sat 21/05/2022

Dance reviews, news & interviews

Classical CDs: Toyshops, begging gods and a good year for Austrian music

Graham Rickson

 Mahler: Symphony No. 4 Czech Philharmonic Orchestra/Semyon Bychkov,with Chen Reiss (soprano) (Pentatone)

Dance for Ukraine, London Coliseum, online review - a gala to remember

Jenny Gilbert

What do top ballet dancers keep permanently in their back pocket? Answer: a fully rehearsed, ready-to-go gala item, to judge by a one-off fundraising  event mounted in double-quick time at the Coliseum last month and now available to stream, raising more funds for the DEC Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal.

The Weathering/Solo Echo/DGV, Royal Ballet review...

Jenny Gilbert

Of all the expectations one might have of a new ballet from a choreographer raised on street dance who has made work about the American prison system...

Swan Lake, Royal Ballet review - a magnificent...

Jenny Gilbert

In a week that saw the Royal Opera House lit up in the colours of the Ukrainian flag and its orchestra playing the Ukrainian national anthem, many...

The unexpurgated Clement Crisp - in memoriam

Ismene Brown

To the international world of ballet, Clement Crisp was the British critic to fear for half a century. Crisp's dance reviews for the Financial Times...

La Mif review - Swiss docu-drama focuses on troubled teens

Saskia Baron

Ambitious but overly didactic portrait of a social work system struggling with emotional conflict

NDT2, Sadler's Wells review - a diverse triple bill

Katie Colombus

A joyful showcase of technical skill and choreographic range

Saturday Night Fever, Peacock Theatre review - crowd-pleaser stays true to its roots

Gary Naylor

Iconic film on stage heats up the West End

Acosta Danza, Sadler's Wells review - here comes the sun

Jenny Gilbert

The young Cuban company's third UK visit is a joy, and an education

Kontakthof, Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch review - struggling to make contact

Jenny Gilbert

Emotional connection is not guaranteed in this latest revival from the Pina back catalogue

Raymonda, English National Ballet, Coliseum review - a creaky old standard, lavishly restored to health

Jenny Gilbert

Tamara Rojo gives an ailing veteran a shot in the arm

Best of 2021: Dance

Jenny Gilbert

There was gold among the rubble in this wreck of a year for dance

Matthew Bourne's Nutcracker!, Sadler's Wells Theatre review - new candy, but the nuts are off

Ismene Brown

This is designer Anthony Ward’s Nutcracker! with multiple exclamation marks

Starstruck, Scottish Ballet review - smart, sassy and cinematic

Jenny Gilbert

A ballet by Gene Kelly from 1960 gets new wings

Past Present, Linbury Theatre review - historic, but very much alive

Jenny Gilbert

Yorke Dance Project premieres the final work of Robert Cohan

Ballet Black, Linbury Theatre review - an essential part of the landscape

Jenny Gilbert

Twenty years on, the pity is that it's still necessary for this excellent company to exist

Curated by Carlos, Birmingham Royal Ballet, Sadler's Wells review - a star turn

Jenny Gilbert

Carlos Acosta and Alessandra Ferri show the young things how it's done

Royal Opera House lullabies for Little Amal

David Nice

Near the end of her long journey, our refugee gets a welcome her real-life kin are denied

L'Heure Exquise, Linbury Theatre review - an exquisite tragedy in miniature

Jenny Gilbert

Alessandra Ferri marks her 40 years in ballet with a remarkable solo turn

Bernstein Double Bill, Opera North review - fractured relationships in song and dance

Graham Rickson

Heartbreak and strife from a pair of Leeds institutions

The Dante Project, Royal Ballet review - a towering achievement

Jenny Gilbert

A stupendous score by Thomas Adès powers this inspiring undertaking

Romeo and Juliet, Birmingham Royal Ballet & Royal Ballet review - a storming start to the season

Jenny Gilbert

Half a century on MacMillan's R&J is still the business

The Midnight Bell, New Adventures, Sadler's Wells review - dance theatre at its most compelling

Jenny Gilbert

Matthew Bourne hits his stride in an engrossing picture of lovelessness in 1930s London

RIP dancer and photographer Colin Jones - obituary

Ismene Brown

Dubbed the George Orwell of photojournalism, Jones married Lynn Seymour

Creature, English National Ballet, Sadler's Wells review - bombastic and unreadable

Jenny Gilbert

Akram Khan over-reaches in his latest big project for ENB

Hofesh Shechter Company, Double Murder, Sadler's Wells review - a well-intentioned but misjudged double bill

Jenny Gilbert

After the killing spree, a warm group hug. How to send an audience home feeling numb

Beauty Mixed Programme, Royal Ballet review - no dancers? No problem

Jenny Gilbert

The company's 90th anniversary celebration triumphs over setbacks

theartsdesk Q&A: choreographer Christopher Scott

Jenny Gilbert

The creator of the sizzling dance scenes for 'In The Heights' on how they came about

Solstice, English National Ballet, RFH review - a midsummer treat

Jenny Gilbert

A grand summer picnic at the Southbank Centre

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

MØ, Heaven, London review - snappy, sexy and energized

“I live to survive another heartache/I live to survive another mistake,” roars a sold-out Heaven. It’s a new song but everyone seems to know it....

'How that music was created remains to me a complete my...

It has been a difficult couple of years for us in the world of opera, losing several of our most respected and admired colleagues who have...

Top Gun: Maverick review - Tom Cruise defies age and gravity

Only 36 years later, Tom Cruise is back with his eagerly-awaited Top Gun sequel (it was delayed a couple of years by Covid), and there...

The Father and the Assassin, National Theatre review - Gandh...

The young Indian man stepping towards us on the vast Olivier stage is unremarkable enough, slight and boyish in manner. When he speaks he is...

Album: Nitty Gritty Dirt Band - Dirt Does Dylan

I have to confess, it’s a long time since I’ve thought about the Nitty Gritty Dirty Band and a new...

I Get Knocked Down, Brighton Festival review - Chumbawamba s...

One effect of the film I Get Knocked Down, a playfully constructed journey around the life of Chumbawamba vocalist Dunstan Bruce, is to...

Berrut, ECO, Guzzo, Cadogan Hall review - Schubert with a sm...

I came for the Schubert and it didn’t disappoint. Which was...

The Innocents review - they're just playing

The Innocents made a splash at Cannes in 2021 and it’s easy to see why. The ...

Blu-ray: I Am a Camera

The first film rendering of Christopher Isherwood’s experiences in early 1930s Berlin, I Am a Camera has been restored and released on...

The House of Shades, Almeida Theatre review - Anne-Marie Duf...

Anne-Marie Duff blazes across the stage like a meteorite in Beth Steel’s excoriating drama about the changes sweeping through a Northern mining...

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