sat 06/02/2016

Dance reviews, news & interviews

The Return, Circa, Barbican

Hanna Weibye

If you thought circus acrobats and Shostakovich were a daring combination, try circus acrobats and Monteverdi. While the spiky harmonies and vivd dynamics of 20th-century Russian string quartets sit pretty nicely with circus show-offery, surely Baroque music, with its steady continuo basses, its measured rise and fall, is a world away from tumbling tricks and strongman stunts?Virtuosic Australian troupe Circa certainly can't be accused of staleness in their pairing of circus arts and classical...

Rhapsody/The Two Pigeons, Royal Ballet

Hanna Weibye

Perhaps the director of the Royal Ballet is a pigeon fancier? With this January run of The Two Pigeons following hard on the heels of one in November, the Royal Ballet's dancers have spent most of the autumn and winter practising the fluttering, preening and cooing of Ashton's featherweight and featherbrained romance, while anyone wanting to see both Monotones and Rhapsody - paired with Pigeons in November and January respectively - has had to shell out for two tickets and sit through two doses...

Le Corsaire, English National Ballet, Coliseum

Jenny Gilbert

It’s being sold as the ideal ballet for first-timers, but I would blush to introduce even my neighbour’s cat to this Carry On Up the Harem hokum....

Until the Lions, Akram Khan, Roundhouse

Hanna Weibye

As its first gift to dance fans, the new year has delivered not one but two chamber pieces about extraordinary women. Down in Covent Garden this week...

Elizabeth, Royal Ballet

Hanna Weibye

Please, sir, I want some more. Will Tuckett and Alasdair Middleton's Elizabeth is soul food for the hungry dance fan; an ingenious blend of words,...

Cinderella, Scottish Ballet, Edinburgh Festival Theatre

Hanna Weibye

Christopher Hampson's fairytale fills the seasonal family ballet slot nicely

Best of 2015: Dance & Ballet

Hanna Weibye

Highlights of the last calendar year

Nutcracker, English National Ballet, London Coliseum

Hanna Weibye

Likeable dancers deliver Christmas cheer despite the mice

The Little Match Girl, Lilian Baylis Studio Theatre

Hanna Weibye

Wacky and delightful dance theatre adaptation of classic fairytale

Matthew Bourne's Sleeping Beauty, Sadler's Wells

Jenny Gilbert

A vampiric twist on the Tchaikovsky ballet makes for an evening of mixed success

Carlos Acosta: A Classical Selection, London Coliseum

Jenny Gilbert

The ballet star takes his final bow in a self-curated gala that raises the roof

The Nutcracker, Royal Ballet

Hanna Weibye

Faultless production works its magic afresh

Conceal|Reveal, Sadler's Wells

Hanna Weibye

Russell Maliphant's new work is grand, but slow-moving

The Two Pigeons, Royal Ballet

Hanna Weibye

Well-executed revival of feathery romance with minimalist 'Monotones' for contrast

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

Ismene Brown

The late dance designer's views on bums, 'Swan Lake', and seeing into the choreographer's mind

Sacre, Sasha Waltz and Guests, Sadler's Wells

Hanna Weibye

German choreographer delivers a Rite of Spring to remember

Love, Art and Rock 'n' Roll, Rambert, Sadler's Wells

Hanna Weibye

Dancers shine in two new works and a rocking old favourite

BalletBoyz at the Roundhouse, BBC Four

Hanna Weibye

Beautiful contemporary dance from Scarlett and Maliphant, plus behind-the-scenes insights

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

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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