fri 27/11/2015

Dance reviews, news & interviews

The Two Pigeons, Royal Ballet

Hanna Weibye

With real live birds fluttering across the stage, and a sweetly happy ending – hurrah for young love! – Frederick Ashton's 1961 The Two Pigeons can look like mere frothy fantasy, precisely the kind of trivial, uncomplicated ballet plot that the young Kenneth MacMillan was reacting against in his own work in the early 60s. Is its return to the repertoire after an absence of 30 years just the Royal Ballet pandering to the escapist fantasies of its audiences – who,...

Yolanda Sonnabend: designer of MacMillan's 'neurotic' ballets

Ismene Brown

Ever since Diaghilev’s day the relationship of dance movement to its visual design has been a lively, sometimes combative affair. Sometimes people leave whistling the set, saying shame about the dance; other times they hate the set, love the dance. As with the relationship of dance to music, the fit of look to movement can be decisive in why a new ballet escapes the curse of ephemerality and becomes a firm memory that people wish to revisit. It directs the audience how to read it.There’s...

Sacre, Sasha Waltz and Guests, Sadler's Wells

Hanna Weibye

What dancemaker wouldn't want to tackle Le Sacre du Printemps (The Rite of Spring) at some point? Just as the Stravinsky score changed music, the...

Love, Art and Rock 'n' Roll, Rambert,...

Hanna Weibye

A good triple bill should have something for everyone, so Rambert have all bases covered with their latest: rare must be the person who likes neither...

BalletBoyz at the Roundhouse, BBC Four

Hanna Weibye

What I want to know is: has there been a major upsurge in boys taking contemporary dance classes this year? And if not, why not? With the amount of...

Gravity Fatigue, Hussein Chalayan, Sadler's Wells

Hanna Weibye

Couturier supplies stunning design, but not enough heart

Carmen, Royal Ballet

Jenny Gilbert

Carlos Acosta's Covent Garden swansong proves tragic in all the wrong ways

Ex Kirov ballet chief takes not-so-Bolshoi job

Ismene Brown

Acid-blighted Sergei Filin to hand over to Makhar Vaziev next spring

The King Dances, Birmingham Royal Ballet, Sadler’s Wells

Jenny Gilbert

A striking new work about the Sun King and the origins of ballet shows BRB at its dynamic best

Swan Lake, Birmingham Royal Ballet, Sadler's Wells

Hanna Weibye

A gorgeous production lovingly performed shows Tchaikovsky's classic at its best

Raven Girl/Connectome, Royal Ballet

Jenny Gilbert

Plot holes gape, but Wayne McGregor's story ballet is still a visual and aural feast

Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, Prog 2, Peacock Theatre

Hanna Weibye

Balanchine and Cunningham get the Trocks treatment in second London bill

Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, Peacock Theatre

David Nice

Petipa remains the style guru as the boys en pointe keep it classical

The King Who Invented Ballet, BBC Four

Hanna Weibye

David Bintley takes a look at Louis XIV's impact on classical dance

Lest We Forget, English National Ballet, Sadler's Wells

Hanna Weibye

Akram Khan's piece stands out in second airing of war-themed contemporary bill

An Open Book: Michael Hulls

Ismene Brown

The wizard of lighting design is delighted by cricket, London and sesquipedalian words

McGregor/Spuck, Ballett Zürich, Edinburgh Playhouse

Hanna Weibye

Contemporary dance formula ticks boxes, but fails to inspire

Seven, Ballett am Rhein/RSNO, Edinburgh Playhouse

Hanna Weibye

Danced Mahler symphony is tour de force of energy and invention

Lo Real, Israel Galván, Edinburgh Festival Theatre

Hanna Weibye

Uncompromising look at gypsies under fascism is hard going, but rewarding

Swan Lake, St Petersburg Ballet Theatre, London Coliseum

Hanna Weibye

Irina Kolesnikova dominates but doesn't enchant in this mediocre production

Bolshoi Ballet acid attack leader loses his job

Ismene Brown

Sergei Filin's contract will not be renewed, and his post abolished

Matthew Bourne's The Car Man, Sadler's Wells

Hanna Weibye

New Adventures company on sizzling form in revival of slick, exciting show

Cinderella, Wheeldon, London Coliseum

Hanna Weibye

Dutch National Ballet give UK première of oddly modernised fairy story

Flamencura, Paco Peña Company, Sadler's Wells

Hanna Weibye

Top-quality showcase from some of the best in the business

Alston at Home, The Place

Hanna Weibye

New work outshines old in company showcase

Robbins/MacMillan Triple Bill, Royal Ballet

Hanna Weibye

Company strong, principals less so in tame season finale

Sylvie Guillem, Life in Progress, Sadler's Wells

Hanna Weibye

Ballerina says goodbye with new works from Khan, Maliphant

Dark Arteries, Rambert, Sadler's Wells

Hanna Weibye

Brass band the highlight of new triple bill

Woolf Works, Wayne McGregor, Royal Ballet

Hanna Weibye

Leaden score and ponderous choreography do an injustice to Bloomsbury author's name

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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