fri 19/07/2024

Dance reviews, news & interviews

Ashton Celebrated, Royal Ballet review - peerless delights from the master step-smith

Jenny Gilbert

Launching a four-year global project to proclaim the genius of Frederick Ashton might seem unnecessary. His work is the bedrock of what’s widely known as The English Style and rarely absent from any British ballet season, whether at the Royal Ballet (for whom he created much of it), or elsewhere.

Rocio Molina, Sadler's Wells Flamenco Festival review - mystery and dark magic, with a giggle

Jenny Gilbert

Success in running a large and expanding dance-house enterprise requires knowing when to play safe and when to play with fire, trusting that your audience will come with you.

The Winter's Tale, Royal Ballet review -...

Jenny Gilbert

If there is a more striking, more moving, more downright enjoyable way to experience Shakespeare’s second-from-last play, I have yet to see it. The...

All You Need Is Death review - a future folk...

Justine Elias

Music, when the singer’s voice dies away, vibrates in the memory. In the hypnotic new Irish horror film All You Need Is Death, those who search for...

MacMillan Celebrated, Royal Ballet review - out...

Jenny Gilbert

Triple bills can be a difficult sell for ballet companies. Audiences prefer big sets and costumes, and a storyline they can hum. It’s not hard to see...

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Carmen, English National Ballet review - lots of energy, even violence, but nothing new to say

Jenny Gilbert

Johan Inger's take on Carmen tries but fails to make a point about male violence

WAKE, National Stadium, Dublin review - a rainbow river of dance, song, and so much else

David Nice

THISISPOPBABY serves up a joyous tapestry of Ireland contemporary and traditional

Swan Lake, Royal Ballet review - grand, eloquent, superb

Jenny Gilbert

Liam Scarlett's fine refashioning returns for a third season, and looks better than ever

First Person: Ten Years On - Flamenco guitarist Paco Peña pays tribute to his friend, the late, great Paco de Lucía

Paco Peña

On the 10th anniversary of his death, memories of the prodigious musician who broadened the reach of flamenco into jazz and beyond

Dance for Ukraine Gala, London Palladium review - a second rich helping of international dancers

Helen Hawkins

Ivan Putrov's latest gala was a satisfying mix of stars and young hopefuls

Nelken: A Piece by Pina Bausch, Sadler's Wells review - welcome return for an indelible classic

Helen Hawkins

A new generation of gifted performers for us to get to know

Dark With Excessive Bright, Royal Ballet review - a close encounter with dancers stripped bare

Jenny Gilbert

The Royal's Festival of New Choreography launches with an unforgettable walk in the dark

La Strada, Sadler's Wells review - a long and bumpy road

Jenny Gilbert

Even the exceptional talents of Alina Cojocaru can't save dance adaptation of Fellini film

First Person: pioneering juggler Sean Gandini reflects on how the spirit of Pina Bausch has infiltrated his work

Sean Gandini

As Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch's 'Nelken' comes to Sadler’s Wells, a tribute from across the art forms

Manon, Royal Ballet review - a glorious half-century revival of a modern classic

Jenny Gilbert

Fifty years on, Kenneth MacMillan's crash-and-burn anti-heroine is riding high

Giselle, English National Ballet, Coliseum review - if you go down to the woods today, beware of the Wilis

Jenny Gilbert

A revival of Mary Skeaping's lovingly researched production, packed with lively detail and terrific suspense

Best of 2023: Dance

Jenny Gilbert

Eco-politics, digital wizardry, brilliant revivals, brave new ventures and the occasional stunning new work

Edward Scissorhands, Sadler's Wells review - a true Christmas treat, witty and beguiling

Helen Hawkins

Matthew Bourne's endearing hero returns with added poignancy

Nutcracker, Tuff Nutt Jazz Club, Royal Festival Hall review - a fresh, compelling, adult take on a festive favourite

Jenny Gilbert

Drew McOnie offers a fresh coming-of-age twist in a compact new jazz version

The Dante Project, Royal Ballet review - brave but flawed take on the Divine Comedy returns

David Nice

Hell and Purgatory get vivid if diffuse music from Thomas Adès, but Heaven is pallid

The Limit, Linbury Theatre review - a dance-theatre romcom that lacks both rom and com

Jenny Gilbert

An attempt to amplify a playscript with dance suggests the play should be left to speak for itself

Anemoi / The Cellist, Royal Ballet review - a feast of music in a neat double bill

Jenny Gilbert

Rachmaninov and Elgar take the laurels in a brace of prize-winning one-act ballets

Song of Songs, Pam Tanowitz/David Lang, Barbican Theatre review - sublime music and intricate dance bring life to a 2,000-year-old love poem

Jenny Gilbert

Music and movement co-exist but don't align in a glimmering new take on an ancient text

First Person: Pulitzer Prize winning composer David Lang on the original Jewish love story

David Lang

Music, poetry and movement combine in 'Song of Songs', now running at the Barbican

Don Quixote, Royal Ballet review - crazy Russian-Spanish romcom, brilliant dancing

Jenny Gilbert

Carlos Acosta's hugely entertaining production launches the season with gusto

Ballet Nights, Lanterns Studio Theatre review - dance gets its own cabaret season

Jenny Gilbert

A compered gala packed with fine and varied items, but the idea still needs tweaking

Black Sabbath: The Ballet, Birmingham Royal Ballet, Birmingham Hippodrome review - two very different art forms merge

Guy Oddy

Carlos Acosta creates shining gold from heavy metal and ballet

Ailey 2, Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury review - young, black and fabulous

Jenny Gilbert

The younger sibling of the Alvin Ailey family visits for the first time in 12 years

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre, Sadler's Wells review - exhilarating display of a full deck of dance styles

Helen Hawkins

From stately to sexy, these fabulously physical dancers engage every emotion

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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