Northern Ballet rehearses Ondine

Last week I was invited to a “try before you buy” preview of Leeds-based Northern Ballet‘s September show, Ondine.

This is a new initiative designed to give a taster of a forthcoming performance and engage new audiences, especially with less traditional ballets.

For just a fiver you get to watch nearly an hour of the dancers in late-stage rehearsals while sipping a glass of wine, Pimms, juice or beer. You can also chat with the dancers afterwards and there is a voucher for £5 off a ticket for the show.

To begin with, ballet master Daniel de Andrade introduced us to Ondine, a story about a doomed romance between a water nymph and a nobleman inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid. He said Ondine mixes classical and contemporary choreography and plays on our relationship with the sea: we’re transfixed by its beauty but scared by its power and what lurks beneath the waves.

Then Daniel introduced a few sequences from throughout the ballet, which varied in style and mood, so you felt like you had a good idea about the production as a whole. A bit like watching a film on fast forward and just pressing play at the best bits.

Tweeting during the rehearsal is allowed and encouraged but I didn’t see anyone doing it and it’s hardly surprising: the dancers are mesmerising. So elegant, graceful and delicate, yet so strong that they can jump high enough in the air to clear their own height, then land light as a feather.

Speaking to Daniel afterwards, it’s clear Northern Ballet think the “try before you buy” idea has been a success ~ both for the audience and the company ~ and are likely to repeat it, even for the more well known ballets.

Another plus is that you get to see inside Northern Ballet’s striking new {ish} home in Quarry Hill, where they moved in 2010 after 12 years in a former secondary school. I was lucky enough to be given a tour, including the upper deck with its panoramic views, extensive costume department and dancers relaxing in corridors, draped comfortably in positions that would be contortion to you and me. I felt more than a little like I was walking through the set of Fame.

Still, you will see the grand atrium, balconies and glass stairways ~ enough to appreciate that right on your doorstep is the largest dance centre outside London and one of the greatest companies in the world.

Need to know: Ondine is at West Yorkshire Playhouse 8-15 September and tickets are £20-30. The last ‘try before you buy’ is Thursday 30 August. I went to an evening session {5.40-6.30pm} but there are also sessions 1.10-1.50pm, which include a packed lunch.

The following publicity photos for Ondine were taken by Jason Tozer.

 

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