three Short Ballets

Following the success of our debut at Newcastle’s Northern Stage this year, we will return in April 2020 with an exhilarating programme of Three Short Ballets featuring The Kingdom of Back by Morgann Runacre-Temple, Powerhouse Rhumba by David Nixon OBE and For an Instant by Amaury Lebrun. For information visit northernballet.com/three-short-ballets

Ballets for Children

Continuing our pioneering programme of short ballets created specifically for young children, we will première a new children’s ballet in October 2020. The title is yet to be announced but will follow in the footsteps of the recently announced world première of Little Red Riding Hood (October 2019) which is choreographed by Mariana Rodrigues and will tour nationally in spring 2020 (details to be announced). For updates visit northernballet.com/whats-on

Digital Dance

Continuing the exciting developments in our digital dance offering, our popular children’s ballets Ugly Duckling and Goldilocks & the Three Bears will be screened in cinemas nationwide from January 2020. We will also present three new dance films on our Digital Dance platform, including an original direct to digital creation by Kenneth Tindall. For updates see digitaldance.org

Other Activities and Opportunities

In addition to our programme of performances, we will be holding a number of other activities and opportunities for audiences and supporters to engage with us during our 50th anniversary year. These include an exhibition of ballet costumes in Leeds city centre during April and May 2020 and an exclusive fundraising dinner and performance in Leeds in autumn 2020. For more information on these and other activities as they get announced, see northernballet.com for updates.

David Nixon OBE said: ‘Northern Ballet is a truly extraordinary organisation and has endured so many challenges in its history to arrive, 50 years after its inception, as the successful, confident and innovative company that we are today. I am privileged to be the Artistic Director as we reach this milestone anniversary and to be continuing the incredible work of all the artists and staff who have gone before us. Our programme of events for our anniversary year showcases Northern Ballet’s strengths in creating new work, reviving some of our most popular productions and making exciting progress with our digital ambitions. As we take our next steps in the Company’s journey, I wish to thank all of our supporters past and present, and we look forward to what the future will bring.’

Photos by Guy Farrow, Emma Kauldhar and Brian Slater. Illustrations by Emily Nuttall.

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