sat 29/11/2014

Dance reviews, news & interviews

Sacred Monsters, Khan/Guillem, Sadler's Wells

Hanna Weibye

There is a special poignancy to these performances of Sacred Monsters, Sylvie Guillem and Akram Khan's terrific 2006 joint show. Guillem, the former Paris Opéra étoile and Royal Ballet prima ballerina whose singular talent has lit up contemporary dance for the last decade, announced in October that she will be retiring from the stage for good in 2015.  Sitting in Sadler's Wells last night I was achingly conscious not only that this was probably the last time I would see Sacred Monsters,...

Don Quixote, Royal Ballet

Jenny Gilbert

The 1871 ballet that goes by the name of Don Quixote has always been a challenge to stage. Barely a tenth of its two hours-plus concerns the titular knight and his crackpot wanderings. The rest is fixed like a town hall security camera on the non-events of a square in Barcelona, where a flighty barmaid and a feckless barber fall in and out of love every few seconds while the townspeople stand about and watch.Typically, Russian productions are happy to overlook this narrative snag to focus all...

Triptych, Rambert, Sadler's Wells

Hanna Weibye

How long should a dance programme be? Opera and theatre habitués can be surprised by outings to contemporary dance, where the pieces might be shorter...

Daphnis et Églé/La Naissance d'Osiris, Les...

Jenny Gilbert

Were it not for William Christie and Les Arts Florissants, the vocal and instrumental ensemble he started in Paris in the 1970s, the beauties of the...

Dancing Cheek to Cheek, BBC Four

Hanna Weibye

I am picturing a scene in BBC4’s highly fortified underground headquarters, a conversation between its mastermind-in-chief and a hapless minion. “...

Ceremony of Innocence/The Age of Anxiety/Aeternum, Royal Ballet

Hanna Weibye

New work by Liam Scarlett dominates intriguing contemporary triple bill

JOHN, National Theatre

Marianka Swain

DV8's verbatim physical theatre powerfully relates the life of a social outsider

TOROBAKA, Israel Galván & Akram Khan, Sadler's Wells

Hanna Weibye

Two great dancers show that Kathak and flamenco can work together

Thomas Adès, See the Music, Hear the Dance, Sadler's Wells

Hanna Weibye

Composer's works matched with contemporary choreography by McGregor, Armitage, Whitley and Pite

Cassandra, Ludovic Ondiviela, Royal Ballet, Linbury Studio

Jenny Gilbert

A new ballet shines a spotlight on mental illness

theartsdesk Q&A: Choreographer Akram Khan

Hanna Weibye

Kathak and contemporary dancer talks about flamenco, inspiration, and his last performance piece

theartsdesk Q&A: Choreographer Wayne McGregor

Hanna Weibye

British dance-maker shares his views on creative practice, cognitive neuroscience, and critics

Ashton Mixed Bill, Royal Ballet

Hanna Weibye

Symphonic Variations is the highlight among fine works by supreme British choreographer

Shadows of War, Birmingham Royal Ballet, Sadler's Wells

Hanna Weibye

Atmospheric revival of 1944 Miracle in the Gorbals, the centrepiece of an unusual triple bill

Bosque Ardora, Rocío Molina, Barbican

Jenny Gilbert

Flamenco innovator presents a woodland realm to remember

Lord of the Flies, Matthew Bourne's New Adventures, Sadler's Wells

Hanna Weibye

Golding's tale of schoolboy savagery becomes superb dance theatre, with real schoolboys

Grupo Corpo, Sadler's Wells

Hanna Weibye

Brazilian visitors deliver impressive dance - but not necessarily impressive art

Manon, Royal Ballet

Hanna Weibye

MacMillan's moral maze still fascinates in its 40th year

The Murmuring/ Metheus/ Mesmerics, BalletBoyz, Linbury Studio Theatre

Hanna Weibye

New works show all-male company on top form

KnowBody, Sadler's Wells

Hanna Weibye

Older performers show dance is not just a young person's game

Sampling the Myth, Royal Ballet

Hanna Weibye

Mixture of old and new makes for a colourful journey through mythology

Edinburgh Fringe 2014: Circa, Beyond

Hanna Weibye

Entertaining circus show from top-quality Australian ensemble

Patrias, Paco Peña Flamenco Company, Edinburgh Playhouse

Hanna Weibye

Rich, thoughtful show from flamenco legend

Sweet Mambo, Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch, Edinburgh Playhouse

Hanna Weibye

German choreographer's late work delights Edinburgh Festival audience

Edinburgh Fringe 2014: MurleyDance

Hanna Weibye

Independent ballet company gives engaging performance of mixed-quality material

Gnosis, Akram Khan, King's Theatre, Edinburgh

Hanna Weibye

Gorgeous rhythm from Kathak legend

Cinderella, Mariinsky Ballet, Royal Opera House

Hanna Weibye

A brash, strident, but ultimately likeable close to the season

Firebird/ Marguerite and Armand/ Concerto DSCH, Mariinsky Ballet, Royal Opera House

Ismene Brown

Fonteyn and Nureyev must be spinning in their graves, but new Ratmansky is a delight

Apollo/ A Midsummer Night's Dream, Mariinsky Ballet, Royal Opera House

Ismene Brown

Uliana Lopatkina shows other ballerinas what it is all about

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

Close Footnote

Subscribe to

Thank you for continuing to read our work on For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 7,000 pieces, we're asking for £2.95 per month or £25 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take an annual subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a gift subscription?

latest in today

CD: AC/DC – Rock or Bust

Ancient Australian combo defy the odds and turn it up to 11

Sci-Fi Week: Space Rock

Rock and pop’s fascination with realms beyond the Earth’s atmosphere

Sci-Fi Week: Through the eyes of JG Ballard

The writer was profoundly influenced by art and in turn influenced artists

Lily Allen, Brighton Centre

The pithy princess of femme-pop on affable rather than thrilling form

J-Sonics, The Hideaway, Streatham

Rocket-fuelled groove-jazzers take off into sonic space

Pelléas et Mélisande, Philharmonia, Salonen, RFH

A Pelléas of echoes and allusions, a dramatic revelation

We Made It: Salmon Smoker Ole Martin-Hansen

Bringing the taste of the midnight sun to Stoke Newington


Randall Wright's documentary reveals the sadness in Bradford's ic...

CD: Trish Clowes – Pocket Compass

Clowes' third album condenses and refines her exquisite control of ins...

LittleBigPlanet 3

Child's play? This platform game with editor doesn't quite gel fo...


Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters