Ballet fans south of the border will be flocking to the Theatre Royal this week for Scottish Ballet’s production of Hansel & Gretel.
It is a world premiere production and Christopher Hampson’s eagerly-awaited debut since becoming artistic director in August 2012, following the seemingly acrimonious departure of Ashley Page who had transformed the company over the previous decade.
A graduate of the Royal Ballet School, Hampson danced with English National Ballet before retiring as a performer in 1999. He went on to make a name for himself as a director and choreographer before taking the helm of the company based at Glasgow’s Tramway venue.
“He has demonstrated enormous energy and vision as well as a clear understanding about what it means to lead a national company,” explained chair of the board Zoe van Zwanenberg when announcing the appointment.
Hampson later told arts periodical The List that he had, when travelling the world as a freelance choreographer, enjoyed the privilege of being able to see UK dance from an outsider’s perspective.
Scottish Ballet had always had a unique voice on the dance scene, he said.
“It’s forward-thinking and seeks collaboration in its creative process and, because of the broad choreographic vocabulary used here, they’re a very dynamic group of dancers.”
He added: “I don’t think any company ever reaches its peak.
“There is always room for improvement and that’s what is wonderful here at Scottish Ballet – people are really up for the ride, for pushing through to the next level.”
Scottish Ballet were last at the Theatre Royal in 2012 with The Sleeping Beauty and before that with The Nutcracker in 2010, both directed by Page.
The company’s groundbreaking production of A Streetcar Named Desire, directed by Nancy Meckler, did not come to the North East in 2012.
If it was thought too daring to be a box office banker on Tyneside, that can hardly be said of Hansel & Gretel, yet another well-known fairytale though with the darkest of plots.
This first opportunity in the North East to see what Christopher Hampson brings to the party coincides with Scottish Ballet’s 40th anniversary.
Until 1974 the company was called Scottish Theatre Ballet and before that Western Theatre Ballet (having been formed by Peter Darrell and Elizabeth West in Bristol in 1957 before relocating north).
Hansel & Gretel is at the Theatre Royal from tomorrow until Saturday. Box office: 08448 112121.
Footnote: You can see Ashley Page’s new work, Subterrain, when Rambert dance company come to the Theatre Royal in March.