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It’s 1984. But not as you remember it

The Space joined forces with Northern Ballet to create and capture a ballet that breaks the rules. Together we brought a new stage version of George Orwell’s 1984 to audiences everywhere - on TV and on demand.

Northern Ballet makes shows that are as much about great storytelling as they are about dance. With 1984, it set out to bring Orwell’s classic book to life and inspire a generation of story-lovers to love ballet, too.

Isaac Lee-Baker and Dreda Blow on stage in Jonathan Watkin's 1984Isaac Lee-Baker as Winston and Dreda Blow as Julia in Jonathan Watkin's 1984

The ballet tells the tale of Winston Smith, who lives in a world where breaking the rules is unthinkable and deadly. He spends his days rewriting history at the Ministry of Truth, where Big Brother watches every move he makes.

But then Winston meets Julia, and dares to rebel by falling in love.

Martha Leebolt on stage as Julia in 1984Martha Leebolt as Julia in 1984

The Space and Northern Ballet brought 1984 to audiences across the UK with a TV broadcast and online release. We filmed it at Manchester Palace Theatre in Autumn 2015,  showed it on BBC Four in February 2016, and then released it on iPlayer.

The show was created by Jonathan Watkins, with original music by Alex Baranowski, and stars Tobias Batley and Martha Leebolt. It was first performed in Leeds in September 2015.

The Stage called it “the ballet equivalent of a page turner” and it won the 2016 Award for 'Best Classical Choreography' at the National Dance Awards.

The full Northern Ballet cast in 1984Northern Ballet - 1984

You can read about the production and find out more over at BBC Arts, where Jonathan Watkins explains why 'It was great to create up North.'

In 2016, Northern Ballet picked up the dance award at the South Bank Sky Arts Awards for the production and this was followed in 2017 when choreographer Jonathan Watkins won the awards for Best Classical Choreography at the National Dance Awards.

Find out more about 1984 on BBC Arts

About this Artist

Northern Ballet is a dance company based in Leeds that tours across the UK. It specialises in theatrical dance that is as much about storytelling as classical ballet.

Choreographed by Jonathan Watkins, with score by Alex Baranowski, set and costume design by Simon Daw, lighting by Chris Davey, video design by Andrzej Goulding and dramatic adaptation by Ruth Little. For the BBC Four broadcast the production company were Riverside Studios with producer Janie Valentine and director Ross MacGibbon.

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