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Invitation To The Ballet

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Widespread publicity last year confirmed, as I blogged several times, that the Royal Opera House had expressed a keen desire to set up a permanent residence in Manchester with the Palace Theatre as its preferred venue. For the time being at least all seems to have gone quiet on those plans. However, despite this apparent preference for grand old Palace another partnership has been quietly forming between the Royal Opera House and another northwest venue, the Lowry.

Over the last year or so ROH2, the contemporary arm of the Royal Opera House, has made several visits to the Lowry with their slightly off beat but hugely fun productions of Into the Woods, Pinocchio and this week, Pleasure’s Progress.

In an exciting development the Royal Opera House and the Lowry have now forged an official partnership that was sealed this week with the opening of a major new exhibition at the Lowry charting the story of the Royal Ballet from its humble beginnings to the present day along with offering a detailed insight into the life of its founder Ninnette de Valois.
Biased I am not, but I can genuinely say that the exhibition is excellent and well worth an hour or so to view. There is so much to see. Old opera programmes, video clips, posters, photographs, old scores and models of sets are amongst the many fascinating exhibits that feature along side reams of detailed information about the history of the company and key people associated with it.
There is a recreation of legendary dancer Margot Fonteyn’s dressing room, but the chief exhibits and the ones I found most interesting are the many costumes on display dating from the present day to the 1940’s. It’s somewhat strange to see how costumes styles for traditional ballet have barely altered over the years. A Swan Lake tutu designed in the 1940’s looks barely any different from today's. However, the effort that has been made to preserve these costumes over the years must be immense, but worth it as it’s thoroughly pleasing to be able to view all these sumptuous outfits close up.

It’s no surprise that the exhibition references L S Lowry who was, apparently, a ballet lover, but the tenuous linking of several of his paintings to ballet does seem a little strained especially to someone, such as me, who deeply dislikes Lowry paintings!  However, for those fans of Lowry’s work there are some previously unseen Lowry sketches on display that may be of some interest.

I took my mother along to the exhibition and both she and I were fascinated. Running from now until March 2011 the exhibition is an absolute must for ballet lovers, and entrance is free. Woo hoo!

For more details on Invitation To The Ballet, visit the Lowry website.

- Malcolm Wallace

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