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Preserving the Passion: Northern Ballet's 'Romeo & Juliet'

Northern Ballet’s hit production of ‘Romeo & Juliet’ has survived fire, flood and the changing fashions of more than three decades.

Ahead of the ballet’s much-anticipated revival in March 2024, this exhibition brings together drawings, props, costumes and photographs from the company’s archive to tell the eventful story of the making of a classic. 

Set to Prokofiev’s electrifying score, director Christopher Gable CBE and choreographer Massimo Moricone’s 1991 take on Shakespeare’s timeless tragedy became Northern Ballet’s greatest success. The Sunday Times hailed it as ‘Triumphant… swift-paced, full-blooded’, even ‘sexy’ – and rightly predicted it would be ‘a box office cert for years to come’. A slew of awards, an Olivier nomination and a Christmas Day screening on the BBC followed, and over the next 20 years it notched up more than 500 performances across the world.      

But, as Shakespeare said elsewhere, the course of true love never did run smooth. In 2001 arsonists destroyed Northern Ballet’s headquarters and much of its archive, including costumes from ‘Romeo & Juliet’, just three weeks before opening night. Then the catastrophic floods that struck Leeds on Boxing Day 2015 wrecked sets and costumes at the company’s stores. A recent public appeal has supported the recreation, repair and updating of Lez Brotherston OBE’s intricate period costumes and spectacular wooden set, ready for the long-awaited revival of the piece. 

The Northern Ballet Archive, donated to the University of Leeds in 2021, tells the 50-year story of the company from its foundation to the present. This exhibition documents the production, the evolution and sometimes the complete recreation of a cornerstone of the repertoire – and celebrates the return of this beloved work to the stage in the company’s home city of Leeds. 

Listen

In these excerpts from our forthcoming podcast, Northern Ballet’s current Artistic, Learning and Academy Associate Artist Pippa Moore MBE and Artistic Associate Daniel de Andrade take a break from leading rehearsals for the revival of ‘Romeo & Juliet’ to reflect on their experiences dancing the title roles in the ballet. The clips are available to activate via QR codes in the gallery.

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Northern Ballet’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’ returns to Leeds Grand Theatre between 8 – 16 March 2024. Find out more and book tickets here.

 

Image: William Walker and Jayne Regan as Romeo and Juliet © Anthony Crickmay / Northern Ballet

A black and white photograph of a topless male ballet dancer lifting a female dancer on his shoulders
A black and white photograph of a topless male ballet dancer lifting a female dancer on his shoulders
A black and white photograph of a topless male ballet dancer lifting a female dancer on his shoulders