New Belfast ballet White Doves to hit the MAC

New Belfast ballet White Doves to hit the MAC

A new ballet is set to be performed at the MAC next week. Bringing audiences back to the summer of 1976, the new work brings together local and and international performers and creatives to tell the story of the Peace People.

The first new ballet created by local artists for a Belfast stage with Belfast at the centre of its story, White Doves is a collaboration between Moneymore choreographer Ruaidhrí Maguire and Donaghadee composer Amelia Clarkson. Gazing back on history to look towards the future, the new ballet tells the story of the first march for peace and the formation of the Peace People in 1976. A mesh of abstract and narrative storytelling, Maguire’s choreography weaves together moments from history with two White Doves enhanced further by Conan McIvor’s video design. Amelia Clarkson’s new two-act score is performed live by an ensemble of classical musicians under the baton of international conductor Jonathan Mann

Bringing together local and international talent, the production includes a cast of 26 local pre-professional dancers from across eight counties. They will perform side by side with two highly experienced professional ballet dancers. 

Portadown’s Leigh Alderson who trained at The Royal Ballet School joins the cast, bringing experience of a career spanning Canada, the UK, Ireland, Hungary and Germany to perform as one of the works title doves. Beginning his career at Scottish Ballet, Leigh has worked with several esteemed companies including Atlantic Ballet Theatre of Canada and Grands Ballets Canadiens, later joining Matthew Bourne’s company New Adventures to perform Swan Lake Most recently, Leigh worked for The Royal Ballet Fehervar before joining his current position as soloist in Ballett Theatre Nordhausen in Germany.

Leigh said, “At this point in my career, working on new choreography is one of the most exciting parts of being a dancer. Performing in White Doves brings both physical demands and the emotional aspects of dancing a work created about Northern Ireland. It’s an important moment for me to dance this home-grown story on a Belfast stage.” 

Ruaidhrí said, “Leigh paved the way for ballet dancers from Northern Ireland, especially for men and boys in dance. I founded Six Dance Collective to champion local artists and local stories, and what better way to prove ballet is a viable artform here than with a performer of Leigh’s calibre on stage.”

Dancing across from Alderson, Italian-Scots dancer Danila Marzilli completes Maguire’s pair of birds. A graduate of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and finalist of BBC Young Dancer 2019, Danila is currently with the Baltic Opera Ballet of Gdansk. White Doves will be Danila’s Northern Ireland debut. 

 I’m really delighted and grateful to be part of this new ballet.”

The performance marks Moneymore-born choreographer Ruaidhrís first chreographic performance in Northern Ireland. Currently working as the youngest male principal dancer at the Baltic Opera Ballet in Poland, Maguire founded Six Dance Collective to develop the future of ballet across the island whilst also giving aspiring performers access to high quality training. The pre-professional cast gain valuable first-hand experience of professional dance company life as they perform Maguire’s choreography, taking on roles including Peace People founders Mairead Corrigan, Betty Williams and Ciaran McKeown, and the wider Belfast community. 

The project is funded by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland’s National Lottery Small Grants Programme, PRS Foundation, the Vaughan Williams Foundation and Hinrichsen Foundation. 

Ruaidhrí said, “We are really grateful to our funders for bringing White Doves to life,
especially to the Arts Council of Northern Ireland who are facilitating Leigh Alderson and Danila Marzilli’s leading roles in the project. This support will bring these powerhouse dancers to our audiences here in Belfast and provide this training opportunity to our dancers of the future.” 

Caoileann Curry-Thompson, Arts Council of Northern Ireland’s Development Officer for Theatre and Dance said, “Thanks to funding for good causes raised by National Lottery players, the Arts Council is pleased to support this ground-breaking debut production from Six Dance Collective, a new contemporary ballet company led by artistic visionary, Ruaidhrí Maguire, in collaboration with gifted composer Amelia Clarkson. This compelling production, combining classical dance and abstract movement language with local social-political themes, will undoubtedly hold much appeal for audiences when it opens in August.”

White Doves runs for four performances at the MAC from 3-5 August 2023, with a Q&A on Friday 4 August with the creative team and principal dancers.

Tickets are available now at

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