Northern Ballet’s Beauty and the Beast takes over Leeds Grand Theatre

Taking residence in Leeds Grand from the 6th to 9th of June is the Northern Ballet, performing David Nixon’s Beauty and the Beast.

I was lucky enough to experience this visual spectacle for myself and appreciate the refined, artistic skill and talent of the entire cast, both on stage and behind the scenes.

David Nixon CBE first brought this classic fairytale to life back in 2011, telling the story of the egotistical, conceited Prince Orion who was transformed into a wild Beast by the evil spirited fairy La Fée Magnifique.

Sarah Chun as Le Fee Magnifique

A kind hearted fairy, La Fée Luminaire tells the Beast that the spell can be broken if he can learn to love and be loved by another. Elsewhere, a rich family is stripped of their wealth and forced to survive in the wilderness. The father sets off in search of food and discovers a castle, where he is set upon by the Beast and is told he must give up one of his daughters to gain his freedom. The Father’s youngest child – Beauty – sacrifices herself and goes to live with the Beast. As their time together progresses, the Beast changes from his arrogant ways and begins to act with kindness towards Beauty, revealing his good nature to her.
After granting Beauty her freedom, she returns to express her love for the Beast, breaking his curse – and the two live happily ever after (classic fairytale).

Dominique Larose and Jonathan Hanks

While the storyline differed from the well-known Disney motion picture, the characterisation was still executed exceptionally. It would be a fault not to mention the two individuals the show is based around. Leading soloist Sarah Chun was able to embody the gentle and kind-hearted nature of Beauty, carrying this throughout her entire performance. Her movements were particularly elegant and legato, which created a vivid contrast from those of Antoni Cañellas Artigues. His performance as the Beast was highly emotive and captivating, portraying the character’s conflict with inner and outer beauty through expressive and passionate movements.

It is important to mention the ensemble and their compelling performances. Their collaboration and collective use of the stage space allowed them to enhance the storytelling. Their movements were both intricate and polished, with each individual dancer having their own part to play as well as performing as a collective.

Kevin Poeung

The costumes designed and worn were flawlessly suited to each character and their purpose within the show. The leading soloists’ hair and costume designs were appropriate to the nature of their characters and worked in harmony to amplify the performance. Beauty’s mute-toned, plain gown reflected the simple nature of the character, while the lightweight material of her dress moved in such a way as to enhance her elegant and graceful movements. This was not too dissimilar to that of the fairy La Fée Luminaire, whose draped gown was a regal gold colour that was heavily reflective of the stage lighting. This made her look almost angelic, reflecting her guardian angel-type character. This created a vivid contrast to La Fée Magnifique’s costume, which was a dark yet dramatic gown, accessorised with a striking headpiece which matched the colour scheme of the mysterious, eerie wilderness where she was commonly set through the story.

David Nixon CBE talks about his rationale behind the Beast’s costume design and likens it to the ‘wild animal’ nature of the character. Artigues’ back and abdomen were exposed while accessorised in scaley, hairy pads on his quadriceps, shins and shoulders. Additionally, there were green stripes running across his torso, creating visual symmetry between the Beast and the green toned Wilderness setting used throughout the show. Nixon’s creation of the costumes, along with the assistance of Julie Anderson in this current production, has successfully aided both character portrayal and storytelling.

I was very fortunate to have experienced this piece from the Northern Ballet, with the entire cast and crew putting on a visually captivating, engrossing and memorable performance.

Main image: Dancers of the Northern Ballet. Photography by Tristram Kenton.

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