tue 31/03/2020

Dance reviews, news & interviews

Richard Alston Dance Company, Final Edition, Sadler's Wells review - farewell and thank you, Sir Richard

Jenny Gilbert

Hard as it is to imagine the British dance landscape without Richard Alston, we’re going to have to get used to it.

Isadora Now, Barbican Theatre review - a little piece of history

Jenny Gilbert

Mention Isadora Duncan and the best response you’re likely to get is “Wasn’t she that dancer who died when her scarf got caught in the wheels of a Bugatti?” The closing scene of the 1968 biopic starring Vanessa Redgrave seems to have blotted out everything Duncan actually achieved.

Alina, Sadler's Wells review - I think...

Jenny Gilbert

It’s common to see the term “vanity project” applied to self-produced shows by ballet stars, but Alina – the first such London venture by Alina...

Message in a Bottle, Peacock Theatre review - a...

Jenny Gilbert

It’s hard enough to imagine hip hop set to the songs of Sting, but a hip hop show in which 27 songs by Sting laid end to end are made to tell a story...

The Cellist/Dances at a Gathering, Royal Ballet...

Jenny Gilbert

The cello is the stringed instrument most closely aligned to the human voice. It has a human shape, too, so in theory it was a short step for...

Bluebeard, Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch, Sadler's Wells review - bleak but ground-breaking

Jenny Gilbert

This 1977 take on Bartok's murderous opera was a watershed for European theatre

Michael Keegan-Dolan, MÁM, Sadler's Wells review - folk goes radical

Jenny Gilbert

Digging deeper into Irish tradition has yielded Michael Keegan-Dolan's most visionary work yet

'She was revolutionary': Tanztheater Wuppertal's new director on the legacy of Pina Bausch

Jenny Gilbert

Bettina Wagner-Bergelt talks violence and taped music in a monumental early masterpiece

English National Ballet 70th Anniversary Gala, Coliseum review - a fine celebration

Sue Gaisford

ENB raises a toast to its past and future in an evening of nostalgia and high style

Onegin, Royal Ballet review - vivid and intelligent dance drama

Nadine Meisner

The production may feel old-fashioned, but Cranko's graphic dance images still have power to startle

Resolution 2020, The Place review - new dance for a new decade

Jenny Gilbert

You take your chances with this annual bran tub of novice choreography

Le Corsaire, London Coliseum review - hugely entertaining

Jenny Gilbert

Don't mind the plot. ENB dance up a storm in this exuberant pirate caper

Best of 2019: Dance

Jenny Gilbert

In a year dominated by big names and big companies, delights were found off-piste

The Red Shoes, Sadler's Wells review - the ultimate stage movie

Jenny Gilbert

Matthew Bourne's love letter to the cinema returns, in even sharper focus

Radio & Juliet/Faun/McGregor + Mugler, London Coliseum review - a fashion faux pas

Jenny Gilbert

Wayne McGregor fails to shine in ill-advised bling fest

Svetlana Zakharova, Modanse, London Coliseum review - impeccably chic but soul-less

Jenny Gilbert

The Bolshoi star looks great but delivers zero emotion in new ballet about Coco Chanel

Coppélia, Royal Ballet review - a real charmer

Jenny Gilbert

Overdue revival of a sunny favourite

Acosta Danza, Sadler's Wells review - a dose of Cuban sun

Jenny Gilbert

Carlos Acosta's Cuban troupe are looking fine on their second time out

Natalia Osipova: Pure Dance, Sadler's Wells review - a great ballerina branches out, again

Jenny Gilbert

This off-piste excursion is no vanity project

Concerto/Enigma Variations/Raymonda Act III, Royal Ballet review - time to cheer the corps de ballet

Jenny Gilbert

Three revivals from the mid-Sixties allow the rank and file to shine

The deathless Alicia Alonso, in person

Ismene Brown

Remembering the woman who was Cuban ballet's legend and monster

Cross Currents/Monotones II/Everyone Keeps Me, Linbury Theatre review - the Royal Ballet finds the missing link

Jenny Gilbert

In exploring the road not taken, the Royal Ballet turns up treasures old and new

Dada Masilo's Giselle, Sadler's Wells review - bold, brutal, unforgiving

Jenny Gilbert

Startling cultural retread of the romantic ballet, set in a South African village

Manon, Royal Opera House review - splendid start to the season

Jenny Gilbert

MacMillan's 'dirty little diamond digger' proves her worth yet again

Redd, Barbican Theatre review - hip hop gets the blues

Jenny Gilbert

Boy Blue explore the black dog in a brave piece of dance theatre

Alvin Ailey, Programme C review - black, beautiful, brilliant

Jenny Gilbert

America's No.1 rounds off its triumphant visit with a diddly-doo-wop

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre, Sadler's Wells review - Still more Revelations

Jenny Gilbert

America's favourite dance ticket shows us how it's done

Matthew Bourne's Romeo and Juliet, Sadler's Wells review - heart-stopping drama

Hanna Weibye

The plot isn't perfect, but this bad romance still packs a punch

The Bright Stream, Bolshoi Ballet review - a gem of a comedy

Hanna Weibye

Ratmansky and Shostakovich offer up old-fashioned fun with an undercurrent of sweetness

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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