Sad news about Jill Tookey CBE


A message from the trustees

You will be sad to hear that our Founder and Artistic Director, Jill Tookey, passed away on Good Friday after an extraordinarily brave battle against cancer. Her funeral took place on Thursday 7th April at St. Mary’s Church in Westerham and was attended by family, friends, patrons, trustees and many of the NYB family past and present. The ceremony was accompanied by some of Jill’s most-loved music, including some NYB favourites – the Pas de Deux from John Lanchbery’s TOAD, excerpts from Paul Reade’s Cinderella and a beautiful and moving live performance of Dark Lochnagar from NYB’s The Old Man of Lochnagar, choreographed by Nigel Hess, sung by Wendy Nieper and accompanied, on the harp, by Jane Lister. If you wish to make a donation, the family would appreciate a donation to research into the early diagnosis of pancreatic cancer via

Over the past thirty years Jill has been a wonderful inspiration to generations of young dancers and choreographers, many of whom have embarked upon successful professional careers. Her vision, to involve young people in the planning, staging and execution of ballet and musical theatre, was unique. The standards achieved by the National Youth Ballet were so high, thanks to her meticulous attention to detail, and her distinctive artistic flair. Many a production was enhanced by her beautiful set and costume designs to spectacular effect.

She worked tirelessly over the years to build a loyal team of professionals and volunteers around her so that the NYB’s season was like a family homecoming; so many return year after year. The support Jill has enjoyed resulted from her demands for high standards, passion for excellence but most of all for her constant sense of fun. She has kept up with many of the alumni, hugely enjoying their achievements over many years, and in turn they have supported the development of the Beyond Ballet programme.

Over recent years Jill has been thinking about her succession to ensure that her dream for the NYB continues. The trustees are working hard to ensure that the NYB will live on and flourish in the future.

Mikah Smillie – Artistic Director in Residence for 2016


Critically acclaimed ballet ‘1984’ to be screened on BBC FOUR…

Created by NYB Alumnus Jonathan Watkins for Northern Ballet, this adaptation of George Orwell’s masterpiece was first performed in September 2015 and will be screened on BBC FOUR on 28th February 2016 at 7.30pm before touring in the Spring.

Choreographed by Jonathan Watkins and set to an original score by Tony-nominated composer Alex Baranowski, 1984 is ‘the ballet equivalent of a page-turner’ (The Stage). It features the use of cutting-edge digital technology with video designs by Andrezej Goulding, to bring George Orwell’s dystopian vision to life. ‘1984’ was filmed at Manchester’s Palace Theatre, during the first leg of its World Première Tour in Autumn 2015. 

More information & tickets for the tour available at


The Nutcracker: Christmas Workshop

Photos from NYB’s Christmas Workshop 2015, based on the well known ballet, The Nutcracker. The workshop ran for dancers aged 8-15yrs for 3 days, culminating in a short performance on the final day.

All photos copyright to National Youth Ballet

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2015 Season Review: Kensington, Chelsea & Westminster Today

National Youth Ballet hosts Gala for its 28th Season

By Rosie Quigley – Kensington, Chelsea & Westminster Today
October 2015

Last month, the NYB (National Youth Ballet) gave a formidable performance at the Sadler’s Wells Theatre to celebrate its 28th season. Dancers from a range of ages took to the stage with perfect poise and panache as they moved through the plethora of changing scenes. These were directed and choreographed by some of the industry’s leading names.

The Gala showcased the work of emerging choreographers in the Beyond Ballet [platform]: Athena by Arielle Smith, Venn by Eleanor Marsh, and Trotters by Jamie Neale all premiered in this section. Taking inspiration from the famed GiselleAthena puts a much darker twist on the love story; the section is set in a gloomy underworld where two lovers fight for doomed love. An ensemble, led by Bryony Harrison, clad in horned headpieces and leather jackets performed as an unbroken, fiery unit – their movements were mesmerising to watch. One couldn’t help feel sorry for Chris Thomas, the male protagonist in the scene, who was being tracked around the set by the hostile pack.

In Four Seasons, dancers were challenged by the Vivaldi score but none the less manoeuvred with elegance; the only hiccup in the scene was when two dancers took a tumble, nevertheless handled so impeccably that it looked deliberate.

The NYB was joined onstage by the National Youth Jazz Orchestra for a riotous performance of Trotters in which dancers jived and strutted to rousing jazz. During a beautiful rendition of Tarantella small but mighty younger dancers showed their power, creating a wonderfully colourful display.

Wayne Sleep staged staged the show’s dazzling closing scene Cinderella in which Molly Rees, Cinderella, danced a stunning and heartfelt performance. The scene itself was spectacular, with all the magic and imagination of a fairy tale. At one point, tiny mice flooded the stage, using their tails as skipping ropes as a pumpkin gambled around them. Costumes were vibrant and complemented the fantasy of the set design. If this year’s NYB Gala is anything to go by, I look forward to the delights of 2016.


Dancing Times Review – 2015 Season

National Youth Ballet

Dancing Times, November 2015 Issue
Review by Laura Dodge

After a last minute change of venue and a two week delay (due to the discovery of asbestos at The Bloomsbury Theatre), the National Youth Ballet (NYB) gave a very enjoyable gala performance at Sadler’s Wells on September 13.

Under Jill Tookey’s direction, great importance was placed – as always – on works by emerging choreographers. Jo Meredith’s The Sighing commenced with a soldier voiceover reading out a letter to his lover, danced by Cloe Shuffleton. She was then lifted up by a camouflage-clad mass of bodies, such that she appeared to float – sylph-like in a long white dress – around the stage. Her serene stillness contrasted with the fluid and continuous movements of the rest of the cast, concluding as a letter was carried in a ripple through the performers and delivered into her hands as the lights went down.

Arielle Smith’s Athena took an alternative approach to Act II of Giselle using Adam’s traditional music but with horned and black leather jacket-wearing ‘Wilis’ aggressively confronting the ‘Albrecht’. With flat footed jumps and hunched backs they tormented the male lead (Chris Thomas), with only the Giselle-equivalent Bryony Harrison begging for his safety. A final contrastingly calm and tender duet between the leading pair brought Athena to a dramatic but tragic end.

NYB dancer Eleanor Marsh used simple  movements and patterns effectively in Venn, a contemporary piece inspired by Venn diagrams and her first professional commission. Jamie Neale’s pigs and wolves-themed Trotters had an unclear storyline but was performed excellently by company members with superb live onstage accompaniment from the National Youth Jazz Orchestra.

Set to Vivaldi’s music of the same name, Frank Freeman’s Four Seasons demonstrated the company’s classical ballet skills. Grace Swaby-Moore sparkled as Winter, showcasing her secure technique and truly effervescent personality. She also excelled alongside Kaine Ward in Drew McOnie’s brief but joyous contemporary duet, To You.

This year’s gala included Rock ‘n’ Roll, a delightful new piece created by Jenna Lee for three NYB alumni. To a compilation of 1950s music, James Streeter and Max Westwell fawned over Nancy Osbaldeston with playful skips and turned-in steps combined with huge lifts and seriously impressive lifts.

The gala finished with a pleasing performance of Wayne Sleep’s Cinderella. The large NYB cast worked well together to convey the narrative, from the simple movements of the young Mice and Pumpkin to the technically difficult solos. Ward stood out particularly as the multiple pirouetting Jester.




NYB returns to Sadler’s Wells!

Sadler's Wells Gala Eflyer

NYB are excited to announce that we will be returning to London’s Sadler’s Wells on Sunday 13th September for the 2015 Gala. Tickets are on sale NOW!



‘Trotters’ – Jamie Neale. Photograph & Copyright: Mikah Smillie, NYB

The 2015 cast has worked incredibly hard over the past 10 days at NYB’s Summer School. As well as NYB classics including Wayne Sleep’s Cinderella, this year’s performance season will include brand new works from established and emerging choreographers including Jo Meredith’s The Sighing (below), Jamie Neale’s Trotters – with National Youth Jazz Orchestra (above), and Arielle Smith’s dynamic and powerful Athena.

The Sighing

‘The Sighing’ – Jo Meredith. Photograph & Copyright: Mikah Smillie, NYB



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