Friday, 18 April 2014

Branding and Ballet - Licensing the Brand

In "Ballet as a Brand? How to bring More Money into Dance for Companies and Dancers" 13 March 2014 I argued that more could be done to raise funds and indeed dancers' incomes by harnessing the enormous goodwill enjoyed by companies, theatres and individual dancers. In "Protecting the Brand" 31 March 2014 I counselled companies, theatres and dancers to protect their goodwill by registering their names, logos or other signs as trade marks. In this article I discuss the legal instrument by which the goodwill is monetized. That is to say the licence.

Watch the Spelling
In the UK and most other English speaking countries the noun licence is spelt with a "c" and the very "to license" with an "s".  In the United States, however, both the noun and the verb are spelt with an "s". The distinction between the verb and the noun is a very convenient one but some people including, sadly, even a few lawyers find it confusing and get mixed up.

What is a Licence?
A licence is another word for permit or consent. A familiar example is a TV licence that allows us to watch television. Without such a licence it is unlawful to watch a live broadcast in the UK however it is transmitted. There are also licences that permit us to do something for which we would otherwise be sued like park a car on someone's land. The sort of licences that we are talking about are intellectual property ("IP") licences.

What is IP?
IP is the collective name for the bundle of rights that protect investment in intellectual assets. Intellectual assets are such things as books, goodwill, inventions, performances and software that have been made by creative or inventive people.  Examples of IP rights are patents for inventions, trade marks for the signs by which the public recognize a supplier or his or her products in the market place, copyright for literary and artistic works and rights in performances for the right to film, tape or broadcast an actor, dancer or musician's performance.

What is an IP Licence?
That is a licence to do an act such as sell a product or supply a service under a trade mark or film or broadcast a performance by a dancer that is restricted to the IP owner.  Without such a licence, such a person can be sued by the trade mark owner or dancer.  Licences can be oral or written and they can arise expressly or impliedly. However, most IP licences are in writing and drafted by specialist lawyers.

Types of Licence
Licences can be exclusive, non-exclusive or sole.

Exclusive licences are those in which an IP owner ("the licensor") transfers all his or her rights in the IP including the right to prevent others from exploiting the IP to the person to whom those rights are granted ("the licensee") with the result that the licensee can prevent anyone in the world including the licensor  from exercising those rights. Many agreements to make and sell goods bearing a company's name, logo or coat of arms in a specified location are exclusive licences.

Non-exclusive licences are those in which more than one licensee (and, of course, the licensor) can exercise the rights that are granted but only the licensor can prevent third parties from exercising the rights. Software is usually supplied to end-users under a non-exclusive licence known as a "EULA" (end user's licence agreement").

Sole licences are non-exclusive licences in which the licensor agrees to grant only one licence.

Licensing your IP
Before you enter negotiations for a licence it is a good idea to read the Intellectual Property Office ("IPO")'s booklet on Licensing IP in the IP Health Check series. The IPO has also published a Skeleton Licence or check list of the terms commonly found in licence agreements. The provisions to which you should give particular attention are as follows:

  • What exactly are you licensing and how is the licence to be exercised? For instance, is this to be a non-exclusive licence to print you logo or image on t-shirts and sell those t-shirts in the UK. Do you want your licensee to be able to make other products or export them? If so, how will that affect your agreements with licensees elsewhere? Also, are those foreign licensees allowed to export their goods here in competition with you or your British licensee?
  • Quality Control. You have put a lot of effort into building up a national and international reputation and you don't want it trashed or trivialized. Any goods bearing your name or logo must be made of good quality materials with high standards of workmanship and they must be packaged attractively. But how do you make sure that is done? And what are the consequences if it isn't?
  • Defending and Enforcing the IP? Which party is responsible for the legal fees if a third party infringed the IP or challenges its validity. Legal fees can mount quickly in litigation, particularly in the UK.
  • How are you to be paid? When? Where? In what currency? How can you be sure that the right amount is paid? Do you have the right to audit your licensee's accounts? What happens if he or she does not pay you on time?
  • What happens if your licensee under-performs? Do you have the right to appoint another licensee or even terminate the licence?
  • What happens if your licensee becomes insolvent? Do you really want to be dealing with a liquidator or the licensee's creditors?
  • There are bound to be disputes and differences but how are they to be resolved and under which legal system?
Professional Advice
On all those matters you will need professional advice not just from lawyers but also accountants and maybe patent or trade mark attorneys. The Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales has a searchable database of their member firms by geography and specialization. So, too, does the Law Society for solicitors, the Institute of Trade Mark Attorneys and the Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys. You can now access the Bar direct and you can consult the Intellectual Property Bar Association for a barrister specializing in IP. The corresponding association for solicitors is the Intellectual Property Lawyers Association.

Further Information
As I said in my previous article I am making this information available to the ballet world pro bono as a thank you for all the pleasure dancers, companies, theatres and schools have given me throughout my life.  I will answer any questions that anyone has by phone or email. My number is 020 7404 5252 and you can contact me through my contact form, twitter, Linkedin, G+. Facebook or Xing.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

My First Ballet: Coppélia

In staging the "My First Ballet" series English National Ballet and English National Ballet School had two objectives: to introduce children to ballet and to give students and young dancers stage experience. Each year they take a popular ballet and present its essentials with a spoken narrative. This year the company and school chose Coppélia and I took my former ward who is the nearest I have to a daughter together with her 3 year old son, Vladimir, to see it at the Peacock Theatre on 13 April 2014.

We three loved it though perhaps for different reasons. Vladimir pronounced it "awesome". When his mum asked him what he enjoyed most he replied "the jumping". His mum was happy that he was quiet and enthralled. When Dr Coppelius introduced himself as an inventor I launched on a forensic reverie.  Daniel Kraus who danced Dr Coppelius reminded me so much of the hopefuls who patronize my pro bono clinic or attend my Northern inventors' clubs Was putting Coppélia on show an enabling disclosure? I asked myself. From the law of patents my mind wandered to the criminal law. When Franz and his rowdy pals roughed up Dr Coppelius after their stag night and caused hum to drop his key I thought about the distinction between common assault and ABH.  As Swanilda's hen party ransacked he old boy's laboratory I thought of the law of trespass and conspiracy. And when Franz climbed up the ladder I was reminded of R v Collins [1973] QB 100.  "How about a ballet based on the facts in Collins?" I thought to myself. An amorous young man ascending a ladder to a young girl's bedroom clad only in socks.  My pupil master's wife who worked for the Courts Service was in court for the appeal.  She told me she was in stitches throughout the hearing and dropped books on the floor deliberately so that she hide her guffaws from the Lord Justices as she retrieved the reports  Surely Collins is a story screaming for a choreographer.

Why did these thoughts spring to mind? Perhaps it was because I had seen a trial of the marsupial variety in The Winter's Tale the night before (see "Royal Ballet 'The Winter's Tale'" 14 April 2014).  Whereas The Winter's Tale ran on and on and on this version of Coppélia was just the right length. The kids got the story and a proper taste of choreography as well as some excellent dancing.  Michelle Chaviano was a lovely Swanilda. A convincing actor as well as an attractive dancer, her indignation at the sight of Franz (Jordan Bautista) eyeing up the doll (Olivia Lindon) was palpable. All the dancers delighted us, particularly Sophia Elbishlawi, the youngest dancer, who was raised to shoulder height in the last scene and had such a winning smile for us at the end.

I had promised Vlad an ice cream subject to the condition that he would be good.  As he skipped along Long Acre to the gelateria I asked him whether he would like to dance like Franz.  "Oh yes" he replied.  At the very least English National Ballet and the English National Ballet have sparked a love of ballet in the boy. Maybe they have also inspired a dancer. 

Monday, 14 April 2014

Royal Ballet "The Winter's Tale"

"Pursued by a Bear"  Royal Ballet "A Winter's Tale" 12 April 2014

I expected so much of The Winter's Tale.  I had been looking forward to it for months. A new work by Christopher Wheeldon based on Shakespeare by a fine choreographer for our national company with a stellar cast. It should have blown me off my feet.  Well I quite liked the show but blown off my feet? I wasn't.

Perhaps my expectations were too high.  Had I thought about it more I would have concluded that Shakespeare is very difficult to set to ballet.  I can think of only two ballets based on Shakespeare that really work. One is Macmillan's Romeo and Juliet and the other is Cranko's Taming of the Shrew (see "Stuttgart Ballet's "Taming of the Shrew" - well worth the Wait"  25 Nov 2013). Northern Ballet's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" also works but only because Nixon has gutted the play and written his own plot based on a post war touring company's train journey to Edinburgh (see "Realizing Another Dream" 15 Sept 2013). Had I thought more about the topic I would have reminded myself that A Winter's Tale is one of Shakespeare's least performed and least read plays and that is for a reason.  It is best known for the stage direction for Antigonus: "Exit pursued by a bear."  A Winter's Tale is not one of Shakespeare's best works and it is very difficult to get into.

And so it was on Saturday with the ballet.  Now I have to say that I was not in the most receptive frame of mind when I entered the Royal Opera House. I had a horrible journey down to London and I had been working late throughout the previous night. I had skipped breakfast and had only a light lunch.  Consequently I was tired and hungry. Had I not paid a lot of money for my ticket I would have gone straight to bed. Moreover, the reason that I had to work through the night was that I had spent a couple of hours in Huddersfield town hall listening to the Choral's performing one of the most memorable concerts I have ever attended or am ever likely to attend.  It may be that anything after that concert was going to be an anticlimax.

I say all this because Act I left me quite cold. Well perhaps not quite cold because Edward Watson and Lauren Cuthbertson are always exciting and Bob Crawley's designs were impressive, especially the galleon in full sale. But the story was very heavy going and the accompanying music by Joby Talbot did not help.  The ballet is very long.  It starts at 19:30 and ends at 22:30 and the longest bit is Act I which lasts 49 minutes.

Act II is very different.  Set around a gnarled moss covered tree there is a festival with exuberant dancing accompanied by the most infectiously vibrant music.  Perdita danced by Sarah Lamb and Florizel by Stephen McRae fall in love.  They are spied on and discovered by Polixenes, king of Bohemia, who threatens to kill them but they set sail to Sicily with the king of Bohemia in hot pursuit.  Little details like the fact that Bohenia is landlocked don't seem to have bothered Shakespeare or even Wheeldon.   However there is such a thing as poetic licence and this is a case where it applies.  Nevertheless, this is is the best bit of the ballet and that is possibly because it is the part that owes least to Shakespeare.

The final Act like the first is set in Sicily with a chastened Leontes (Watson) visiting the graves of Hermione and their son.  The Act ends with his visiting a statue of Hermione who suddenly springs to life Don Juan style - oh brother - but she, her daughter Perfita and Loeontes reconcile in a most beautiful pas de trois which prompted the lady next to me to fish for a tissue and even I found moving.

So did this ballet live up to expectations? Well not exactly. But it was not bad.  I want to see it again but I want to take a break before I do.  It will be broadcast on HDTV to cinemas around the nation on 28 April.

Monday, 31 March 2014

Marco Spada Streamed From Moscow

Joseph Mazilier, choreographer of Marco Spada  Source Wikipedia

Pathé Live's HDTV transmissions from the New York Metropolitan Opera and the Bolshoi Theatre are the next best thing to a seat in the stalls and in some ways better because you gain insight into the production through interviews with the artists and the creative team. I wish I could say the same about the Royal Opera House Live Cinema Season but I can't. I was distinctly underwhelmed by the broadcasts of Don Quixote and Giselle and I preferred to watch The Chelmsford Ballet dance The Nutcracker on the night that The Sleeping Beauty was transmitted.

There are a number of reasons why Pathé Live's transmissions are better than the Royal Opera House's. The first is that they use their cameras more intelligently with shots of the full stage for much of the action with close ups only of the solos and pas de deux upon which spectators in the auditorium would wish to focus. Secondly, they employ a personable and knowledgeable presenter in Katerina Novikova, Darcey Bussell is a wonderful dancer and I admire her greatly but she is no presenter. Her quotation from Balanchine and interview with Sir Peter Wright when she introduced Giselle were distinctly laboured, Thirdly, Ms Novikova interviewed David Hallberg who danced the title role and the choreographer Pierre Lacotte. I love Lacotte's story of how Nureyev tore off a bit of the table cloth and promised to make himself for all the rehearsals if Lacotte would only give him the title role. Fourthly, Pathé Live dispenses with the live twitter feed of gushing but often ill-informed superlatives that I find distinctly irritating. Finally, I enjoyed the shots of the foyer during the interval, particularly of the little girl practising her turns oblivious of her international audience and the svelte young lady waving at the camera as she was making her call who was only too aware of it. I also liked the glimpse of the stage after the curtain fell when the cast clapped Hallberg and Evgenia Ovbraztsova and the two principals were peeked between the folds before taking a final bow.

So, Covent Garden, look and learn. This is how HDTV ought to be done.  There is nothing wrong with the dancing, choreography, music or designs in London. Bring the artists to the camera and tell us more about the production.  Let the audience feel as though it is actually in one of the greatest opera houses of the world.

Turning now to the production, Marco Spada or the Bandit's Daughter is not a new work. It was first performed at the Paris Opera in 1857 and was apparently very successful but it is not a work that is performed very often today. It was choreographed originally by Joseph Mazilier (who is perhaps better known for Paquita and Le Corsaire) to a score by Daniel-François-Esprit Auber.  The ballet was revived for the Rome opera house by the French choreographer Pierre Lacotte. Yesterday Lacotte recounted the story of how he and Nureyev were at a restaurant when the discussion turned to Lacotte's work. Nureyev asked Lacotte what he was doing and Lacotte replied that he was working on a new version of Marco Spada. Nureyev had not heard of the work and asked Lacotte for the story. After Lacotte told him the plot Nureyev exclaimed that that was the role for him and that he really wanted it. Lacotte protested that was impossible because Nureyev had engagements all over the world.  At that point wrote out and signed the pledge that I have mentioned above. I have been giving some thought as to whether the promise would have been enforceable and I think it would. At least in England and other common law countries.  After all the promise to cast Nureyev there and then would have been sufficient consideration. Not a bad scenario to give to first year law students.

Spada was danced by Hallberg who reminds me a little of Nureyev. He is a powerful young man and thrilling to watch. i have never seen him live on stage and I am going to make a point of seeing him whether in London, New York or Moscow. Ovbraztsova is delightful. Sweet and light but with considerable power and energy. She is someone else I really must see. Other major roles were danced by Olga Sminova (the Marchioness Sampietri), Semyon Chudin (Prince Frederici) and Igor Tsvirko (Count Pepinelli). In the first interval Ms Novikova asked Lacotte what were the biggest problems for the Russian dancers in adapting to one of the French classics and he replied speed, precision and detail. Well there was nothing loose or slow about any of yesterday's dancers from the corps upwards.

Unusually, Lacotte had designed the sets and costumes as well as the choreography. They were sumptuous and impressive. I left Wakefield Cineworld feeling that I had actually seen a ballet rather than a reflection of one. Maybe not the fillet steak upon which the lucky people in the Bolshoi feasted but definitely better than the high quality hamburger dished up at the Huddersfield Odeon in January.

Protecting the Brand

The United Kingdom Intellectual Property Office

In "Ballet as a Brand? How to bring More Money into Dance for Companies and Dancers" 13 March 2014 I argued that if dancers are adequately to be paid and companies and theatres properly to be funded they should learn from sport and indeed the other performing arts and tap the potentially enormous sums that could be released from harnessing their goodwill. In order to do that they need to protect that goodwill. The best way of doing that is by registering the names, logos and other signs under which they are recognized by their audiences as trade marks. As I said in my previous article I made a search of the UK Intellectual Property Office trade mark database and was surprised to find how few dancers or even ballet companies and theatres had taken that step.

What is a Trade Mark?
The UK Intellectual Property Office defines a trade mark as
"a sign which can distinguish your goods and services from those of your competitors ........... It can be for example words, logos or a combination of both."
It can be an actual name like "W H Smith", an invented name like "Microsoft" or indeed a logo such as the three red arrows against a black background in the shape of a triangle of the National Westminster Bank.  It can be just about anything that can be the recorded on paper or other medium. In ballet English National Ballet's white stripe against a red background and the words ENGLISH NATIONAL BALLET are good examples.

Protection of a Mark without Registration
You can have a trade mark whether you register it or not and there is a limited degree of legal protection for trade marks in the UK and many other countries under a doctrine that we call "passing off" and other countries "unfair competition" ("concurrence déloyale"). In England and Wales (and similarly in Scotland, Northern Ireland and most other English speaking countries) this doctrine has been developed by the judges in a series of decisions over many years. Essentially, it means that you cannot offer your goods or services under a name, logo or other sign that is the same as or similar to that of another trader. If you do, even inadvertently, that trader can sue you for an injunction (order by a judge to do or refrain from doing something upon threat of punishment if you disobey), damages (compensation) and other remedies. To win such an action the complainant must show that he or she is recognized in the market by his name or other sign, that you have misled his or her customers or potential customers by using a similar sign and that he or she has suffered as a result.

Trade Mark Registration
The trouble with passing off is that it takes a lot of time and costs a lot of money to prove those three things. Moreover the doctrine will not help a new or very small business that has not yet established itself in the market. To avoid those difficulties the UK and most other countries provide a service by which businesses can register their names, logos or other signs and the goods or services for which they use or intend to use those signs with a national or supra-national registry. The registry for the United Kingdom is part of the Intellectual Property Office in Newport (also the home town of Ballet Cymru) but businesses can if they so wish register their mark for the whole of the European Union at the Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market ("OHIM") in Spain. By registering a mark the registered you can prevent anyone else from using the same mark in relation to the same goods or services, the same or similar mark in relation to the same or similar goods or services where by reason of the similarity there is a likelihood of confusion including association with yourself. Registration avoids the need to prove reputation, misrepresentation and damage as is required for an action for passing off.

Why bother to register?
If you have a trade mark you have something to license. A registered trade mark is much more manageable, tangible and substantial than a right merely to sue for passing off. Registration makes it much easier to negotiate deals with major clothing, stationery, toys and games, food and drink and other manufacturers and distributors of those products and thus gain royalties on sales of branded products as a result of such deals. Registration also makes it easier to control the quality of such products because you can insert conditions on materials and workmanship into the contract. A trade mark registration will make it easier to prevent cyber-squatters from registering domain names that incorporate your mark under the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy or Nominet Dispute Resolution Service. If you do have to go to court to prevent others from supplying goods or services that incorporates your mark it is considerably easier and cheaper to do that if you have registered your mark.

What Sort of Sign can I register?
The first thing you need is a trade mark that is capable of registration. S.1 (1) of the Trade Marks Act 1994 defines a "trade mark" as
"any sign capable of being represented graphically which is capable of distinguishing goods or services of one undertaking from those of other undertakings."
Although this is a British statute it implements an EU directive which has to comply with a number of international agreements so there are broadly similar requirements at OHIM and in most other countries. The sign has to be capable of distinguishing your goods or services from those of others. Clearly you can't register "ballet" or "dance" simpliciter because those are activities that everyone in the dance world perform but you can usually register the name of a nation, town or other region for a ballet company associated with that town. Similarly there are some national emblems that you need permission to use. Her Majesty allows the Royal Ballet and Birmingham Royal Ballet to use the royal coat of arms but nobody else has that right.

Secondly, you can't register a trade mark that someone else already uses or is about to use for the same or similar goods or services. As there are many registered marks some of which you are unlikely to have heard of it is always a good idea to carry out a search of prior registrations and applications. You can do some of that work yourself but it is always better to commission a search by a specialist librarian or other professional.

As unregistered marks do not show up on a search it is also sensible to scour the internet and specialist magazines and publications to see whether anyone else is using the same or similar sign as an unregistered mark.

How to register your Mark
As there is a lot of help on the "Applying for a trade mark page" on the Intellectual Property Office website I won't go into too much detail here. You will find all the information you need on the articles linked to that page. There are a few extra points that I would stress. The first is that although there is nothing to prevent you from applying for a mark yourself and plenty of people do it is probably more cost effective and certainly safer to instruct a trade mark agent (also known as "trade mark attorneys"). They will carry out the necessary searches, draft the application in the correct way, deal with queries from the examiners and generally shepherd your application through to grant. They will charge only a few hundred pound extra for their services. Trade Mark agents (like patent agents) and regulated by the Intellectual Property Regulation Board ("IPReg") so if you have a problem with your agent IPReg will investigate it and if necessary correct it. If you do not know any agents you can find one through IPReg's "Find an attorney" page. Secondly, you must be sure that you will use the mark in respect of the goods or services for which you register it within 5 years or you could lose it. Thirdly, there are a lot of sharks who prey on unrepresented applicants demanding money for listing and other services that you don't need and often never get. Be on your guard. The Intellectual Property Office gives loads of warnings about those practices but it is amazing how many businesses fall for this trick.

How much does it cost?
It depends on how many goods or service you want to register, whether you use an agent, what extras you need and whether your application is opposed. Goods and services are grouped in classes and you can register your mark in any number of them. The basic cost for a UK mark is £170 which includes one class and £50 for each additional class. Agents usually charge a few hundred pounds for preparing and filing the application.  They would probably advise you to commission a search which will be another £100. If your application is opposed you will have to spend a lot of money on legal representation if you want to fight though you may get some of that back. Once you get your mark I would recommend your subscribing to a watch service which looks our for applications that are similar to your registration so you can challenge it in good time. Unless you have plenty of money I would also advise you to take out IP litigation insurance so that you can afford to take an infringer to court.

Further Information
I am making this information available to the ballet world pro bono as a thank you for all the pleasure dancers, companies, theatres and schools have given me throughout my life. I have offered to give a free half day seminar on IP relating to dance to Middlesex University which has a very successful dance programme in its performing arts department. I have already lectured on IP in the law school and I hold an IP clinic there once a month. If my offer is accepted I will ask for the University to admit dancers, administrators and others to the seminar free of charge. In the meantime I will answer any questions that anyone has by phone or email. My number is 020 7404 5252 and you can contact me through my contact form, twitter, Linkedin, G+. Facebook or Xing.

Sunday, 30 March 2014

The Guys of the Golden West

Enrico Caruso as Dick Johnson in The Girl of the Golden West  Source Wikipedia

We owe a lot to the West Country. Both Northern Ballet and Scottish Ballet trace their origins to Elizabeth West's Western Theatre Ballet in Bristol. Sadly there is no longer a resident professional ballet company in Bristol but that does not mean that there is no ballet in that city. One of the Golden Guys of the West is Dave Wilson who keeps the best ballet blog that I have come across so far (see "Fantastic New Blog: Dave Tries Ballet" 28 Sep5 2013).

Dave is a member of the the Bristol Russian Youth Ballet Company which danced Cinderella in Stockport last month (see "Good Show - Bristol Russians' Cinderella in Stockport" 19 Feb 2014). The company is dancing the same ballet again at The Playhouse in Weston Super Mare on 4 May 2014 at 16:00 with Elena Glurdjidze and Arionel Vargas as guest principals. I shall be in the audience again on that occasion and I shall review the performance for this blog. Glurdjidze is not only the company's guest artist she is also the Bristol Russian Ballet School's patron and she will take some of the school's master classes. The school is run, incidentally, by Chika Temma who trained with Glurdjidze at the Vaganova Academy in St Petersburg and Yury Denakov who trained at the Boshoi. All of those great dancers and teachers are Golden Guys.

Other Golden Guys are Duchy Ballet whose existence I discovered only yesterday. This evening and yesterday they were performing The Mousehole Cat & Other Ballets at The Hall for Cornwall in Truro. Roberta Marquez of the Royal Ballet appeared as a guest artist. According to the company's website Duchy Ballet was formed to celebrate the opening of The Hall for Cornwall with the aim was of establishing a youth ballet company for Cornwall providing the opportunity to train, rehearse and perform within a professional setting.  The company's choreographer is Terry Etheridge who was a guest choreographer of the Chelmsford Ballet Company some years ago and inspired and taught Andrew Potter who danced Drosselmeyer in that company's recent production of The Nutcracker (see "The Nutcracker as it really should be danced - No Gimmmicks but with Love and Joy" 20 March 2014). Potter acknowledged his debt to Etheridge on twetter this morning:
"Mr Etheridge, Found me, taught me and inspired me."
Having seen Potter's performance I congratulate Etheridge on a very good job. I really wish I could have been in Truro to support this production. I will be present at their next performance.

That brings me on to the last Golden Guy though of the North rather than the West. Chris Hinton-Lewis, who had the Herculean labour of trying to teach me last year, is running in the London Marathon on the 13 April 2014 to raise money for the Multiple Sclerosis Society. Please do sponsor him.

Friday, 28 March 2014

Northern Ballet's Cleopatra in Sheffield

There are some ballets that have to be seen more than once to be appreciated fully. David Nixon's Cleopatra is one of them. I saw it in The Grand in Leeds on 6 March 2014 and reviewed it in  "Cleopatra - Northern Ballet, The Grand, Leeds 6 March 2014" on the 7 March 2014. Although I was impressed I was not bowled over as I was by Cinderella on boxing day (see "Northern Ballet's Cinderella - a Triumph!" 27 Dec 2013) or by Birmingham Royal Ballet's Prince of the Pagodas earlier this year (see "Lear with a Happy Ending - Birmingham Royal Ballet's Prince of the Pagodas 30 Jan 2014" 31 Jan 2014). I wrote: "This is a ballet that has to be seen more than once and probably many times to be appreciated fully."

Well, yesterday I saw Cleopatra again and enjoyed it so much more. I don't know whether that was because I had seen the ballet quite recently and knew what to look for or whether it was because I was more comfortable in the Sheffield Lyceum than I had been in Leeds and could concentrate on the performance. 

The Lyceum is in my humble opinion the best large theatre in Yorkshire allowing plenty of leg room, a good view of the stage from just about every point in the auditorium, spacious bar areas, efficient and courteous staff, ample parking across the road and plenty of reasonably priced eateries within walking distance. So much better than The Grand in every way. Why Northern Ballet does not make more use of The Lyceum - indeed why it dies not appoint it as its flagship theatre - beats me. For much of the day I have been asking on twitter and BalletcoForum why there isn't more ballet in Sheffield (a city region of 1.9 million and within an hour's drive of several million more) and I have yet to receive a convincing answer. As a Mancunian exile living in "Summer Wine Country"  with no axe to grind in Yorkshire rivalries I'd say that as a city Sheffield knocks Leeds into a cocked hat; but as I sport the red rose in inter-Pennine rivalries what do I know.

Anyway returning to the show, it was interesting to compare last night's cast with those who appeared on the 6 March 2014. On that occasion I saw Martha Leebolt for whom the role of Cleopatra had been created. Last night it was Michela Paolacci who interpreted the role quite differently. Now Cleopatra is not a nice lady. She marries and then murders her brother in his bath and she despatches Mark Antony with a chilling sauté but, whereas Leebolt's Cleo was as hard as nails, I somehow warmed to Paolacci's. I could imagine her defence counsel's plea of mitigation - a single mum, coming from a dysfunctional home, a victim of circumstances - all that sort of thing. For me the highpoint of the ballet is the confrontation of the fair Octavia danced brilliantly by Pippa Moore with Cleopatra over Mark Antony (Ashley Dixon). Octavia represents everything Western and decent while Cleopatra is sultry, sexy and degenerate. Of the other roles, Jospeph Taylor (who has only been with the company for a couple of years) was a great Wadjet, Hironeo Takahashi a convincing Caesar and Matthew Topliss (another recent recruit) a suitably imperious Octavian.

The cast three weeks ago was the company's first team. Last night provided an opportunity for Northern Ballet's promising newcomers, but yesterday's show was not in any way second rate. All danced well and all deserve to be commended. Even though I now know the ballet quite well I should still like to see it again. Too bad it is not to be staged outside Yorkshire this year. I do hope the company revives it again soon.