THE Great Gatsby first captured the attention of David Nixon when he read F Scott Fitzgerald’s novel at high school in Canada.
“It was the same year – 1974 – the movie with Robert Redford and Mia Farrow premièred and I fell in love with this mysterious man, his unrelenting passion and obsession with recapturing his one true love,” recalls Northern Ballet’s artistic director.
“Since becoming a choreographer, I have often wanted to revisit this book and am thrilled that with the help and imagination of Patricia Doyle I have finally created my telling in dance of this great American novel.”
In the year of Baz Luhrmann’s new screen version of The Great Gatsby, Nixon’s stylish new ballet opens on home soil at Leeds Grand Theatre on Saturday for a week’s run and later visits Hull New Theatre from April 3 to 6 on its spring tour.
Fitzgerald’s story captures the heady, indulgent days of New York’s Long Island during the glamorous 1920s, when Nick Carraway comes to know his infamous neighbour Jay Gatsby, a mysterious millionaire with a secret past and a penchant for lavish parties and beautiful women.
As the sparkling façade of Gatsby’s world begins to slip, Carraway comes to see the loneliness, obsession and tragedy that lies beneath.
“All this glamour and aspiration wraps itself around The Great Gatsby while corruption slithers in and out of the pages,” says David. “Yet it is the figure of Gatsby and his obsessive dream that holds me in its grip.
“He remains blind to reality and sees only the possibility of recapturing the past through whatever means available to him. Beyond the obstacles of class and even marriage he lives to hold his Daisy in his arms once more.”
The Twenties were a time when men and women were spared temporarily from the horrors of war, when they grabbed at freedom and liberation believing the American Dream was within their grasp, says David.
“It was the time for New York with skyscrapers, beautiful automobiles and the dawn of the modern world. But they didn’t have the slightest idea that the peace was unravelling in the shadows beneath their dancing feet and that the dream would remain forever elusive,” he adds.
Jérôme Kaplan has designed the sets with a concept that conjures an America as painted by Edward Hopper, while the music is by Sir Richard Rodney Bennett.
“It was with great sadness that we lost Sir Richard in December 2012, but I believe the breadth of this compilation of his work and the sheer imagination of the music will serve as a tribute to his artistry and craft,” says David.
• Tickets for Leeds performances from March 2 to 9 can be booked on 0844 848 2700 or leedsgrandtheatre.com; for Hull, 01482 300300.