Royal Ballet
in Hull

It has been 30 years since the Royal Ballet last performed in Hull. Now is a perfect time for the company to return to the city with which it has many ties

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During this year’s City of Culture celebrations Hull has been thrust into the limelight, with a string of events attracting thousands of visitors to the former Crap Town winner.

The city’s Hull New Theatre has been given a £16 million revamp as part of a bid to regenerate the local economy long after the City of Culture accolade has gone elsewhere, and the Royal Ballet is preparing a specially curated performance to officially reopen the venue.

Although the Royal Ballet has not performed in Hull for more than three decades, the company has a number of ties with the city. Its director, Kevin O’Hare, grew up in Hull, as did a number of its dancers, including Xander Parish, who was the first Briton to dance with the Mariinsky Ballet and dancers Demelza Parish and Elizabeth Harrod.

“It’s been fascinating to see a steady stream of dancers coming from Hull over the years,” says O’Hare. “I think what’s great is that the teachers in Hull are really committed and really want to teach youngsters properly and give them that inspiration. They train in a really professional way and I think that makes people see that they could turn dancing into a career. This performance is going to be a mixture of celebrating what the Royal Ballet is about but also the talent that has emerged from Hull.”

O’Hare has put together a special performance that combines excerpts from classical shows such as Swan Lake and Romeo and Juliet with contemporary dance. Opening the New will be performed for one night only in the theatre but, for those who missed out on tickets, the performance will be streamed live to up to 5,000 people in the nearby Queens Gardens.

“I think the Royal Ballet now has one of the widest ranges of repertoire in the world and I really wanted to show Hull what that is. In some people’s minds they immediately think of the classical, so I wanted to show the breadth of what we do, to include some of the fantastic young talent that is coming through the company, and then of course to see the stars as well.

“It’s showing the highlights from what the Royal Ballet is today, so there’s something of the classics, but then you also get the more contemporary work that we’re doing now by Wayne McGregor and Christopher Wheeldon. Then amongst all that we’ve got some local talent dancing.

“I’m thrilled that we’re doing a live screen the park so that people can come and watch the performance as it’s happening. I think it’s important that we can get as many people to see this as possible.”

Earlier in the day there will be two free performances of Take Flight, a newly commissioned dance piece by the Royal Ballet and Hull 2017, which will take place in Trinity Square in front of the recently designated Hull Minster.

“We’re doing some participation work with the community and that will be coming to fruition on the day, so there will be lots of pop-up little performances happening,” says O’Hare. “It really will feel like Hull is dancing.”

The Royal Ballet performs Opening the New at Hull New Theatre on 16 September

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