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David Nixon OBE giving notes to Martha Leebolt during Cinderella Rehearsals

The David Nixon Era

A look back at more than 20 years of Northern Ballet's history under the leadership of Artistic Director David Nixon CBE.

A photo of David Nixon in rehearsal at Northern Ballet's base in West Park, Leeds, 2002.

A New Era

In 2001 Northern Ballet (then Northern Ballet Theatre) appointed Canadian choreographer David Nixon as Artistic Director. David's boundless charisma and talent for storytelling brought new energy to the studio and the Company quickly took on his production of Madame Butterfly.

A photo of Northern Ballet dancer Daniel de Andrade with partner in David Nixon OBE's I Got Rhythm, 2002.

I Got Rhythm

By 2002 the party was well underway when Northern Ballet Sinfonia joined the stage to create a 'big band' backdrop to glittering dancers and special guest singers in David's jubilant celebration of George and Ira Gershwin's fabulous music.

A photo of Northern Ballet dancer Georgina May leaping through the air as Cathy in David Nixon OBE's Wuthering Heights. Photo by Merlin Hendy, 2009.

Wuthering Heights

David's first new creation for Northern Ballet brought Emily Brontë's classic novel to life at Bradford's Alhambra Theatre in 2002 - a fitting tribute to his new Yorkshire home and Northern Ballet's reputation as master storytellers.

A photo of Keiko Amemori and Northern Ballet dancers performing in David Nixon OBE's A Midsummer Night's Dream. Photo by Merlin Hendy, 2007.

A Midsummer Night's Dream

In 2003 David created an Olivier Award-nominated adaptation of the Shakespearean comedy. This spectacular ballet showcased his creative flair not only through bewitching choreography but also his magnificently colourful costume designs.

A photo of Northern Ballet dancers Kenneth Tindall and Keiko Amemori performing in David Nixon OBE's Swan Lake. Photo by Bill Cooper, 2009.

Swan Lake

In 2004 Tchaikovsky's legendary ballet was added to the repertoire - with a Northern Ballet twist of course. David's version centres on the struggles of lead character Anthony - a man scarred by guilt and grief from the childhood loss of his brother at the water's edge.

A photo of Northern Ballet dancers in David Nixon OBE's Dangerous Liaisons, 2004.

Dangerous Liaisons

Later in 2004 the Company performed the seductively scandalous story of bored French aristocrats spinning a web of heartbreak and ruin. Set to Vivaldi's The Four Seasons, Dangerous Liaisons would go on to be screened in cinemas across the UK 17 years after it was first performed by Northern Ballet. 

A photo of Northern Ballet dancer Pippa Moore (centre) surrounded by Northern Ballet dancers in David Nixon OBE's Peter Pan. Photo Alastair Muir (2009).

Peter Pan

Christmas 2004 saw David create another world première with record ticket sales for this family favourite at Leeds Grand Theatre.

A photo of Northern Ballet dancer Christopher Hinton-Lewis in David Nixon OBE's Dracula. Photo Merlin Hendy, 2009.


Autumn 2005 and darkness comes. The immortal Count is alive! David's spine-tingling production became a staple of his repertoire at Northern Ballet, selling out theatres time and again with many audiences attending in their own gothic costumes.

D'Artagnan dances around Constance, trying to impress her

The Three Musketeers

In September 2006 d'Artagnan and co took Bradford's Alhambra Theatre by storm in another rip-roaring world première. This all-action adventure with a classic romance at its heart picked up an Olivier Award nomination and the M.E.N. Best Dance Award.

A photo of Northern Ballet dancers in David Nixon OBE's The Nutcracker. Photo Bill Cooper, 2007.

The Nutcracker

In 2006 David's thriving Company won the National Dance Awards' Audience Award for the third year running and the readers of Dance Europe magazine voted him Director of the Year for the second time. In 2007 he took on the ultimate crowd-pleaser.

A photo of Northern Ballet dancers Tobias Batley and Georgina May in David Nixon OBE's Hamlet. Photo Brian Slater, 2008.


In 2008 David reimagined the Shakespearean tragedy in Paris in the early years of the second world war. 

A photo of HRH The Earl of Wessex meeting David Nixon OBE and the cast of Northern Ballet's A Sleeping Beauty Tale. Photo Darren Goldsmith, 2007.

A Sleeping Beauty Tale

Here David introduces Northern Ballet's Royal Patron HRH The Earl of Wessex to the cast of yet another new creation by the prolific choreographer. In 2010 David's contribution to British dance would be recognised in the Queen's New Year Honours List with the award of an OBE.

A photo of Northern Ballet dancers Martha Leebolt and Javier Torres in David Nixon OBE's Cleopatra. Photo Bill Cooper, 2011.


In 2010 the Company moved to a new home in Leeds and took the name Northern Ballet. The new era began in style with the world première of David's Cleopatra at Leeds Grand Theatre in 2011, set to original music by Claude-Michel Schönberg (famous for the musical Les Misérables).

Beauty and the Beast - Martha Leebolt + Ashley Dixon

Beauty & the Beast

By Christmas 2011 David had created an array of fairytale ballets for all the family, with his new Beauty & the Beast delighting audiences young and old at Leeds Grand Theatre.

A photo of Northern Ballet's Hannah Bateman in David Nixon OBE's Ondine. Photo Martin Bell, 2012.


The story of the mystical water sprite was only performed for one week in September 2012, but audiences lucky enough to see it at Leeds Playhouse will remember a visually stunning production.

A photo of Northern Ballet dancers Isabella Gasparini, Ben Mitchell, Teresa Saavedra Bordes & Ayana Kanda in Ugly Duckling, a ballet for children by Dreda Blow and Sebastian Loe. Photo Martin Bell, 2012.

Ballets for Children

In 2012 Northern Ballet premièred Ugly Duckling - the first in a series of ballets for children which would see David's Company bring the magic of live performance to millions of young people across stage and screen.

A photo of Northern Ballet's Tobias Batley, Martha Leebolt and Guiliano Contadini as in David Nixon OBE's The Great Gatsby. Photo by Bill Cooper, 2013.

The Great Gatsby

David's eye for a blockbuster ballet was a hallmark of his success at Northern Ballet and his 2013 production of The Great Gatsby was a sell-out sensation. Richard Rodney Bennett's silky score provides an unforgettable backdrop to the most glamourous party in town.

A photo of Northern Ballet dancer Martha Leebolt in David Nixon OBE's Cinderella. Photo Bill Cooper, 2014.


For the ultimate rags to riches story, David once again teamed up with Composer Philip Feeney (Peter Pan, Hamlet) and Associate Director Patricia Doyle (A Midsummer Night's Dream, The Great Gatsby).

A photo of Northern Ballet dancers Hannah Bateman and Guiliano Contadini in a photoshoot for Kenneth Tindall's Casanova. Photo Justin Slee, 2016.

Nurturing Talent

After more than a decade of prolific choreography, David’s later years at Northern Ballet saw him favour the development of younger choreographers like Kenneth Tindall (Casanova, Geisha), Cathy Marston (Jane Eyre, Victoria) and Daniel de Andrade (The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas).

A photo of Northern Ballet dancer Abigail Prudames raised aloft by Northern Ballet dancers in David Nixon OBE's The Little Mermaid. Photo Emma Kauldhar, 2017.

The Little Mermaid

David's final choreographic work for Northern Ballet was an instant classic, one of the biggest selling tours in the Company's history.

A photo of Northern Ballet dancers performing Sir Kenneth MacMillan's Gloria. cROH. Photo Bill Cooper, 2017.


One of David's proudest moments came in October 2017 when Northern Ballet took to the Royal Opera House stage and gave an exquisite performance of Sir Kenneth MacMillan's Gloria. An unforgettable moment in the Company's history.

A photo of Northern Ballet dancers Riku Ito and Lorenzo Trossello in David Nixon OBE's Dracula. Photo Emma Kauldhar, 2019.

Dracula live in cinema

In 2019 Northern Ballet reached a global audience as the Company's filmed productions were shown in cinemas for the first time. On Halloween Dracula was streamed live across Europe from Leeds Playhouse.

Ygraine holds her gift, the dagger, in front of her in battle

Magical Memories

One of David's final achievements was to navigate the Covid-19 pandemic, overcoming the odds to produce a new full-length ballet, Drew McOnie's Merlin. With the Company's future secured, he made the decision to bring his unforgettable era to an end, stepping down in April 2022.

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