sat 30/07/2016

Dance reviews, news & interviews

Swan Lake, Bolshoi Ballet, Royal Opera House

Hanna Weibye

"If you know anything about dance," I was told last night by an aged balletomane at the Royal Opera House, "you know that Russian ballet companies are the best." If this is true then the Bolshoi Ballet, biggest of the Russian companies, in Swan Lake, that most quintessential of ballets, must be awe-inspiring.In many ways, it is, and deliberately so. Yuri Grigorovich's production may be less bombastic than his Sleeping Beauty, but it's still heavy on grandeur and light on naturalism. Instead of...

Don Quixote, Bolshoi Ballet, Royal Opera House

Jenny Gilbert

Exactly 60 years have passed since this company made its first London visit, an unlikely triumph of art over geopolitics. For 1956 was the year Britain was rocked by the Suez crisis and the year the Soviet Union invaded Hungary. British spies Burgess and Maclean had surfaced behind the Iron Curtain after five years on the run and distrust between London and Moscow was acute. Until their plane landed, it was touch and go that the Bolshoi’s London season would happen at all.But it did, giving the...

Strictly goes to the Proms

Marianka Swain

The glitterball has landed. After loaning out Proms queen Katie Derham to Strictly Come Dancing last series, where she hauled comedy pro...

Cinderella, Ratmansky/Australian Ballet, London...

Hanna Weibye

Does Alexei Ratmansky, former Bolshoi director and current world-leading classical choreographer, really love Prokofiev's Cinderella, or did he...

Swan Lake, Australian Ballet, London Coliseum

Hanna Weibye

Graeme Murphy's 2002 Swan Lake for Australian Ballet stitches together plot elements from Swan Lake, Giselle and Lucia di Lammermoor, among other...

Natalia Osipova, Sadler's Wells

Hanna Weibye

Superstar ballerina and new partner Sergei Polunin lack lustre in self-commissioned contemporary triple

Betroffenheit, Sadler's Wells/Ballet BC, Birmingham Hippodrome

Hanna Weibye

Choreographer du jour Crystal Pite heads up two impressive Canadian cultural offerings

The Invitation/Obsidian Tear/Within the Golden Hour, Royal Ballet

Hanna Weibye

MacMillan revival in a different class to anodyne offerings from McGregor and Wheeldon

Jekyll & Hyde, Old Vic

Jenny Gilbert

Dance version is loud and brash with all the horror and none of the mystery

Carlos Acosta: A Classical Farewell, Birmingham Hippodrome

Hanna Weibye

On his retirement tour, Cuban superstar showcases the young, and proves he's still got it

Frankenstein, Royal Ballet

Hanna Weibye

New ballet has lavish production values, but the story's stretched thin

BalletBoyz, Life, Sadler's Wells

Hanna Weibye

Controversial choreographer Javier de Frutos fakes own death, steals show

Mariinsky Ballet: Concerto DSCH, Sacre, Wales Millennium Centre

Nadine Meisner

A flying visit from St Petersburg, without the swans

She Said, English National Ballet, Sadler's Wells

Jenny Gilbert

Tamara Rojo explores her inner Diaghilev in a fascinating bill of new work

The Winter's Tale, Royal Ballet

David Nice

Full Shakespearean breadth, if not depth, in effective revival

Preview: International Dance Festival Birmingham 2016

Hanna Weibye

Rich cultural programme in England's second city aims to stimulate economy, promote gender equality

10 Questions for Choreographer Charles Linehan

Thomas H Green

Prior to Brighton Fest premiere, Charles Linehan talks Berlin, time machines, Robert Wyatt and more

theartsdesk in Berlin: Three Ballets

Hanna Weibye

Versatile Staatsballett shine in Cranko, Duato, and a classic Giselle

DVD: Ken Russell - The Great Passions

Kieron Tyler

The cultural provocateur takes on Henri Rousseau, Isadora Duncan and Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Kaash, Akram Khan Company, Sadler's Wells

Hanna Weibye

Revival proves Khan's choreography stands the test of time

10 Questions for Choreographer Matthew Bourne

Hanna Weibye

Dancemaker talks about storytelling, Shakespeare, and dance on screen

Giselle, Royal Ballet

Hanna Weibye

Evergreen production and fine supporting cast make up for anaemic principals

Voces, Ballet Flamenco Sara Baras, Sadler's Wells

Hanna Weibye

Iconic dancer dominates but doesn't enlighten

Wheeldon Triple Bill, Royal Ballet

Jenny Gilbert

New work about a 19th-century It Girl's dramatic fall sheds a welcome light on John Singer Sargent

The Odyssey, Mark Bruce Company, Circomedia, Bristol

Mark Kidel

21st-century Homer fizzes with energy, but reaches too high

"...como el musguito...", Pina Bausch, Sadler's Wells

Hanna Weibye

Tanztheater Wuppertal in choreographer's gentle last work

The Return, Circa, Barbican

Hanna Weibye

Exile-themed circus show is rather too serious

Rhapsody/The Two Pigeons, Royal Ballet

Hanna Weibye

Too much sugar in Ashton double bill

Le Corsaire, English National Ballet, Coliseum

Jenny Gilbert

Spectacular dance fireworks make this hoariest and silliest of Russian classics worth seeing

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

Advertising feature


Groundhog Day
The Old Vic
11 July – 17 September
Groundhog Day is the story of Phil Connors (Andy Karl), a cynical Pittsburgh TV weatherman who is sent to cover the annual Groundhog Day event in the isolated small town of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, when he finds himself caught in a time loop, forced to repeat the same day again and again…and again. As each day plays out exactly the same as before Phil becomes increasingly despondent, but is there a lesson to be learnt through his experiences, will he ever unlock the secret and break the cycle?
Director Matthew Warchus, composer and lyricist Tim Minchin, choreographer Peter Darling and designer Rob Howell, four of the creators of the international sensation Matilda The Musical, have joined forces with writer Danny Rubin to collaborate on this new musical based on his 1993 hit film.
Andy Karl’s numerous Broadway credits include On the Twentieth Century, Rocky, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Jersey Boys, Wicked, 9 to 5, Legally Blonde, The Wedding Singer and Saturday Night Fever.

Andy Karl is appearing with the support of UK Equity, incorporating the Variety Artistes’ Federation, pursuant to an exchange program between American Equity and UK Equity.


Book tickets now!


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 10,000 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

Prom 18: Mahler's Third Symphony, LSO, Haitink

Supreme beauty of sound from a measured master conductor

Swan Lake, Bolshoi Ballet, Royal Opera House

A peerless Odette almost makes up for production's psychological short...

Prom 19: David Bowie Prom

Laura Mvula, John Cale, Marc Almond et al reimagine the starman's inim...

Barry Lyndon

Back in cinemas: Stanley Kubrick's lush but soulless rendering of a ra...

Classical CDs Weekly: Bach, Graeme Koehne, Schubert

Baroque piano concertos, dazzling Australian orchestral music and a great s...

theartsdesk at The Montréal Jazz Festival

Mainline jazz, roots, and global sounds abound in the planet's biggest...

CD: Marsheaux - Ath.Lon

Electro-pop fare to eek out the summer dead zone

Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Theatre Royal Haymarket

Bland taste to this breakfast starring Pixie Lott as Holly Golightly

Kommilitonen, Welsh National Youth Opera, Barry

Student opera triumphs over the confusions of audience promenading

Rotterdam, Trafalgar Studios

New drama about a transgender lesbian is hugely enjoyable


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