wed 01/02/2023

Dance reviews, news & interviews

Julie Cunningham & Co, Sadler's Wells review - a fine piece of work, with added spice

Jenny Gilbert

At the arthouse end of contemporary dance no one expects a packed house, still less serial packed houses for more than a week. Yet Sadler’s Wells was fully confident when it invited the dancer-choreographer Jules Cunningham – one of its New Wave Associates – to premiere a new work on its main stage.

Swan Lake, English National Ballet, Coliseum review - the story of a deluded prince

Jenny Gilbert

So there’s this prince, see, and he’s not at all happy. For a start, he never got over losing a parent when he was a child. He’s at odds with the world, sick to death with royal protocol and convinced that no one understands him. Worse, having too much time on his hands, he suffers from delusions. Meet Prince Siegfried, who found his soulmate, and met his nemesis, on a moonlit night by a lake.

Best of 2022: Dance

Jenny Gilbert

Come the end of the year, the ritual glance over the shoulder, what we crave is celebration – this year of all years. "Look, we have come through!"...

Matthew Bourne's Sleeping Beauty, Sadler...

Jenny Gilbert

Matthew Bourne is not the first choreographer to tinker with the story of The Sleeping Beauty and he won't be the last, such is the lure of...

Ruination, Linbury Theatre review - Medea gets a...

Jenny Gilbert

At a time when every other theatre is offering an alternative Christmas show, what to make of the Royal Opera House’s first collaboration with Lost...

English National Ballet: Ek, Forsythe, Quagebeur review - two masters, two marvels

Jenny Gilbert

ENB shows its range in a devastating new Rite of Spring from Mats Ek, and pop heaven from William Forsythe

Birmingham Royal Ballet: Into the Music, Sadler's Wells review - a visual and aural feast

Jenny Gilbert

Beethoven rules the day in a fine mixed bill, and an overlooked choreographic master belatedly takes a bow

Light of Passage, Royal Ballet review - a new full-evening work by Crystal Pite is eloquent and moving

Jenny Gilbert

Proof, once again, that ballet has the muscle to tackle big topics

Mayerling, Royal Ballet review - a masterpiece of storytelling, darkly gripping

Jenny Gilbert

Kenneth MacMillan's royal-family-in-death-spiral dance drama reconfirms its potency

The Goldberg Variations, De Keersmaeker, Kolesnikov, Sadler's Wells review - keyboard harmony and atonal dance

David Nice

Two major artists collaborate, leaving some unanswered questions

theartsdesk at the Ravenna Festival 2022 - body and soul in perfect balance

David Nice

Completion of the city’s big Dante project with 'Paradiso' is only one of three wonders

The Rite of Spring, Pina Bausch/École des Sables, Sadler's Wells review - explosive and disturbing

Jenny Gilbert

At last, the pan-African production of Bausch's landmark choreography arrives on the London stage

The Car Man, Royal Albert Hall review - grand scale drama and decadence

Katie Colombus

An explosive restaging of the original dance drama

Like Water for Chocolate, Royal Ballet review - confusing and ill-conceived

Jenny Gilbert

Christopher Wheeldon's usual flair deserts him in his latest three-act story ballet

Carmen, Queen Elizabeth Hall review - a flawed but fascinating retread

Jenny Gilbert

Osipova mesmerises in a new contemporary dance chamber-version that doesn't quite hit its mark

Sacre, Circa Contemporary Circus, Brighton Festival review - an astonishing assortment of lifts and throws, daring and strength

Katie Colombus

Re-imagining 'The Rite of Spring' and re-defining the boundaries of circus

Classical CDs: Toyshops, begging gods and a good year for Austrian music

Graham Rickson

Classical piano music, French symphonies and a big box of ballets

Dance for Ukraine, London Coliseum, online review - a gala to remember

Jenny Gilbert

Swiftly-assembled charity effort demonstrates dancers' engagement with the world

The Weathering/Solo Echo/DGV, Royal Ballet review - the dancer as chameleon

Jenny Gilbert

Strong one-act works by Kyle Abraham and Crystal Pite show the dancers at their adaptive best

Swan Lake, Royal Ballet review - a magnificent revival

Jenny Gilbert

Liam Scarlett's production strikes a suitably mournful note on its second time out

The unexpurgated Clement Crisp - in memoriam

Ismene Brown

The titan of ballet critics, who has died at 95, once agreed to be grilled - with scorching results

La Mif review - Swiss docu-drama focuses on troubled teens

Saskia Baron

Ambitious but overly didactic portrait of a social work system struggling with emotional conflict

NDT2, Sadler's Wells review - a diverse triple bill

Katie Colombus

A joyful showcase of technical skill and choreographic range

Saturday Night Fever, Peacock Theatre review - crowd-pleaser stays true to its roots

Gary Naylor

Iconic film on stage heats up the West End

Acosta Danza, Sadler's Wells review - here comes the sun

Jenny Gilbert

The young Cuban company's third UK visit is a joy, and an education

Kontakthof, Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch review - struggling to make contact

Jenny Gilbert

Emotional connection is not guaranteed in this latest revival from the Pina back catalogue

Raymonda, English National Ballet, Coliseum review - a creaky old standard, lavishly restored to health

Jenny Gilbert

Tamara Rojo gives an ailing veteran a shot in the arm

Best of 2021: Dance

Jenny Gilbert

There was gold among the rubble in this wreck of a year for dance

Matthew Bourne's Nutcracker!, Sadler's Wells Theatre review - new candy, but the nuts are off

Ismene Brown

This is designer Anthony Ward’s Nutcracker! with multiple exclamation marks

Footnote: a brief history of dance in Britain

Britain's reputation as one of the world's great ballet nations has been swiftly won, as home-grown classical ballet started here only in the 1930s. Yet within 30 years the Royal Ballet was recognised as the equal of the greatest and oldest companies in France, Russia or Italy. Now the extraordinary range in British dance from classical ballet to contemporary dance-theatre, from experimental new choreography in small spaces to mass arena-ballet spectaculars, can't be matched in the US or Russia, where nothing like the Arts Council subsidy system exists to encourage new work.

Fonteyn_OndineWhile foreign stars have long been adored by British audiences, from Anna Pavlova and Rudolf Nureyev to Sylvie Guillem, the British ballet and dance movements were offspring of the movement towards a national subsidised theatre. This was first activated in the Thirties by Lilian Baylis and Ninette de Valois in a tie-up between the Old Vic and Sadler's Wells, and led to the founding of what became the Royal Ballet, English National Opera and the National Theatre. From 1926 Marie Rambert's Ballet Club operated out of the tiny Mercury Theatre, Notting Hill, a creative crucible producing early stars such as choreographer Frederick Ashton and ballerina Alicia Markova and which eventually grew into Ballet Rambert and today's Rambert Dance. From all these roots developed Sadlers Wells Theatre Ballet (now Birmingham Royal Ballet), London Festival Ballet (now English National Ballet), and Western Theatre Ballet which became Scottish Ballet.

Margot Fonteyn's dominance in the post-war ballet scene (pictured in Ashton's Ondine) and the granting of a Royal charter in 1956 to the Royal Ballet and its school brought the "English ballet" world renown, massively increased when Soviet star Rudolf Nureyev defected from the Kirov Ballet in 1961 and formed with Fonteyn the most iconic partnership in dance history.

The Sixties ballet boom was complemented by the introduction of American abstract modern dance to London, and a mushrooming of independent modern choreographers drawing on fashion and club music (Michael Clark), art and classical music (Richard Alston), movies (Matthew Bourne) and science (Wayne McGregor). Hip-hop, salsa and TV dance shows have recently given a dynamic new twist to contemporary dance. The Arts Desk offers the fastest overnight reviews and ticket booking links for last night's openings, as well as the most thoughtful close-up interviews with major creative figures and performers. Our critics include Ismene Brown, Judith Flanders, David Nice, Matt Wolf and James Woodall

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