BOTH fairy tales and ballet may seem like traditional art forms of storytelling, but David Nixon, Artistic Director of Northern Ballet, has given the two a thoroughly modern make-over for the whole family to enjoy in his latest staging of Beauty and the Beast.
David describes his staging as: "A great production with wonderful visuals to it. The costumes and sets come together with the music, which is based on French composers such as Bizet and Poulenc."
This classic story of love and prejudice has been re-interpreted so many times, and is now often associated with the 1991 Disney cartoon, so it was important to David to make his staging stand out from the rest.
He said: "This story is nothing to do with the Disney version. Disney often strays from the original story, so this is going back to the traditional fairy tale but keeping the visuals modern.
"I didn’t want to set it in any one particular period, especially as I wanted to make it accessible to children, and they need a visual point of reference. Most children these days won’t be familiar with the Victorian period, so I wanted to take inspiration from today."
David, who was awarded an OBE in 2010 for his services to dance, has likened Beauty and the Beast to today’s television shows, like Made in Chelsea, where he said everything is based on appearance and how people look.
He said that the opening scenes showing how the Prince became a beast really carry the message of ‘don’t judge people on their appearances’. With David being in charge of direction, choreography and costume design, he had a very hands-on approach to the production and a specific vision to make ballet accessible for today’s audience.
"The music is compiled of pieces people will recognise, such as The Dance Macbre and Clair de Lune, which of course people these days will recognise from Twilight."
Twilight has become something of the modern-day equivalent to Beauty and the Beast, with a beautiful but ordinary girl falling for a flawed, mythical character.
David is hoping the success and popularity of such fantasy films today are going to help draw more people in to see Northern Ballet’s production, which contains a more current and fashionable interpretation of mythical creatures.
"Fairies are always depicted wearing tutus with wings on their backs, so I wanted to create some contemporary fairies," said David, referring to the punk-like fairies who sport Mohawks in his production.
He said: "Shows like Dr Who and Twilight are good at revamping the traditional. Vampires today are very different from a few years ago, when they would be wearing fangs and a cape. But now they’re the coolest thing around. I wanted to give the magical creatures in Beauty in the Beast a make-over too."
He describes the Beast’s costume as having more of a reptile feel to it, which is reflected in his dancing and movements, as he moves and responds in the way an animal would.
"The Beast’s costume still shows a lot of his body as it is important in dance to see the body’s movement," he said.
This is not the first time David has revamped traditional ballets. His past work with Northern Ballet includes A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Three Musketeers, which were both nominated for the prestigious Olivier Award, as well as ballet-favourites, Swan Lake and The Nutcracker.
The Northern Ballet is at the Aylesbury Waterside Theatre from November 13-17 at 7.30pm with Thursday and Saturday matinees at 2.30pm. Tickets range from £13-£29 from www.atgtickets.com/aylesbury or call 0844 8717607.