inside the magazine from Northern Ballet Theatre Issue 2 Autumn 2007
A FOND FAREWELL A look back at Chiaki Nagaoâ€™s fabulous career LIVE AND LEARN Ballet and science brings success SETTING THE SCENE How a stage set evolves
3 Bringing you the news From Royal visits to touring China; it’s a busy and exciting time at NBT.
5 What the papers say Read reviews of last season’s productions.
6 A Friend indeed What are the benefits of being a Friend or a Patron? Revealing insights in our ‘Q & A’ session.
issue 2 8 Setting the scene Designing a set and bringing it to life is a huge feat. We talk to the people who make it happen.
10 Pull-out poster A handy guide to performances and Friend’s events throughout the season.
12 A fond farewell A review of the spactacular career of dancer Chiaki Nagao who retires after 16 years at NBT.
16 Awarding endeavours Reflecting on our many achievements and the dedicated people who made them happen.
17 Live and learn When ballet meets science exciting things start to happen! NBT discovers new ways to intrigue and involve the younger generation.
18 Classical training Developing the stars of tomorrow.
Photo: Richard Moran
David Nixon Artistic Director NBT Welcome to the second edition of inside magazine. In this issue we take a look at the remarkable career of Chiaki Nagao who dances with us for the last time this autumn, after more than 16 years with the Company. Chiaki is an incredibly gifted dancer who has shown total commitment and dedication to each role she has performed. A dancer with such breadth of experience is irreplaceable and we will miss her terribly. It is always sad to see familiar faces moving on, but it is the nature of our profession that it makes room for the next generation to take their place. We currently have a wonderful group of young dancers and I’m happy to have welcomed five new Dancers and seven Apprentices to the Company this summer. I am very much looking forward to our first revival of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. This highly enjoyable work about young people and the ups and downs of romance perfectly suits the present young Company. The strength of the Company means that there will be a variety of casts, each with their unique interpretation, alongside most of the original cast. For those of you who regularly attend our performances, you may be interested to know that the role of Puck will be performed by both sexes this time. Victoria Sibson, a strikingly beautiful performer, is taking on the challenge of performing a male role with a female twist. Vicky’s super elevation and physical power made this an exciting and appropriate challenge. I am also working with the Company on a new production of The Nutcracker. As a young dancer I performed this ballet year after year and continued to do so as a professional. I feel that it is an opportune moment for both the dancers and the audience to have this Classic enter the repertoire. I hope you enjoy reading more about the work of the Company and I look forward to seeing you on tour and at one of our Friend’s events sometime soon.
Best wishes, David Nixon Artistic Director Cover image: NBT Coryphée Yi Song. Photo: Merlin Hendy
Photo: Brian Slater
A return to China
Photo: Brian Slater
NBT’s dreams of a return tour to China have become a reality after the Company secured support from fellow Yorkshire-based organisations. Leeds City Council, Leeds Metropolitan University and Yorkshire Forward are supporting NBT’s tour of David Nixon’s Madame Butterfly in December 2007 and January 2008, to six major Chinese cities including: Beijing, Hangzhou, Shanghai and Guangzhou.
Happy anniversary At the beginning of the year NBT celebrated the careers of four long-standing members of the team. Diane Tabern, PA to the Directors, joined the Company in 1986, NBT Orchestra members Alan Asquith, Rick Scoates, and Ian Hood are celebrating 20 years, 24 years and 30 years respectively. Read an interview with Diane Tabern about her 20 years with the Company by visiting www.northernballettheatre.co. uk/friends.html
We have welcomed Louise Tischler as our new Company Manager following the departure of John Duncan who left NBT to join Scottish Opera. Louise was previously Company Manager at the Royal Exchange Theatre and Production Manager at the Contact Theatre, Manchester. Tim Anger, Head of Technical Services, has joined Opera North as a Production Manager.
Wieke Eringa, Director of Learning & Access, is now Artistic Director of Yorkshire Dance.
Comings… NBT welcomes new Dancers: Dreda Blow, Giuliano Contadini, Isabella Gasparini, Chantelle Gotobed, and Kieran Stoneley, and Apprentices: Thomas Aragones, Daniel Fajardo, Rachael Gillespie, Lewis Landini, Ben Mitchell, Jessica Morgan and Jonathan Trick. Read more about our new dancers on the NBT website.
Megan McLoughlin has joined NBT as Corporate Fundraising Officer. Dawn Atkinson has joined NBT as Marketing Officer following the departure of Julia Barry who left to join Warwick Arts Centre. Michael Schofield has joined NBT as Web and Graphics Officer to replace Alex Croft who has joined the West Yorkshire Playhouse.
And goings… NBT has bid a fond farewell to the following Company members: Chiaki Nagao retires after more than 16 years with the Company. You will have a chance to say goodbye to Chiaki when she performs the role of Juliet at selected performances of Romeo & Juliet in Nottingham and Bradford. Read our feature article on pages 12-15 and visit the NBT website for information on casting.
Ruth Burke-Kennedy has joined NBT as Media & PR Manager and Catherine Mullaney as Media & PR Assistant following the departure of May Goodliffe to travel the world and Ruth Greenwood to join Welsh National Opera.
Desiré Samaai and Jonathan Byrne Ollivier have moved to Canada where Jon has joined Alberta Ballet. David Paul Kierce is pursuing a career in musical theatre. Patrick Howell has returned to the USA to join Milwaukee Ballet. Victoria Lane Green has taken a nine-month sabbatical with Alberta Ballet and Mark Biocca has joined Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet. We wish Robert Phillips and Apprentices Julia Davies and James Muller the best of luck in their future careers.
Joe Marchant has joined NBT as Flyman/Rigger, and Alex Froud, Assistant Electrician, has left NBT to join Pro Audio Systems in Bradford.
Nigel Gaynor has been promoted from Resident Conductor to Assistant Music Director. Helen Watkinson has been appointed Company Pianist, Tom Rathbone as No 2 Cello, Stella Hartikainen as No 3 First Violin, Laura Pennington as Sub-Principal Second Violin, and Liz Chell as Principal Horn. Hayley Pomfrett was promoted to Principal Second Violin.
A CBE for our Chairman Congratulations to our Chairman, Councillor Bernard Atha, who received a CBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours. Bernard has been a member of the NBT Board of Directors since 1991 and took on the role of Chairman in 1996.
Backstage talent recognised NBT’s Deputy Stage Manager, Chun-Yen Chia, was short-listed for the Stage Manager of the Year award by the Stage Management Association (SMA). This highly respected award is the annual opportunity for Stage Managers to have their skill and talent publicly recognised. Chun was nominated for his outstanding work on the World Première of The Three Musketeers. Chun was nominated for the award by David Nixon and John Kearney, NBT’s Stage Manager, who said,“The Three Musketeers is a busy and fast-moving production, Chun’s unfailing reliability and calmness were a major contribution to the overall success of the production.”
Photo: Merlin Hendy
Photo: Linda Rich
Congratulations to the following Company members: Martha Leebolt and Georgina May have been promoted from Junior Soloist to Soloist, while Kenneth Tindall has been promoted from Coryphée to Soloist. Hannah Bateman and Nathalie Léger have been promoted from Coryphée to Junior Soloist.
New building update
A Royal Beauty Photo: NBT archive
NBT’s Patron, His Royal Highness The Earl of Wessex KCVO, attended a performance of A Sleeping Beauty Tale at Leeds Grand Theatre on 1 March. HRH was accompanied by members of the production company, RDF Television, who were documenting his visit for the series ‘A Year with the Queen’ to be broadcast on BBC One in the autumn. The Earl of Wessex also visited an NBT workshop at Bramley St Peter’s School in Leeds.
NBT’s quest for a new building took a dramatic and very positive step this summer. In June, Leeds City Council’s Executive Board agreed that the Council should take over delivery of the £11.67m project from the developers to build the new headquarters at Quarry Hill in central Leeds for NBT and Phoenix Dance Theatre. The cost of the project will be met through a combination of grant aid from Arts Council England and other funding raised by NBT, Phoenix Dance Theatre, and Leeds City Council. The building will be a centre of excellence for dance and will include a space for a ballet school so that talented young classical dancers from the region can be nurtured and developed locally. The next edition of Inside will have more news about this exciting development.
Photo: Merlin Hendy
Yorkshire International Business Convention In June, NBT caught the attention of some of the leading representatives from the business community with an eye-catching display featuring costumes and sets from NBT productions, at the 2007 Yorkshire International Business Convention. NBT’s Chief Executive Mark Skipper and Director of Fundraising Jon Ingham attended the event where they were fortunate to hear presentations by a range of distinguished speakers including Bob Geldof who had flown to Harrogate from the G8 summit in Germany.
Photo: Merlin Hendy
NBT will feature in a six-part series for the Discovery Channel USA. The series ‘Extreme Body’ (working title) celebrates the human body and includes programmes on strength, sight, digestion and pain. NBT is participating in the programme on pain, which will look at the science and training of ballet dancers and how dancers work through pain. Dangerous Films, the production company making the series, was behind the BBC TV programme ‘The Human Body’. ‘Extreme Body’ is scheduled for broadcast in the USA in January 2008 with possible transmission on Channel 5 in the UK later next year.
Photo: Christine Clayton
The Three Musketeers released on CD The music of Sir Malcolm Arnold is celebrated by the release of a CD recording of The Three Musketeers. Performed by the NBT Orchestra conducted by John Pryce-Jones, and issued on the Quartz label, the CD contains some of Sir Malcolm Arnold’s most memorable music as used in David Nixon’s acclaimed production. The recording would not have been possible without the generous financial support of Katherine Arnold and Anthony Day. CDs are priced at £9.99 and are available through the shop section of the NBT website.
inside: reviewing NBT’s Autumn/Winter season 2007
The reviews are in... Last season saw the World Première of David Nixon’s fantastical new ballet A Sleeping Beauty Tale, NBT continued to tour The Three Musketeers, and Romeo & Juliet made a welcome return to repertoire after a four-year absence.
Tales of the unexpected A Sleeping Beauty Tale premièred on 24 February 2007 at The Grand Theatre and Opera House, Leeds, and was seen by 20,000 people at 23 performances across three venues. “Looking around the packed auditorium, what struck me most was the youth surrounding me on all sides. This is far from the norm in a ballet audience, and shows that David Nixon has seen what is wanted by younger theatre goers and has delivered the goods.”Dance Expression,May 2007 “Most attractive of all is the strong feeling of commitment that drenches the stage, a result of the mutual trust between director and dancers.” Sunday Express, March 2007 “…for many younger people a production like this, so steeped in culture, will offer a very accessible introduction both to the work of the company and the ballet in general.” Yorkshire Evening Post, February 2007
“NBT’s hugely talented artistic director David Nixon… has long been a fan of character dancers and has enshrined the art of a good story in his company. Cameo egos are actively discouraged: this is democratic yarn-spinning with entrylevel appeal.”Metro (London), June 2007
Romance isn’t dead Romeo & Juliet premièred in 1991, and so far in 2007 it has been seen by more than 18,700 people at 26 performances, across four venues. “Quite simply a spellbinding evening.” Leighton Buzzard Observer, May 2007 “…tells the story lyrically and poignantly, with the moments of youthful passion and ancient feud punctuated by bursts of humour. This is a Romeo and Juliet well worth seeing.” The Oxford Times, May 2007
A ripping yarn The Three Musketeers premièred in 2006, and in 2007 it was seen by more than 30,000 people at 39 performances, across six venues. “Northern Ballet Theatre is often seen as the people’s company, winning awards for audience popularity. It’s easy to see why. The dancers are technically superb…Best of all, The Three Musketeers gives us something missing from most ballets – a really good laugh.” The Scotsman, March 2007
top: Kenneth Tindall as Kasak and David Paul Kierce as Korak in A Sleeping Beauty Tale. Photo: Merlin Hendy
inside: with friends
A select view A Friend and a Patron share their thoughts
The Friend’s tale: The Friends of Northern Ballet Theatre (NBT) are vital to the ongoing success of the Company. We organise a range of exclusive events for our Friends to enable you to get the most out of the support you give us. These events include ‘Dancing with David’ - in which David Nixon talks about the creative processes behind his productions - and the opportunity to attend dress and technical rehearsals. As we are based in Leeds and we usually open our productions in the North of England, you could be forgiven for thinking that it’s only people local to the Company who enjoy the benefits that being a Friend brings, but you’d be wrong. We are organising more and more events at venues throughout the UK, making connections with local groups with the idea of creating a countrywide network of NBT Friends. One person who knows all about the benefits of being a Friend is Janet McNulty. Janet became a Friend in 1987, and in the past 20 years has attended events all over the country. We asked Janet, who is based in Liverpool, about some of her experiences as a Friend, and now a Patron, of NBT.
“With the support of our Friends, we can continue to produce our varied programme of high quality productions and maintain our extensive tour.”
Inside What do you enjoy most about being a Friend?
David Nixon, Artistic Director
Janet McNulty I love going to watch Company training on a Saturday morning, you can just call Judith up (Judith Baker, Friends and Events Manager) and she organises it with the Company Manager, Louise Tischler (Tisch). It’s a privilege to hear David articulate his thought processes at the ‘Dancing with David’ events, and the dancers are good enough to stay at the end of a long day of rehearsals to show us excerpts of the work. David speaks so well and is such a lovely person; he always makes time for us. The dress rehearsals are also great events and an opportunity to see something beyond the performances. One of the best aspects of following a ballet company though is that you get to see the dancers’ career progression. In March, during NBT’s Edinburgh season, we organised a joint event with the Friends of Scottish Ballet. Can you tell us about that? The day started with refreshments at 9.30am and then we had a backstage tour of the theatre with the Company Manager. I’d been on tours like this before but it was my first one with Tisch and it was great to hear someone new talk about the Company. We looked in Chiaki Nagao and Desiré Samaai’s (ex-
NBT Principal Artists) dressing room, which they were good enough to vacate for the duration. We walked on stage and got a dancers-eye view of the auditorium; we held the swords used in The Three Musketeers and had a chance to admire their workmanship as well as appreciate their weight – they’re really heavy! We also went into wardrobe to see how they work. We were lucky enough to meet that evening’s Conductor before heading into the auditorium where we had a talk by David Nixon and watched Company training. There were 12 of us from the Friends of NBT and we were joined by about 40 Friends of Scottish Ballet who watched the matinée performance. It was such a great day. What advice would you give to people who might be nervous about attending a Friends event for the first time? I was terrified the first couple of times I attended a Friends event. The thing to remember is that everyone has a common interest. We’re also a friendly bunch and we will talk to people if we see someone on their own. My advice is to join in – you never know who you might meet and where it might take you. Becoming a Patron: At the end of last year NBT launched its Patron scheme. For £250 you receive all the benefits of Friends membership and additional benefits including: exclusive backstage tours, opportunities to attend post
“NBT never fails to deliver the wow factor. As a Patron I feel I can go and watch the Company and be genuinely involved in what is a very magical experience.” Joanne James, NBT Patron
Inside Why did you become a Patron of NBT? What do you feel are the main benefits of becoming a Patron? Jo James After the opening night of Dracula we went to the bar and all the dancers were there. It was before I became a Friend and we sat there openmouthed, in awe. As a Patron you are actively invited to parties with the dancers, which for me is brilliant. A friend and I went to the after show party for the opening of A Sleeping Beauty Tale and it was a real privilege to be there and to be able to go and talk to the dancers. When you take them out of the context of the performance you get to know their personalities – now we refer to them by their first names! I think the activities NBT organises for its members are really quite innovative, you really involve people with the Company. Ballet can be perceived to be snooty but NBT breaks down those barriers and actively invites people to get involved. There is a group of about twelve of us that go to NBT performances and I’m the only one with a background in dance. We’re all nurses, so on World Première nights we have a nurses’ night
out and the hospital has a lot of shift changes to deal with! What do you enjoy most about being a Patron? I love attending the dress rehearsals because I like hearing David making corrections and the dancers’ response to that. You get to catch a glimpse of the dancers’ personalities when they joke about with each other. It’s also interesting to see something that doesn’t work and when you watch the final performance you then see the changes David has made. What would you say to anybody thinking of becoming a Patron? Some people might be put off by the cost of becoming a Patron but it’s not a huge amount of money per month. I pay by direct debit so I don’t notice it leaving my bank account. I’m part of a theatre group so I have a real appreciation of how much it costs to move a production around the country, and I am also impressed by NBT’s investment in children. What advice would you give to people thinking of attending a Friends event for the first time? My advice would be to do as much as you can. At our first Friends event we toyed with the idea of not going for the lunch, but we did and we sat on a table with people we didn’t know but who were absolutely delightful. Judith was great, she introduced herself to everyone and was genuinely interested in what we had to say.
Photo: Merlin Hendy
show receptions and an opportunity to meet a member of the Artistic team. The best people to talk about the scheme are the Patrons themselves, so Inside met Joanne James to ask her why she became a Patron of NBT.
Read the full interviews with Janet and Joanne by visiting www.northernballettheatre.co.uk/friends.html
inside: set design
Charles Cusick Smith’s set design for The Nutcracker. Photo: Charles Cusick Smith
Following his successful set designs for The Three Musketeers, Charles Cusick Smith is returning to work with Northern Ballet Theatre on The Nutcracker. We asked Charles about the design process and Andy Waddington, NBT’s Planning Manager, how those designs are brought to the stage.
Over the years Northern Ballet Theatre (NBT) has taken its audiences on some magnificent journeys, from the austere Yorkshire moors in Wuthering Heights, to the opulent Parisian palace of King Louis XIII in The Three Musketeers; the 1940s Flying Scotsman sleeper train in A Midsummer Night’s Dream to the streets of Verona in Romeo & Juliet. These productions are made all the more believable by the unfailingly high quality of the sets. Designer Charles Cusick Smith’s “ravishing” sets for The Three Musketeers received widespread praise from audiences and critics alike, and he has returned to design the sets for David Nixon’s new production of The Nutcracker. A keen painter, Charles trained at the Glasgow School of Art with a view to becoming an art teacher, but as his training
drew to a close he was to find another direction.“By my final year I was creating paintings that you could actually walk into – effectively, sets!” he says. So how does the design come about? “The Choreographer will decide the period of the piece, and in most cases that’s the starting point,” Charles explains.“David Nixon has decided to do quite a traditional version of The Nutcracker, but to locate his version in the Regency period, which is a refreshing change from the dark colours of the usual Victorian setting.” Detail is all-important. Charles’ research for The Nutcracker has taken him from the “heritage” colour charts of the period to the Royal Pavillion in Brighton, studying the Regency look and style right down to the cups and saucers. Likewise, with The Three Musketeers, thorough research was crucial.
“I looked at 17th Century architecture and even things like flags and banners from the period.” One of the main challenges Charles had with both Musketeers and Nutcracker is the sheer size of the productions.“The Three Musketeers was the biggest ballet I had ever designed, until The Nutcracker!” he says.“Also, with fastpaced ballets such as these, and lots of set changes, I’ve had to think of quick scene changing devices – like a lot of wood panelling with secret doors for Musketeers. Space is a key consideration, especially when the set shares a stage with 30 dancers or more.”To complicate things further, NBT travels to around 14 venues in any given year and the stages are different in size at each theatre.“I design sets that can be topped and tailed. They have to shrink or expand as necessary into the spaces allowed,” Charles
explains. “I am very hands-on on set, so all issues regarding the practicalities of staging go by me.”
modifications can be made at the NBT workshop as we discover new ways of working with the pieces.
“Once the set design has been finalised”, Andy Waddington explains,“we put the set building project out to tender. On completion of the tendering process the Set Designer and Production Manager will sit down with the chosen set construction company and work through the designs - we use companies as near as York and as far away as Cardiff. Props and the smaller pieces of set can be made at our workshop and we have a roster of freelance carpenters, metal workers, prop makers and painters who can all be used at some point in the build process. Depending on the Choreographer’s requirements for set and props to work with in rehearsals, the schedule can be quite tight. Whilst rehearsals are taking place
Once built, the sets come to us in the component parts, which enables them to be fitted into the trailers for touring. The pieces required for rehearsals are built in the rehearsal studios and the rest is stored on the trailers ready to be built at the first venue of the tour. PC Transport is contracted to move the sets, and everything else we will need for a week in a theatre, from venue to venue. There can be five or more trailers transporting one production’s set, lighting, dance floor, props, and costumes round the country. Plus we often tour three productions a season, so realistically there can be 11 or 12 trailers on the road at any one time. The amount of time
required for building the set in each venue depends on the scale of the show and size of the set. Large productions such as Peter Pan and The Three Musketeers require an extra day to build, so we would get into a venue at 8am on a Monday morning and the show will open on Wednesday evening. Shows that have smaller sets, such as Madame Butterfly and Romeo & Juliet, can open on the Tuesday. Each theatre is different in the size of stage and technical equipment they have and so every venue we visit has to be approached on an individual basis. Once a tour is over, the set from each production is unloaded into our warehouse and any repair work that needs to be done takes place before it is stored away. The sets might be in the warehouse for quite some time before they are revived and so it is important to keep them dry and safe.”
inside: friends events
Comedy, tragedy &
Photo: Brian Slater
Your pull-out-and-keep guide to NBT’s exciting Autumn / Winter Season 2007
Thurs 6 – Sat 15 September Leeds, West Yorkshire Playhouse Box Office: 0113 213 7700 Tues 13 – Sat 17 November Milton Keynes Theatre Box Office: 0870 060 6652 Tues 20 – Sat 24 November Woking, New Victoria Theatre Box Office: 0870 060 6645
Friends Events Sat 8 September Day at the Theatre West Yorkshire Playhouse
Thurs 11 – Sun 14 October Manchester, Palace Theatre WORLD PREMIÈRE Box Office: 0870 401 3000 Weds 17 – Sat 20 October Sheffield, Lyceum Theatre Box Office: 0114 249 6000 Tues 6 – Sat 10 November Canterbury, Marlowe Theatre Box Office: 01227 787 787 Tues 27 Nov – Sat 8 Dec* Leeds, Grand Theatre Box Office: 0870 122 2815 (*No performance Mon 3 December)
Thurs 27 Sept & Open Rehearsa West Park Centre
Weds 3 October Dancing with D West Park Centre
Thurs 11 October Dress Rehearsa Manchester,Pala
Sat 10 Novembe Day at the The Canterbury,Marlo
Photo: Brian Slater
y & beyond
Friends Events Thurs 27 Sept & Tues 2 Oct Open Rehearsals West Park Centre,Leeds Weds 3 October Dancing with David West Park Centre,Leeds
Fri 7 – Sun 9 Dec Mini Break (Weekend Package) Leeds Sat 8 December Company Class, Lunch and Creative Workshop Leeds,Grand Theatre
Tues 18 – Sat 22 September Nottingham, Theatre Royal Box Office: 0115 989 5555 Tues 23 – Sat 27 October Bradford, Alhambra Theatre Box Office: 01274 432 000
Friends Events Sat 27 October Class and Lunch Bradford,Alhambra Theatre
Thurs 11 October Dress Rehearsal Manchester,Palace Theatre Sat 10 November Day at the Theatre Canterbury,Marlowe Theatre
Please note, booking fees may apply
inside: the big interview
This season we bid a reluctant farewell to Principal Artist, Chiaki Nagao, who is retiring after a career with NBT spanning 16 years. Since joining the Company in March 1991, Chiaki has danced countless roles in numerous cities around the UK, as well as overseas. Her heartfelt performances have delighted and moved audiences and critics alike. We spoke to Chiaki about her remarkable career and her decision to retire.
floatlike a butterf The decision to retire has been a difficult one to make but Chiaki is glad that she has been able to pursue such a long career as a dancer, and she is looking forward to what will be a very different life for her.“I feel fulfilled as an artist, so in its own way, leaving is a positive thing for me,” she says,“And now that things are coming to a close and I have fewer performances ahead of me, I am enjoying feeling less pressure.” Although the demanding NBT tour schedule has become her normal way of life, pre-performance nerves are something she won’t miss.“I need to be fully ready, costume, make-up, everything, at least two hours before I am due to go on,” she says.“Then I can warm up slowly and build up to the performance with less sense of panic!” Chiaki’s introduction to ballet arose from physical necessity. Born with a hip joint dislocation, and having spent the first three years of her life in a harness, Chiaki’s doctor suggested that gymnastics or ballet lessons would help strengthen her body. At the tender age of three her mother signed her up for ballet classes, although Chiaki wasn’t immediately keen. Her loud teacher terrified her and she often left her class in tears, however, the same teacher’s more alluring practice of giving out sweets at the end of class enticed her back.“At first I just went back for the sweets, but then I started to really enjoy it.” Her love of dance grew throughout her childhood and she continued rigorous training. Having been told early on that she was the wrong physical shape for a ballet Main pic: Chiaki Nagao as Butterfly in Madame Butterfly. Photo: Linda Rich Top: Photo: Brian Slater
dancer she planned to become a ballet teacher and study in Tokyo. Her parents suggested she audition for schools in the UK or USA, which were more affordable than Japan and where she would have an opportunity to learn English. Chiaki followed their advice, securing a place at the Central School of Ballet in London where she trained under Artistic Director Christopher Gable. Life at Central was hard for Chiaki.“I was really homesick,” she says.“I just wanted to get back to Japan and start my career.” In the third year of their training the students were encouraged to audition for ballet companies, but still planning to teach, Chiaki didn’t see any point. However, Christopher Gable, then also Artistic Director of NBT, encouraged her to think again about a career as a dancer, and offered her a scholarship for a further year’s training at the school. Chiaki was delighted at the opportunity and grateful for the encouragement, so she gladly took up the offer. From then, things moved on apace. Towards the end of her third year at Central, Christopher asked Chiaki to replace an injured NBT dancer and Chiaki signed a oneyear contract with the Company. Chiaki’s life as a professional ballet dancer had begun and she approached it with the tremendous dedication she has shown throughout her career.“I am very focussed when it comes to ballet and I worked very hard during those first few months with NBT. I watched all the Principal Dancers’ rehearsals even though I was only in the corps, and I learned a lot from that.”
erfly â€œChiaki is one of the most gracious dancers you could ever hope to meet.She has no airs and graces and she is the first to offer help to the rest of the Company on and off stage. As well as being a great performer with NBT she is a truly dear friend to many of us and she leaves us with so many fond memories.â€? Darren Goldsmith, NBT Leading Soloist
inside: the big interview
Chiaki soon became a familiar face to NBT audiences, rising through the ranks to Principal Artist, and always feeling at home with the Company.“People at NBT are really nice and David and Yoko in particular have been very supportive of me, encouraging me to continue dancing much longer than I thought I would be able to. And the productions are always different too, always dramatic,” she says. Indeed, NBT’s unique style of dancetheatre has had its challenges for Chiaki, requiring her to develop her dramatic abilities and even her voice. However, she points out that these skills have given her more range and more confidence as a performer, skills she might not have had the opportunity to develop with another Company. There have been many highlights for Chiaki during her career with NBT, most
“...Her delicacy and emotional qualities enable her to portray a character who wins our hearts irrevocably.” (Madame Butterfly) Dance Europe
notably her nomination for Most Outstanding Contribution to Dance at the Laurence Olivier Awards in 2003 for her performance as Butterfly in David Nixon’s Madame Butterfly – a role she has cherished. Then in 2006, Chiaki found happiness in her personal life when she married NBT’s Deputy Stage Manager, Chun-Yen Chia. So what does the future hold? “I like to be active, I am not the kind of person who will sit around and do nothing,” she says.“I am looking forward to having time to do things like learning to use a computer and taking driving lessons. I love to cook, I might do a cookery course. One thing I will definitely be doing,” she continues,“is going to the theatre to watch NBT perform!” Chiaki will also rehearse members of NBT’s Yorkshire Young Dancers scheme who are performing in the The Nutcracker this season.
Chiaki believes that ballet has provided her with a rich and satisfying life.“I would definitely encourage my children to take up ballet, and I would love to teach ballet to young children.” One of the most touching aspects of being a dancer has been the wonderful response she has had from audiences, with people regularly writing and sending her cards of congratulations and thanks.“I have received such great support from NBT’s audiences over the years, it makes it so difficult to stop. I will miss it greatly but I have decided to leave NBT on a high, while I am still enjoying every aspect of life with the Company.” Chiaki will be greatly missed by her many friends and colleagues at NBT and we wish her the very best for a happy retirement. And next time, keep an eye out for her in the audience.
Chiaki’s final performance with NBT will be as Juliet in Romeo & Juliet, on Saturday 27 October 2007 at the Alhambra Theatre, Bradford, in an evening dedicated to celebrating her career.
above left: Chiaki Nagao as Butterfly in Madame Butterfly. Photo: HANSON above right: Chiaki Nagao as Juliet and Hironao Takahashi as Romeo in Romeo & Juliet. Photo: Merlin Hendy right: Chiaki Nagao as Butterfly in Madame Butterfly. Photo: HANSON
inside: the fundraising department
growing recognition In the past year Northern Ballet Theatre has scooped a number of awards and accolades that recognise our people, our work and our partnerships. Here we reflect further on these achievements and the people who help make them possible. Association (TMA) Management Awards. The awards celebrate the achievements and high standards of service attained by companies and individuals working in the performing arts industry. In 2006 Mark celebrated his tenth year as Chief Executive and in that time NBT has seen two changes in Artistic Director, created more than 20 new productions, and performed to more than a million people throughout the UK and overseas.
An award winning team – Director of the Year Readers of Dance Europe magazine voted Northern Ballet Theatre’s (NBT) Artistic Director David Nixon, Director of the Year 2006. David won the same award in 2003, making him the only Director to have won it twice.
Manager of the Year Mark Skipper, NBT Chief Executive was awarded the accolade of Manager of the Year at the 2006 Theatrical Management
A triple triumph for NBT In January NBT received the 2006 Audience Award at the Critics’ Circle National Dance Awards for the third successive time. The award, sponsored by ballet.co, was announced at a ceremony at Sadler’s Wells, London attended by a host of personalities from the world of dance. It is the only category in the National Dance Awards to be voted for entirely by the public, once again making NBT the nation’s favourite dance company. Mark Skipper who collected the award said:“We are thrilled and delighted, and we would like to thank everyone who voted for us.”
Leeds Metropolitan University and NBT celebrate success in Arts & Business Leeds Metropolitan University (Leeds Met) and NBT won the Prudential Arts & Business Employees Award at the 29th annual Arts & Business awards in March. 121 partnerships from across the UK were nominated, with 45 making the short-list for the nine different award categories.The partners were also short-listed for the British Council Arts & Business International Award, in recognition of the support of Leeds Met, which enabled NBT to tour to China for the first time in five years. In October 2006 Leeds Met and NBT were awarded the Arts, Business and Employees Award by Arts & Business Yorkshire. “The partnership allows us to gain positive associations with a unique, world-class company, which has a very wide appeal and reach.” Chris Bailey, Dean of the faculty of Arts & Society, Leeds Met
top: David Nixon in rehearsal with Martha Leebolt. Photo: Brian Slater bottom: Elspeth Jones, Mark Skipper and Chris Bailey in front of the Yorkshire Youth Brass Band. Photo: Leeds Met
inside: with learning & access
live and learn So far this year our Learning & Access department has delivered more than 40 school workshops, as well as bespoke projects with youth organisations and people with visual impairments and disabilities… and there are plenty of new and exciting projects on the way…
Ballet meets science: a formula for success “I remembered more when I was learning like this”. “I learnt that you need a lot of control in your body. Dance requires concentration and imagination, using creativity. It takes lots of work to get things organised and perfect.
Photo: Brian Slater
Pupils from Beckfoot School
You wouldn’t usually expect to see dancers pirouetting around a science lab and leaping over Bunsen Burners, but this summer NBT teamed up with Beckfoot School in Bradford for a project that used the creative arts to provide a new formula to approaching GCSE National Curriculum science. The project engaged pupils through an extraordinary combination of dance and science. As part of the partnership, NBT held dance taster sessions at the school, from which 20 Year 9 pupils took part in a weeklong residency with NBT Dance Education Officer Sophie Alder. The residency explored the formation of the earth, galaxies and the Big Bang theory through dance. Sophie worked with the pupils to create an original dance that they performed for family and friends at the school. A scientist from the Wellcome Trust, digital artist Carolyn Mendelsohn, and composer Richard Coatman also collaborated on the project. Later this year NBT, in partnership with Leeds Metropolitan University, will launch an interactive CD-Rom of the project. The resource for teachers and students of dance and science will include music and visuals from the residency and the pupils’ final performance. “The project had many successes and the final performance was well received by friends, family and staff at Beckfoot School. Most importantly it sparked an interest and enthusiasm in the students to learn, and they found the scientific concepts easier to understand as a result. Everyone involved put a great deal of hard work into the project which clearly paid off.The project has also generated a great deal of national interest from people working in the fields of dance and science.” Sophie Alder
Dance Dreams NBT has embarked on a new partnership project with Leeds-based arts organisation Pyramid of Arts, which encourages the integration of people with and without learning disabilities through the creative arts. Dance Dreams, led by Caroline Burn, NBT Dance Education Officer, will use movement and music to encourage individual and team development and creativity. “The project is a fantastic new partnership for NBT and a great way for us to build relationships with our local community in Leeds. Dance Dreams is really exciting because, not only will it provide an introduction to dance, but will encourage young people to express their creative ideas both individually and as part of a team.” Wieke Eringa, Director of Learning & Access
Young people dance to education and employment NBT, Phoenix Dance Theatre, the Northern School of Contemporary Dance and Yorkshire Dance teamed up to work together on Gallery 37 Plus, a national initiative for young people who are not in full-time education or employment. The four week project offered participants aged 16-19 an excellent foundation in hip-hop/ urban dance, contemporary dance and ballet. Participants took part in daily classes with dance artists Simon Kidd, Douglas Thorpe and Tiia Ourilla, and created a new dance work with Choreographer Sharon Watson. They also received a training grant and, on completion of the project, a Young People’s Art Award. NBT hopes to build on the success of the project with participants and partners in the future.
inside:the classical training department
another outstanding year In the last edition of Inside we introduced you to our Classical Training department. This time we look forward to another exciting year for our students and take a look back at some of the achievements from 2006-7.
Going from strength to strength At the beginning of the new term there are 120 students studying with Northern Ballet Theatre (NBT) on our Classical Training programmes. Auditions took place throughout June to search for talented dancers and, as a result, 12 new dancers have joined Yorkshire Young Dancers (YYD), and 30 new dancers have joined the Associate programme. There are four academic years of YYD running simultaneously, taking the department a step closer to the dream of creating a full-time NBT School. All our students receive expert training from NBT’s teaching faculty under the guidance and syllabus of Ballet Mistress,Yoko Ichino.
Fond farewells 300 students have studied with NBT since the Classical Training Associate programme began in January 1997. This year, three students have left NBT to study full-time at White Lodge, the Royal Ballet Lower School. 14 of our Senior Associate students have moved on to dance/ stage schools across the country, where they will undertake full-time vocational training with the aim of becoming professional dancers. These schools include: Central School of Ballet and English National Ballet School in London, Elmhurst School for Dance in Birmingham, and Northern Ballet School in Manchester. “I’ve really enjoyed my time at NBT and I’ll be really sad to leave. The programme has an emphasis on personal development and individual teaching, which is brilliant as no two dancers are the same. I hope the guidance and encouragement I’ve had from NBT will help me to achieve my dream of becoming a professional
dancer.” Jessica Clyde, ex-NBT Associate who is continuing her training full-time at Elmhurst School for Dance in Birmingham.
Carnegie Great Student Run In June, NBT staff and our students’ parents took part in the Carnegie Great Student Run, organised by NBT partners Leeds Metropolitan University.Team NBT raised more than £1,700 to support our Classical Training programmes.We would like to thank everyone who took part in and supported the event, and particularly to Yorkshire Bank who donated £250 through its charitable trust.
YYD end the year on a high YYD students from NBT and the Northern School of Contemporary Dance (NSCD) showcased their talents at a sell out end of year performance on 23 June at the Riley Theatre in Leeds. 74 students performed a range of dances and demonstrations, choreographed by NBT Artistic Director David Nixon, and freelance artists Hilary Stainsby, Catherine Bennett and Jonathan Poole from the NSCD. The evening was a huge success and the perfect way for the dancers to come together and celebrate another fantastic year. (see main photo)
Young dancers descend on NBT 70 aspiring dancers from across the UK took part in NBT’s annual intensive Summer School for young people who are already in or looking to start full time dance training.
inside is published biannually by Northern Ballet Theatre
These rising ballet stars are training on the YYD scheme and regularly take part in master classes to improve their classical, contemporary and Jazz dance techniques,and prepare them for a career in dance. below: Amy Flemming, Andrew Tomlinson and Devon Hartley.
Northern Ballet Theatre West Park Centre Spen Lane Leeds LS16 5BE Telephone +44 (0)113 274 5355 Fax +44 (0)113 274 5381 www.northernballettheatre.co.uk BOARD OF DIRECTORS Councillor Bernard Atha CBE (Chairman) Dr Jo Butterworth Graham Dewhirst Judith Donovan CBE David Forbes Jon Hammond Juliet Jowitt Professor Simon Lee ARTISTIC DIRECTOR David Nixon
Photo: Darren Goldsmith
CHIEF EXECUTIVE Mark Skipper MUSIC DIRECTOR John Pryce-Jones INSIDE EDITORIAL TEAM Laraine Penson Ruth Burke-Kennedy Catherine Mullaney Northern Ballet Theatre is a touring narrative dance company whose distinctive blend of classical dance and theatre is renowned for captivating new audiences. For up to 30 weeks of the year NBTâ€™s company of 40 dancers tour a combination of new work and acclaimed repertory pieces to all four UK countries and overseas.This extensive touring schedule demonstrates NBTâ€™s commitment to providing opportunities for all people to have access to excellence in dance performance and participation. Designed by Andrassy Design 01484 434844
Printed by Axis 01484 722 732 Supported by:
Charity No: 259140 VAT No: 146 6307 66 Company Registration No: 947096 Registered in England and Wales Company limited by guarantee and share capital Please note that information is correct at the time of publication but is subject to change.
Photo: Merlin Hendy