Geisha by Northern Ballet

In 2020 our friends from Northern Ballet celebrate 50 years of fantastic history, Fazendeiros. We want to take this opportunity to join them in these celebrations and wish them many more years of great success and excellent work as well as sharing with you a little bit of their most recent and fantastic production: Geisha.

Northern Ballet dancers in Geisha.
Northern Ballet dancers in Geisha. Image credit: Emma Kauldhar

This is a completely original ballet brought to you by Kenneth Tindall, Northern Ballet’s acclaimed creator of Casanova. Geisha is also set to a brand new score from award-winning composer Alexandra Hardwood, who has worked to put this powerful and beautiful piece together.

Hear Alexandra explain the creative process she followed and her inspirations to compose this sensational score.

About this unique production…

Geisha is a visually stunning ballet set in the 19th Century that tells us the remarkable true events of Okichi in her town Shimoda, where a statue still remembers her today. It’s a story about friendship and sisterhood, beauty and honour, and love and loss in the middle of a cultural collision with the arrival of the Americans and the opening of Japan to the Western world. As Okichi and her best friend’s lives are torn painfully apart, encounters from beyond the grave unleash an unexpected vengeance on their world. An act of true devotion offers the only chance for redemption.

We have interviewed Kenneth, the choreographer, who is also a former dancer, to find out more about his experience creating and developing this wonderful ballet.

Minju Kang as Okichi in Geisha.
Minju Kang as Okichi in Geisha. Image credit: Emma Kauldhar

Interview with the Choreographer of Geisha, Kenneth Tindall

HOW HARD WAS IT TO GO FROM DANCING TO CHOREOGRAPHING?

Strangely, I found it quite a natural process. Sometimes at the beginning, it was awkward giving direction to dancers I had worked alongside. However, I do enjoy the responsibility of leading. 

WHICH STAGE OF THE CREATIVE PROCESS – WHEN IT COMES TO A NEW PRODUCTION – DO YOU FIND THE MOST CHALLENGING?

I think writing/creating the scenario, as that is the foundation of the entire show. If it doesn’t work or isn’t clear narratively, then you run into troubles later on in the production. So there’s a lot of pressure on the scenario.

HOW DO YOU CHOOSE THE DANCERS TO MATCH THE CHARACTERS IN A PRODUCTION?

I cast all my Ballets from talent. The right human for the job purely based on raw talent. 

Dancers rehearsing for Geisha
Dancers rehearsing for Geisha. Image credit: Justin Slee

WHAT LED YOU TO CHOOSE GEISHA AS A TITLE FOR YOUR SECOND FULL-LENGTH BALLET?

We came up with the idea for an original ballet about geisha, which is based on true events. I lived and worked in Japan for a year and it’s a culture that I’ve always been fascinated with. The mystery behind the world of geisha is a fantastic prospect for a creative and really sparks the imagination.

DO YOU HAVE ANY RITUALS BEFORE YOU GO ON STAGE/BEFORE A PERFORMANCE PREMIERS?

I used to always have a power nap for at least 20 minutes whilst listening to music. 

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO YOU TO CREATE A NEW BALLET FOR NORTHERN BALLET’S 50th ANNIVERSARY YEAR?

It’s a little overwhelming. When I was asked to do Casanova, I was just so delighted to be given the opportunity but now I’m making a second full-length, I appreciate what an absolute privilege it is. When I look at where the Company is now and the dancers we have, it’s so humbling to think I’m being given the opportunity to work on this level. I’m just keeping my fingers crossed and praying ‘long may it continue’ because there are a lot of stories I want to tell, and I just hope that people will allow me to tell them.

In this video, you can appreciate Kenneth’s intense work with his team to make Geisha a reality.

Geisha is a truly special production. An absolute work of art made with dedication and respect for the real events and the Japanese culture.

See Lesley Downer, historian and expert in all things Japanese as she helped the creators bring this ballet to life.

Our work with Northern Ballet

Our partnership with Northern Ballet is something of which we are truly proud. It has allowed us to see into their day-to-day life, making us realise how much we have in common, as you can only work with real passion if you share the same values regardless of the industry. You can have a look at the four parts of our A Day in the Life of Northern Ballet’ on our blog.

Hannah Bateman as the Geisha Mother with Northern Ballet dancers in Geisha. Photo Emma Kauldhar
Hannah Bateman as the Geisha Mother with Northern Ballet dancers in Geisha. Photo Emma Kauldhar

Find out more about Northern Ballet and keep up to date with opportunities to see them perform in their 50th anniversary year by visiting their website.