By Charly Ralph
As a patron of the National Youth Ballet since 1989, it has been revealed that Joanna Lumley will host a special Memorial Tribute Gala performance on Sunday 4 th September. Taking place at the iconic performing arts venue, Sadler’s Wells, the event will celebrate the company’s Founder and Artistic Director Jill Tookey who sadly passed away in March of this year.
Since meeting Jill at one the company’s beautiful performances at Sadler’s Wells, over twenty five years ago, Joanna has become an avid supporter of the National Youth Ballet and has subsequently narrated two of their ballets. The celebratory evening will see Joanna joined on stage by many returning alumni who have gone on to dance for leading performance companies, including Royal Ballet, Birmingham Royal Ballet, English National Ballet and Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures.
For more than three decades, Jill Tookey quietly became one of the industry’s most influential dance leaders, inspiring generations of young dancers and choreographers, many of whom have embarked upon successful professional careers since their training with the National Youth Ballet. In recognition of her services to dance, Jill was awarded a CBE in the 2016 New Year Honours, and in June this was presented at Buckingham Palace to her ten-year- old granddaughter, and 2016 NYB company member, Gabriella Rummery.
National Youth Ballet involves talented young dancers aged 8 to 18 in every aspect of creating a ballet, from the conception of an idea through to performance on stage at a professional level. The Company inspires children from all walks of life to become involved with dance through schools and community workshops. It utilises the skills of students in associated arts and encourages the talents of young designers, costumiers, musicians and student teachers in the preparation and production of all their work.
Through the Beyond Ballet platform, the Company also nurtures young choreographic talent, supporting young choreographers in devising and showcasing their own works at professional level. This year 120 dancers from across the country were offered places with the Company, and will perform in the 2016 season.
The innovative Beyond Ballet platform will also return, showcasing young choreographic talents presenting their own works. The Memorial Gala performance at Sadler’s Wells will also include new commissions and performances from returning alumni including choreographer Andrew McNicol, West End performer Lucinda Lawrence and Birmingham Royal Ballet first artist Ruth Brill.
The 2016 programme, which includes performances at the Hawth Theatre, Crawley on Friday 26 and Saturday 27 August, will also showcase highlights from National Youth Ballet’s 29-year history through some of Jill’s favourite commissions. These include The Old Man of Lochnagar, a ballet based on the children’s book by HRH The Prince of Wales, choreographed by Olivier Award winner and NYB alumnus Drew McOnie.