mon 25/01/2021

Dance reviews, news & interviews

Best of 2020: Dance

Jenny Gilbert

Hard as it is to recall how it felt to sit elbow to elbow in a red plush seat, plenty of us did that during the first 10 weeks of 2020, with no heed at all to who might be breathing over us. I have since wondered what proportion of the dance sector had any inkling of the wrecking ball that was about to hit. None, to judge by the many weeks it took for dance companies and theatres to reinvent themselves online, and to start dredging their archives for decently recorded material.

The Nutcracker: an end-of-year obituary

Jenny Gilbert

If dance lovers have learnt anything in recent months it's to take nothing for granted. How could we ever have been so blasé about The Nutcracker, whose annual reappearance in multiple productions was as inevitable as crowds on Oxford Street?

The Seven Deadly Sins, Opera North online review...

Jenny Gilbert

Theatres are currently banned from moving scenery and props about on stage and you might expect this to present a major obstacle to a production of...

The Royal Ballet: Live, Within the Golden Hour...

Jenny Gilbert

Unfazed by yet another forced cancellation, the Royal Ballet has notched up a small triumph over the virus. When what was to have been a performance...

Birmingham Royal Ballet, Sadler's Wells...

Jenny Gilbert

It was a night of multiple firsts: the first live performance at Sadler's Wells in seven months (the place hasn’t been dark for so long since the War...

The Royal Ballet: Back on Stage review - fireworks in the Garden

Jenny Gilbert

At long last, our premier ballet company is back in action. And it's dynamite

Michael Clark: Cosmic Dancer, Barbican Art Gallery review - mould-breaker, ground-shaker

Jenny Gilbert

A crash course in the life and times of an iconoclast and muse

theartsdesk in Hamburg: Ghost Light - a ballet in the time of corona

Jenny Gilbert

How the city is showing the world a way through the live-performance impasse

'She was Paris': RIP Zizi Jeanmaire (1924-2020)

Ismene Brown

Ballet or cabaret, Zizi's passion was for performance - preferably with her husband

Dancing at Dusk: A Moment with Pina Bausch’s 'The Rite of Spring' review - an explosive African rite

Jenny Gilbert

Continents collide in a film documenting an inspired re-staging of a 20th-century masterpiece

'If they had been any closer my face would have misted up': filming 'Men at the Barre'

Richard Macer

The director Richard Macer had exclusive access to the male stars of the Royal Ballet. He describes what he discovered

The Thread, Sadler's Wells Digital Stage review - Greek folk and contemporary unite

Marianka Swain

Russell Maliphant breathes fresh life into Hellenic tradition

Palermo, Palermo review - free to view Pina

Genevieve Curtis

The Pina Bausch Foundation releases the first in a projected series of digital recordings

Rumpelstiltskin, Sadler's Wells Digital Stage review - spins an engaging yarn for young audiences

Marianka Swain

balletLORENT provides a sunnier take on the the Brothers Grimm

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

Jenny Gilbert

Amid tears and cheers, the company takes a final bow

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

Jenny Gilbert

Attempt to revive the spirit of Isadora Duncan is of academic interest, little more

Alina, Sadler's Wells review - I think therefore I dance

Jenny Gilbert

An unusual hybrid show gives a glimpse into the mind of a great ballerina

Message in a Bottle, Peacock Theatre review - a hiphop singalong

Jenny Gilbert

A show that brings streetdance and the songs of Sting to bear on the refugee crisis is far too jolly

The Cellist/Dances at a Gathering, Royal Ballet review - A grand love affair with a cello

Jenny Gilbert

The relationship between a great musician and her instrument, vividly imagined in dance

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

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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