David Nixon to step down at Northern Ballet

David Mead

After twenty years in the role, Northern Ballet has announced that David Nixon is to step down as Artistic Director in December 2021.

The company’s longest-serving artistic director, Canadian-born Nixon took up the post in 2001. He has overseen a massive growth in Northern Ballet’s reputation, at home and overseas.

During his time with the company, 29 full-length ballets and 23 one-act works have been added to the repertoire. As choreographer and designer, David himself has created 13 original full-length ballets for Northern Ballet, including Wuthering Heights, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Great Gatsby and The Little Mermaid, and has restaged and adapted a further six productions.

David Nixon
Photo Simon Lawson

Supporting the work of young choreographers, David commissioned eight full-length works including first full-length commissions to talents such as Cathy Marston (A Tale of Two Cities, Jane Eyre, Victoria) and Kenneth Tindall (Casanova, Geisha). He has given Northern Ballet’s young dancers opportunities for their choreographic debuts with children’s ballets, mixed programmes and Choreographic Labs. Most recently he has supported Northern Ballet’s growing digital platform, under the directorship of Kenneth Tindall.

Multiple productions have been shown on television, and more recently in cinema (Dracula being the first Northern Ballet production to be live-streamed to the big screen), including several children’s ballets.

In 2020, just before the pandemic struck, Nixon devised a hugely successful gala that celebrated Northern Ballet’s 50th anniversary, in which senior dancers from all of the major UK ballet companies plus Chicago’s Joffrey Ballet performed works from the company’s repertoire, testament to the regard in which David is held in the ballet world.

Under David’s leadership, Northern Ballet moved from its dreadfully outdated premesis in West Park, Leeds, into its purpose-built headquarters in Quarry Hill in 2010. With seven dance studios, a 230-seat studio theatre and a health suite, the move enabled the Company to grow artistically and physically from 34 dancers to 44 and also furthered the development of the Academy of Northern Ballet.

Under David’s leadership with the assistance of Academy Associate Director Yoko Ichino, the Academy of Northern Ballet has also grown dramatically

In 2010, Nixon was awarded an OBE for services to dance.

David Nixon said, “The time afforded for reflection during the Covid-19 pandemic made it clear that the time for me to pass the Company on to new leadership had come. I wish to thank my dancers past and present, all those who work on the artistic side of the Company and all the creative collaborators I have had the privilege to work with over these years for their priceless contribution towards the Company’s many artistic achievements. I wish to thank the Board for the opportunity they have afforded me for over 20 years of directing Northern Ballet and I am grateful to all those who have worked for Northern Ballet, our supporters and audience members, without whose support nothing would have been possible. Finally, my deep gratitude for the extraordinary, never-failing support of my wife, without whom I could never have done any of this.”

He leaves a company in rare health, and will surely be a hard act to follow.