This ballet was one of the best artistic events in Harrogate in last 25 years

Ballet in the Gallery event - Matthew Koon and Filippo Di Vilio performing in Mariana Rodrigues' Basket People. (Picture by Lauren Godfrey)
Ballet in the Gallery event - Matthew Koon and Filippo Di Vilio performing in Mariana Rodrigues' Basket People. (Picture by Lauren Godfrey)
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Review: Almost straight off a long-haul flight from a sold-out overseas tour of China with their production of The Great Gatsby, performers from one of the UK’s leading dance companies put on an exclusive show in Harrogate’s Mercer Gallery which turned out to be as thrilling as it was ground-breaking.

For two nights only, dancers from Northern Ballet performed their own newly-choreographed routines inspired by paintings which feature in celebrated Yorkshire artist Tom Wood’s current exhibition at Mercer Art Gallery.

Such was ticket demand, a third show had to be added.

Owned by Harrogate Borough Council, the opening night audience walked in to find the gallery’s magnificent main hall in these elegant former Promenade Rooms had been stripped completely bare for the performances.

All was white and silent except for the small seated crowd, backing music by the likes of Phillip Glass, Gorillaz and Chopin and the dancers themselves.

Beforehand Leeds-based Northern Ballet’s artistic director David Nixon OBE had explained how pleased he was that his charges, some of them future stars, others more experienced had been so inventive in their interpretations of Tom Wood’s art and the way he works.

Like the world’s greatest taster menu, Ballet in the Gallery provided bite-sized morsels of impressive dancing. Some of these brand new pieces of quick-fire choreography featured two performers, others as many as four.

All were short and sweet, clocking in at under five minutes. All were different in approach and style.

The choreographers themselves included Mariana Rodrigues, Sean Bates, Gavin McCraig, Tobias Batley, Mlindi Kulashe and Nicola Gervasi. Their pieces ranged from the exciting to the exquisite, the complex to the simple but all shared one thing - inventiveness and stunning technique.

The depth and breadth of talent on show from start to finish affected everyone privileged enough to be there in the audience.

Mercer Art Gallery curator Jane Sellars said afterwards: “It was absolutely wonderful both nights. I thought it was totally moving and exciting in every way, It was one of the best things the Mercer Gallery has ever done.”

The artist himself, Tom Wood, visibly moved, told me the hold thing had been very impressive, indeed.

I, personally, thought Ballet in the Gallery was one of the best artistic events Harrogate has seen in the last 25 years.

Earlier, Northern Ballet’s David Nixon OBE told the intimate crowd he had fallen in love with the Mercer Gallery’s space as soon as he saw it.

That must partly explain, at least, why the renowned company had agreed to undertake their first-ever collaboration with an art gallery - and that gallery was in Harrogate.