thu 05/08/2021

Dance reviews, news & interviews

Beauty Mixed Programme, Royal Ballet review - no dancers? No problem

Jenny Gilbert

Crisis-management has always been part of a choreographer’s skillset, but staging a new ballet with two large alternating casts has rarely been fraught with so much risk. It was one hell of a week for Valentino Zucchetti, first soloist at the Royal Ballet and creator of Anemoi, the 20-minute work that opens the final programme in the company’s 90th birthday season.

theartsdesk Q&A: choreographer Christopher Scott

Jenny Gilbert

Having won recognition for his streetdance routines on American TV’s So You Think You Can Dance, choreographer Christopher Scott was asked to help bring Lin-Manuel Miranda’s pre-Hamilton stage hit to the big screen. In The Heights was shot entirely on location on the streets of Washingt

Solstice, English National Ballet, RFH review - a...

Jenny Gilbert

“A tonic to the nation”. That was the hoped-for effect of the Festival of Britain in 1951, and its concrete legacy was the Royal Festival Hall....

British Ballet Charity Gala, Royal Albert Hall...

Jenny Gilbert

The Royal Albert Hall – 150 years old this year and with a commemorative £5 coin to prove it – is a great  space for many kinds of spectacle but...

Balanchine and Robbins, The Royal Ballet review...

Jenny Gilbert

People often ask why it is that in ballet there are different casts on different nights, a practice alien to opera, musicals and theatre. The most...

Dark Days, Luminous Nights, Manchester Collective, The White Hotel, Salford review - a sense of Hades

Robert Beale

Musicians and artists find out where the bodies are buried

Bergen International Festival, 26 May - 9 June preview - Norway meets America


The largest curated festival for music and performing arts in the Nordic region. Around 30 digital events to watch from anywhere around the world.

The Royal Ballet: 21st-Century Choreographers review - dancers rise to fresh challenges

Jenny Gilbert

As Covent Garden opens up, the ballet company sets its face in a new direction

Reunion: An Evening with English National Ballet review - back on stage and fabulous

Jenny Gilbert

ENB releases all that pent-up energy in its first live showing in 17 months

New York City Ballet 2021 Spring Gala online review - Balanchine and Robbins shine in a dark theatre

Jenny Gilbert

Dancers return to the Lincoln Center in Sofia Coppola's quietly moving short film

The Royal Ballet - variations on a comeback

Jenny Gilbert

How one major ballet company survived to dance another day

Best of 2020: Dance

Jenny Gilbert

In a perilous year, bright ideas and perseverance sometimes prevailed

The Nutcracker: an end-of-year obituary

Jenny Gilbert

It's been a rough ride for the seasonal cash cow. Here's how ballet companies coped

The Seven Deadly Sins, Opera North online review - viscerally thrilling

Jenny Gilbert

Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht's indictment of capitalism in a vibrant new production

The Royal Ballet: Live, Within the Golden Hour review - stunning, joyous dance

Jenny Gilbert

Setback? What setback? Restrictions seem to push this company to ever greater things

Birmingham Royal Ballet, Sadler's Wells review - onward and upward

Jenny Gilbert

Carlos Acosta sets out his stall as artistic director of BRB

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

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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