BalletDanceFestive 16/17North East & YorkshireReview

Beauty & The Beast – The Grand, Leeds

Music: Saint-Saëns, Bizet, Debussy, Poulenc &Glazunov

Director/Choreographer: David Nixon

Reviewer: Dawn Smallwood

David Nixon’s Beauty &The Beast returns to Leeds this Christmas after its successful première back in 2011 and has so far visited four cities on its UK Tour.  Northern Ballet, a winner of the South Bank Sky Arts Dance Award in June this year, is renowned for its story telling in productions as much as its dancing.

This production, based on the original story, has been re-imagined with emphasis on staging and costumes.  This well-known story is about a handsome, but conceited, prince who turns into a beast as a punishment for his arrogance and bad manners.   There is a glimmer of hope, however, as the spell can be broken if he is able to truly love someone.  The story extends to Beauty and her wealthy family who fall on hard times and make a new home in the woods.  Subsequently, on her arrival at the castle, she and the Beast meet and a new intriguing friendship begins. 

This production is contemporary and dark and Duncan Hayler’s stark staging compliments and contrasts Tim Mitchell’s ingenious lighting.   The staging and lighting soften during the second act to reflect the growing fondness between Beauty and the Beast and there is added colour from Nixon’s creative costumes. The symbolism continues in the prop department, including a mirrored heart with a key hole, symbolic of love and hope.

The musical score, comprised of French and Russian classical composers, is arranged by John Longstaff and played live by Northern Ballet Sinfonia.  The classical music has been carefully selected for the dancers to interpret the story emotively and contextually.  The slower paced retelling offers the opportunity for the audience to interpret what this story personally means to them.  This French classic has brought numerous adaptations for stage and screen and this production beautifully draws out contrasting themes, including the question of an individual’s inner beauty.

The talented Northern Ballet Company convincingly interprets Beauty &The Beast with a combination of simple and intricate dancing.  There is a strong focus on storytelling through the dancers’ movements and Dreda Blow and Ashley Dixon work well in unison to advocate the growing relationship between Beauty and the Beast.  The finale sparkles and oozes happiness, just like a fairy tale happy ending.  Beauty &The Beast is an enjoyable eye-catching production and a lovely family treat over Christmas.

Runs until 7 January 2017 | Image: Contributed

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