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At Sadler's Wells bad times mean nudity and horses on stage | reviews, news & interviews

At Sadler's Wells bad times mean nudity and horses on stage

At Sadler's Wells bad times mean nudity and horses on stage

2011 season launched with a warning of the shrinking future

Sadler’s Wells launched their 2011 season this morning with a warning that the front-loading of arts cuts to the next two years will cut a swathe through the British arts landscape.

Alastair Spalding said that while this year’s cut of 7 per cent was containable for the theatre - which has only a fifth of its income from public sources - the Government had ignored pleas by arts leaders to spread the 15 per cent reduction evenly over the period up to 2014 to allow organisations to re-adjust without seismic closures. Instead, the Arts Council was already having to close rather than trim arts services.

“This is jeopardising a lot of organisations, I’m afraid,” he said this morning, launching a list of attractions for next year including mass nudity, horses on stage and a Pet Shop Boys ballet.

To meet this year's 6.9 per cent reduction, Sadler’s Wells - which he said has a subsidy of £3.60 per head, as opposed to the Royal Opera House’s £38.50 per head - would have to cancel out-of-doors dance events that had been widely popular this summer and it could no longer afford to take part in bringing major ballet companies from abroad to the Coliseum. A planned visit by the Hamburg Ballet, world famous but long unseen in Britain, has been cancelled for next season, but the American Ballet Theatre is still to come in February 2011.

The theatre had also cancelled improvements to the foyer to prevent winter gales blowing in and wasting the heating, and would have to focus much harder on overseas touring by its hit shows, such as the Sutra production, which had 142 performances in 22 countries last year, and Matthew Bourne’s now-vintage Swan Lake, which has just been playing in New York.

This season’s populist dansical production Shoes will have an eight-week run next spring, which Spalding admitted was largely to generate money.

“We’re lucky that we’re London-based - London is a bit of a bubble,” said Spalding. “But larger organisations will have to support smaller ones. We already support nine small organisations, we need to help the ecology of the dance world to keep going.”

He was concerned about growing dance talent, he said. Sadler’s Wells had benefited from talents grown elsewhere, The Place and The Laban. “It makes me nervous because we can’t sit back and rely on it any more,” he said. As a result SWT will host a four-year summer intensive choreographic course of a fortnight, headed by the innovative British choreographer Jonathan Burrows, supported by the Jerwood Foundation. “It’s essential if we are to survive in 10 years' time,” he remarked.

Arts & Business accused the Government of "no strategy, no vision and no understanding of the needs of frontline arts fundraisers"

Meanwhile, the body that helps arts companies fundraise in the private sector reacted angrily to news that it would close after next year, accusing the Government of “no strategy, no vision, and no understanding of the needs of frontline arts fundraisers for an independent voice”.

Arts & Business will take a 50 per cent cut next year, down to £1.92 million, then will be struck off the funding list. Colin Tweedy, Chief Executive of Arts & Business, said: “This is an extraordinary and potentially very damaging decision for our cultural and commercial partners. As John Whittingdale, Chair of the DCMS Select Committee, in his question to the Secretary of State in the House yesterday, asked - why is it that at the very time the cultural world is looking to work more closely with business and individuals, are attempts being made to dismantle the very body that carries the hopes of the private sector?

“At this time of economic recovery, instead of building on what has been learnt, our private sector partners believe that the Arts Council has dismantled our public realm work - to little purpose and with even less of a plan.”

Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt has also ordered that the Arts Council’s Cultural Leadership Programme should now widen its remit to train people for areas beyond arts, focusing on giving them expertise in fundraising in the private sector.


Sadler's Wells 2011 Season Highlights


  • The Zingaro Equestrian Theatre in a Sadler’s Wells commission featuring horses and Japanese butoh (March).
  • A new full-length “ballet” composed by the Pet Shop Boys, The Most Incredible Thing, choreographed by Javier de Frutos, starring former Royal Ballet principal Ivan Putrov. Based on Hans Andersen’s fairy tale, it is described as “a family show”, despite de Frutos’s reputation for causing scandal. (March)
  • The UK premiere of an all-nude ballet from Canadian Dave St Pierre, which Spalding said would be shocking but lighthearted. “We need fizz in the theatre from time to time,” he added. (June 2011)
  • Visits by the William Forsythe company (February), American Ballet Theatre (February), Dutch National Ballet (May)
  • Special focuses on Belgian choreographers Anne-Teresa de Keersmaeker of Rosas and Alain Platel of Les ballets C de la B.
  • Return visits by Hofesh Shechter, the Ballet Boyz, Russell Maliphant, Jasmin Vardimon and Martin Creed
  • London visits by Birmingham Royal Ballet, Rambert Dance and a new creation, Cleopatra, from Northern Ballet with a score by Les Misérables composer Claude-Michel Schönberg.
  • A focus on the East later next year, including a new commission from Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui with Japanese manga art (autumn 2011)
  • Composer focus: a new series launching with Mark-Antony Turnage collaborating with Wayne McGregor and Mark Wallinger (autumn 2011)

More on arts cuts: theartsdesk debate

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