Interview with Northern Ballet Dancer Kiara Flavin

Northern Ballet is known for its lyrical and expressive narration of stories. Previously visiting the classic tales of Cinderella, A Christmas Carol and Romeo and Juliet, the company transforms Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights. Based on the central characters, Cathy and Heathcliff, the story is a wild and unruly romance. Opening 18 March at the Lyceum Theatre, Sheffield, the performance tours to Southampton, Milton Keynes, Canterbury and Bradford. We speak to dancer Kiara Flavin, who plays Young Cathy, about her physical interpretation of Brontë’s complex language.

A: Wuthering Heights is a classic book but not a classic ballet, how did you find transforming it into dance?
Wuthering Heights is one of my favourite novels. I read it for the first time last year knowing David Nixon had adapted it for ballet. I was curious to learn the story from Emily Brontë herself and I was gripped by her writing and vivid characters. I knew upon reading the book that it would translate very well to ballet. The transformation from written English language into dance vocabulary means bringing the characters from the pages into your heart and moving, acting and reacting as the characters would. Brontë’s characters have rich and distinctive relationships that can be interpreted through ballet with a conviction worthy of the classic novel.

A: The book is known for being rather wild and bleak, how did you express this in the performance?
Wildness through dance is expressed by a freedom of movement, a bold and fearless attack and a firm trust in yourself and your partner. The bleakness is expressed through multiple methods, particularly the set, lighting, costumes and music. The dancers themselves avoid sustained exuberance, but rather evince the violence, heartache, strife and turmoil that make the story so raw, real and poignant.

A: Can you tell me a little about the costumes audiences can expect to see?
The costumes for this ballet are faithful to the time period of the story, so the designs are based on fashions of the late 18th century. For the women, expect to see small waistlines emphasised by large skirts, and decadently elaborate fabrics, lace and hats, where applicable. The attire for the men consists of waistcoats with knee-length tails and cropped trousers – perhaps most notable is their long hair!

A: The piece is set to an original score by Claude-Michel Schönberg, how did you find working with the music?
Claude-Michel Schönberg’s score is a pleasure to dance to. It is exquisitely dramatic, lending ample atmosphere and inspiration. The music is robust, melodic and full of life and begs to be danced to. And, like all of Schönberg’s music, it plays in your head for hours and days afterwards.

A: Northern Ballet is known for its lyrical and expressive telling of stories, how do you find performing with the company
Performing with Northern Ballet is like living, breathing and feeling as if I am a different person. Story ballets require role-play, which means as soon as I pass through the wings I am no longer “Kiara”. I have to learn to be perhaps younger or older, or from another time period and carrying the unique emotions and relationships of my character. I find that full investment yields a thrilling catharsis, and hopefully for the audience as well.

Northern Ballet: Wuthering Heights, 18-21 March, Lyceum, Norfolk Street, Sheffield.

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1. Georgina May as Cathy, in David Nixon OBE’s Wuthering Heights, photo Merlin Hendy.