fri 23/02/2024

Dance reviews, news & interviews

Dance for Ukraine Gala, London Palladium review - a second rich helping of international dancers

Helen Hawkins

It’s tempting to see the second gala created by Ukrainian-born Ivan Putrov as a reflection of the shift in Ukraine’s fortunes since his first one in March 2022. Somehow, just weeks after Ukraine was invaded, Putrov and his fellow student in Kyiv, Alina Cojocaru, brought the world’s finest principals to the London Coliseum for a show-stopping gala that was as moving as it was finely executed.

Nelken: A Piece by Pina Bausch, Sadler's Wells review - welcome return for an indelible classic

Helen Hawkins

Perhaps the most memorable of the stage designs Peter Pabst created for Pina Bausch is back in London after nearly 20 years: a sea of erect pink silk carnations, the Nelken of the title. It’s canonical that there are 8,000 of them, but only the backstage team know the truth of that. 

Dark With Excessive Bright, Royal Ballet review...

Jenny Gilbert

The word “immersive” is overused. When an immersive experience can be anything from a foreign language course to a trip down the Amazon on a headset...

La Strada, Sadler's Wells review - a long...

Jenny Gilbert

Federico Fellini’s 1954 classic La Strada ought to be a gift to a choreographer. The film has pathos, good and evil, a bewitchingly gamine heroine,...

First Person: pioneering juggler Sean Gandini...

Sean Gandini

I am a juggler. My wife Kati Ylä-Hokkala is also a juggler. Our life for the last three decades has been juggling. We have been fortunate to be...

Manon, Royal Ballet review - a glorious half-century revival of a modern classic

Jenny Gilbert

Fifty years on, Kenneth MacMillan's crash-and-burn anti-heroine is riding high

Giselle, English National Ballet, Coliseum review - if you go down to the woods today, beware of the Wilis

Jenny Gilbert

A revival of Mary Skeaping's lovingly researched production, packed with lively detail and terrific suspense

Best of 2023: Dance

Jenny Gilbert

Eco-politics, digital wizardry, brilliant revivals, brave new ventures and the occasional stunning new work

Edward Scissorhands, Sadler's Wells review - a true Christmas treat, witty and beguiling

Helen Hawkins

Matthew Bourne's endearing hero returns with added poignancy

Nutcracker, Tuff Nutt Jazz Club, Royal Festival Hall review - a fresh, compelling, adult take on a festive favourite

Jenny Gilbert

Drew McOnie offers a fresh coming-of-age twist in a compact new jazz version

The Dante Project, Royal Ballet review - brave but flawed take on the Divine Comedy returns

David Nice

Hell and Purgatory get vivid if diffuse music from Thomas Adès, but Heaven is pallid

The Limit, Linbury Theatre review - a dance-theatre romcom that lacks both rom and com

Jenny Gilbert

An attempt to amplify a playscript with dance suggests the play should be left to speak for itself

Anemoi / The Cellist, Royal Ballet review - a feast of music in a neat double bill

Jenny Gilbert

Rachmaninov and Elgar take the laurels in a brace of prize-winning one-act ballets

Song of Songs, Pam Tanowitz/David Lang, Barbican Theatre review - sublime music and intricate dance bring life to a 2,000-year-old love poem

Jenny Gilbert

Music and movement co-exist but don't align in a glimmering new take on an ancient text

First Person: Pulitzer Prize winning composer David Lang on the original Jewish love story

David Lang

Music, poetry and movement combine in 'Song of Songs', now running at the Barbican

Don Quixote, Royal Ballet review - crazy Russian-Spanish romcom, brilliant dancing

Jenny Gilbert

Carlos Acosta's hugely entertaining production launches the season with gusto

Ballet Nights, Lanterns Studio Theatre review - dance gets its own cabaret season

Jenny Gilbert

A compered gala packed with fine and varied items, but the idea still needs tweaking

Black Sabbath: The Ballet, Birmingham Royal Ballet, Birmingham Hippodrome review - two very different art forms merge

Guy Oddy

Carlos Acosta creates shining gold from heavy metal and ballet

Ailey 2, Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury review - young, black and fabulous

Jenny Gilbert

The younger sibling of the Alvin Ailey family visits for the first time in 12 years

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre, Sadler's Wells review - exhilarating display of a full deck of dance styles

Helen Hawkins

From stately to sexy, these fabulously physical dancers engage every emotion

Matthew Bourne's Romeo + Juliet, Sadler's Wells review - exhilarating dancing, inventive moves

Helen Hawkins

New Adventures creates lovers with tender appeal for a younger generation

Jewels, The Australian Ballet, Royal Opera House review - a sparkling parade of great dancing

Helen Hawkins

David Hallberg's Australians are pitch perfect in Balanchine's masterpiece

Carlos at 50, Royal Opera House review - lovingly designed gala from a still impressive star

Helen Hawkins

The Cuban dancer is a living tribute to the power of the arts

theartsdesk at the Ravenna Festival - invisible cities and possible dreams

David Nice

Teatro delle Albe's Don Quixote drama rivals Riccardo Muti's Paths of Friendship concert

Ballet Flamenco Sara Baras, Sadler's Wells - a roaring start to the Flamenco Festival

Jenny Gilbert

The reigning queen of zapateado shows us her soul

Untitled, 2023 / Corybantic Games / Anastasia Act III, Royal Ballet review - a magnificent end to the season

Jenny Gilbert

There's grist and glory in this triple bill, and a career-high for Wayne McGregor

Requiem, Opera North review - partnership and diversity

Robert Beale

Choral-orchestral performance meets contemporary dance in cross-cultural fusion

Nederlands Dans Theater (NDT1), Sadler's Wells review - an extinction rebellion in dance

Jenny Gilbert

A rare visit from Europe's No.1 contemporary troupe makes a powerful eco-protest

Hunting legendary treasure with ballet's Indiana Jones - Pierre Lacotte 1932-2023

Ismene Brown

The prolific recreator of early ballets has died, leaving a lively argument

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

latest in today

Marx in London, Scottish Opera review - the humour of histor...

An opera about a day in the life of Karl Marx doesn’t exactly...

Hir, Park Theatre review - incendiary production for Taylor...

In 2017, two years after Hir premiered, Taylor Mac was awarded a “Genius Grant” and nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for drama....

Memory review - love, dementia and truth

Procul Harum’s “A Whiter Shade of Pale” is given a new lease on life in...

Samuel Takes a Break... in Male Dungeon No. 5 after a long b...

You do not need to be Einstein to feel it. If the only dimension missing is time, 75% of a place’s identity can invade your very being, hollow you...

King Lear, Almeida Theatre review - Danny Sapani dazzles in...

Less than three years after her magnificent Macbeth, Yaël Farber returns to the Almeida with another...

Bill Bailey: Thoughtifier, Brighton Centre review - offbeat...

I first saw Bill Bailey at least 30 years ago in the cabaret tent at...

Hadestown, Lyric Theatre review - soul-stirring musical glor...

Doom and gloom, we are told, may have abounded in the classical underworld, but Hadestown suggests otherwise. Returning to...

Tom Chatfield: Wise Animals review - on the changing world

Consider a chimp peeling a stick which it will poke into a termite nest. It strikes us as a human gesture. Our primate cousin is fashioning a tool...

Album: Aziza Brahim - Mawja

Glitterbeat is home to a wildly eclectic and reliably brilliant world of...

An Enemy of the People, Duke of York's Theatre - perfor...

Real life is a helluva lot scarier right now than you might guess from the performative theatrics on display in the new...

newsletter

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