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A Rummage through the archive

Published on Tuesday 27 August, 2013

The Northern Ballet archives are bulging with posters, photographs and programmes from over forty years’ worth of productions.

From the early days of Northern Dance Theatre in Manchester up to today, here’s a whistle-stop tour through some of the best hidden gems our archive cupboard has to offer.

Company curiosities

The Northern Ballet of today in fact started out life under a completely different namesake. Established by Laverne Meyer, who became the company’s first Artistic Director in 1969, the name Northern Dance Theatre seemed the definitive name of choice, so much so that this emphatic poster (left) was created, repeating the company name 18 times (just in case you forgot).

Northern Dance Theatre poster Northern Dance Theatre Cinderella Poster

Then, with a new Artistic Director, Robert de Warren, in 1976, a new company name came into play and Northern Ballet Theatre was born.

Northern Ballet Theatre poster from 1977 Northern Ballet Theatre programme from our Silver Jubilee season

Here’s a snap of Northern Ballet Theatre, headed by de Warren, for their production of Swan Lake in 1986. In the centre sits Ballet Mistress, Dianne Richards; Artistic Director, Robert de Warren; and Assistant Artistic Director, Jeremy N. Leslie-Spinks.

Northern Ballet Theatre, 1986

This year, the company also struck up a prestigious link to ballet icon, Rudolf Nureyev, as he became Artistic Laureate of Northern Ballet Theatre.

Here is Robert de Warren rehearsing for Othello with Marcello Angelini (Othello) and Daniela Buson (Desdemona).

Robert de Warren rehearsing for Othello with Marcello Angelini (Othello) and Daniela Buson (Desdemona)

A few years later in 1989, the company were fighting for survival. In the picture below, dancers from the company join new Artistic Director, Christopher Gable, actress Jenny Seagrove and dancer Lynn Seymour, outside the House of Commons.

Christopher Gable, Jenny Seagrove, Lynn Seymour and NBT dancers outside the House of Commons

In a rare personal photograph, away from the business of ballet, here is a picture from Christopher Gable’s 50th birthday party. You may notice a familiar face to the right of the photo: Northern Ballet’s current Chief Executive, Mark Skipper.

Christopher Gable and Mark Skipper


In the place of rehearsal photographs, we uncovered this rather novel way of documenting the rehearsal process with these large, colourful sketches. The sketch caption reads: ‘The Creation of Miss Carter Wore Pink. A new production by Northern Ballet Theatre. Artistic Director Robert de Warren. Sketch in the Hall of the Zion Institute, Zion Crescent, Hulme Walk, Manchester’.

Sketch of rehearsals

And when it comes to posters, things were similarly artistic, featuring glistening colours, intricate sketches and attention-grabbing designs. It’s also interesting to note the cost of tickets on the Aladdin poster (left): from 60p for an evening performance and 50p for a matinee; I’d say that’s a bargain!

Aladdin poster The Sleeping Beauty poster, 1984 Madame Butterfly poster, 1979

The author of this article is Katharine Wootton, an intern with Northern Ballet currently studying at the University of York.

Unfortunately much of the Northern Ballet archive was lost to a fire in 2001. For surviving elements of the archive we have not been able to identify the sources of or people in each photograph and poster. Please email us with details so we can properly credit each image.

The views expressed in blogs are those of the author and not necessarily of Northern Ballet.