The Royal Ballet returns to Hull for the first time in 30 years on 16 September, to reopen Hull New Theatre following the venue’s £16 million transformation.
Curated by the company’s Hull-born director Kevin O’Hare the sold-out show, Opening The New, is a major highlight of this year’s events.
An unparalleled line-up includes Royal Ballet principal dancers Edward Watson, Thiago Soares, Steven McRae and Zenaida Yanowsky. They are being joined by Xander Parish, who was born in North Ferriby, first learned to dance in Hull and was the first British dancer to be employed by the Mariinsky Ballet in St Petersburg. Also performing are Xander’s sister Demelza Parish, a first artist of The Royal Ballet and fellow Hull-born dancer Joseph Caley, who was recently announced as joining English National Ballet from Birmingham Royal Ballet, where he began his career, rising through the ranks to principal.
The multi-million pound investment in Hull New Theatre is made up of £11 million from Hull City Council and £5 million funding from the Government via Arts Council England. It is part of the council’s £100 million capital investment programme designed to regenerate the city’s economy, securing lasting benefits for the people of Hull and the region.
The city is already reaping the rewards of our investment in our cultural venues and infrastructure.
Cllr Stephen Brady, Hull City Council
Almost two years on from its closure in January 2016, the newly extended and transformed theatre has received a total revamp, including: new state-of-the-art technical and backstage infrastructure; a significantly larger 27-metre fly tower; front-of-house enhancements; new, easily accessible entrance and foyer; lift access to all floors; a bigger, reconfigured seating layout including premium seats; new-look restaurant and bars; and additional, flexible spaces for businesses, community and social use.
It all means the theatre is now one of the most advanced in the country, ensuring that theatregoers will be able to see some of the best shows on offer and enjoy a significantly enhanced experience.
Leader of Hull City Council, Councillor Stephen Brady, said: “This is an incredibly exciting week for the city as Hull New Theatre, one of our key cultural venues, reopens. To have The Royal Ballet returning to Hull for the first time in three decades is a fantastic accolade and testament to the transformation the theatre has seen.
“The city is already reaping the rewards of our investment in our cultural venues and infrastructure, with record visitors to the newly refurbished Ferens Art Gallery and thousands enjoying the new city centre public realm. We hope to see this continue in the years ahead with Hull Venue opening next year and, in the longer term, our Yorkshire cruise terminal in the city centre.
“This investment will be a catalyst to ensuring the theatre is in the best possible position to cement its reputation as one of the best receiving theatres in the UK , ensuring we secure a lasting legacy from our year as UK City of Culture.”
The programme for Opening The New includes excerpts from Swan Lake and Romeo and Juliet and works by the internationally renowned choreographers Wayne McGregor and Christopher Wheeldon.
I’m so proud of my home city, a city that has produced so much dance talent over the years and continues to do so.
– Kevin O’Hare, The Royal Ballet
Kevin O’Hare, director of The Royal Ballet, said: “I’m thrilled to be bringing The Royal Ballet to Hull for this special gala. I’m so proud of my home city, a city that has produced so much dance talent over the years and continues to do so. Working with local dance schools too has been a rewarding experience and I can’t wait to see the Take Flight performance in Trinity Square.”
A sold-out live relay screening of Opening The New is also taking place in Queens Gardens, with up to 5,000 ticketholders attending the outdoor event organised by Hull 2017 with support from Hull Culture and Leisure, which runs the theatre on behalf of Hull City Council.
Councillor Terry Geraghty, chair of Hull Culture and Leisure said: “Following its £16 million revamp, Hull New Theatre is set to take centre stage as a world-class venue for the best awarding-winning productions of dance, drama, opera, West End musicals and more for generations to come. The support for this opening event has been incredible, with thousands of people looking forward to enjoying the performance at the theatre and the live screening in Queens Gardens.
“We also welcome the first of the theatre’s touring productions – the critically acclaimed National Theatre’s Jane Eyre – on Monday. The world premiere of John Godber’s new comedy, The Kings Of Hull, then follows as part of the theatre’s autumn season which also includes Northern Ballet’s The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas, hit West End show Joseph And The Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat and the Carole King musical, Beautiful.”
Earlier in the day, two free performances of Take Flight, a newly commissioned dance piece by The Royal Ballet and Hull 2017 is being presented in Trinity Square, with Hull Minster as a backdrop.
Based on Swan Lake, the new work by the company’s learning and participation team, choreographed by Rachel Attfield, is being performed by pupils from four local dance schools: the Lyn Wilson and Heather Shepherdson School of Dance (LWHS); McKeown Irish Dance Academy; Northern Academy of Performing Arts (NAPA); and Skelton Hooper School of Dance and Theatre. This performance is supported by Arts Council England’s Grants for the Arts programme.
Martin Green, director of Hull 2017, said: “We are thrilled to be welcoming The Royal Ballet for an extraordinary day of dance. Opening The New kicks off an exciting next chapter for Hull New Theatre and the city’s future as a centre for culture and creativity. With some of the world’s finest ballet stars taking part, several with roots in Hull, and 100 aspiring dancers from across the city also performing on the day, it underlines its reputation for this major artform.”