sun 08/12/2019

Dance reviews, news & interviews

Svetlana Zakharova, Modanse, London Coliseum review - impeccably chic but soul-less

Jenny Gilbert

What price a pair of seats at the ballet? If you’re talking the latest starry Russian import then, with a few perks thrown in, you might not see much change from £800.

Coppélia, Royal Ballet review - a real charmer

Jenny Gilbert

In featuring ordinary people and things rather than magic curses or avenging ghosts, Coppélia stands apart in the canon of 19th century ballets. The only mystery about this delightful old production is why the Royal Ballet has not programmed it for more than a decade.

Acosta Danza, Sadler's Wells review - a dose...

Jenny Gilbert

Second album, second novel, second tour programme – the follow-up is always tricky. But the timing couldn’t be better for Acosta Danza, the Havana-...

Natalia Osipova: Pure Dance, Sadler's Wells...

Jenny Gilbert

Sometimes a dance talent arrives that causes the ground to shift and alters the landscape. Natalia Osipova is one such. Not content to be queen of...

Concerto/Enigma Variations/Raymonda Act III,...

Jenny Gilbert

As a mood-lifter, it’s hard to beat the opening of Concerto. Against a primrose sky, figures in daffodil, tangerine and brick form lozenges of...

The deathless Alicia Alonso, in person

Ismene Brown

Remembering the woman who was Cuban ballet's legend and monster

Cross Currents/Monotones II/Everyone Keeps Me, Linbury Theatre review - the Royal Ballet finds the missing link

Jenny Gilbert

In exploring the road not taken, the Royal Ballet turns up treasures old and new

Dada Masilo's Giselle, Sadler's Wells review - bold, brutal, unforgiving

Jenny Gilbert

Startling cultural retread of the romantic ballet, set in a South African village

Manon, Royal Opera House review - splendid start to the season

Jenny Gilbert

MacMillan's 'dirty little diamond digger' proves her worth yet again

Redd, Barbican Theatre review - hip hop gets the blues

Jenny Gilbert

Boy Blue explore the black dog in a brave piece of dance theatre

Alvin Ailey, Programme C review - black, beautiful, brilliant

Jenny Gilbert

America's No.1 rounds off its triumphant visit with a diddly-doo-wop

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre, Sadler's Wells review - Still more Revelations

Jenny Gilbert

America's favourite dance ticket shows us how it's done

Matthew Bourne's Romeo and Juliet, Sadler's Wells review - heart-stopping drama

Hanna Weibye

The plot isn't perfect, but this bad romance still packs a punch

The Bright Stream, Bolshoi Ballet review - a gem of a comedy

Hanna Weibye

Ratmansky and Shostakovich offer up old-fashioned fun with an undercurrent of sweetness

Spartacus, Bolshoi Ballet, Royal Opera House review - no other company could pull this off

Hanna Weibye

Visiting Russians transform wooden material into muscular spectacle

Jean-Paul Gaultier’s Fashion Freak Show, Southbank Centre review - c’est chic

Kitty Finstad

Opulent, decadent and a fabulous antidote to the woes of the world

Ballet Flamenco Sara Baras, Sadler's Wells review - storming opening to flamenco festival

Jenny Gilbert

Sara Baras confirms flamenco as a dynamic and innovative force

Mari review - bittersweet drama with flair

Owen Richards

Unusual mash-up of styles creates a strangely compelling film

The Mother, QEH review - Natalia goes psycho

Jenny Gilbert

Osipova is mesmerising in bleak dance-drama about maternal mental health

Cinderella, English National Ballet, Royal Albert Hall review - big, bright and bankable

Jenny Gilbert

Christopher Wheeldon's glossy arena show suggests bigger isn't better

The Firebird triple bill, Royal Ballet review - generous programme with Russian flavour

Hanna Weibye

Trio of substantial pieces offers something for everyone

San Francisco Ballet, Liang/Marston/Pita, Sadler's Wells - elemental, ethereal and kitschy, too

Matt Wolf

Visiting company mixes moods and climates in varied and variable mixed bill

Shostakovich Trilogy, San Francisco Ballet, Sadler's Wells review - less than the sum of its parts

Hanna Weibye

Serene visiting Americans lack the bite for Russian composer

'I wrote a letter to Björk in Icelandic and it did the trick': Helgi Tomasson on an intervention that saved a ballet

Jenny Gilbert

The artistic director of San Francisco Ballet heralds its all-new season at Sadler's Wells

Four Quartets, Barbican Theatre review - ultimate stage poetry

Jenny Gilbert

TS Eliot's poems staged with dance and music are a revelation

Tribe//Still I Rise, Brighton Festival 2019 review - an evening of poetic movement

Katie Colombus

Convincing choreography based on the poetry of Maya Angelou

Traptown, Wim Vandekeybus/Ultima Vez, Brighton Festival 2019 review - obscure to the point of ridiculous

Katie Colombus

An uneasy and inaccessible evening of performance that searches for abstraction but gets lost in its own concept

Within the Golden Hour/Medusa/Flight Pattern, Royal Ballet review - the company shows its contemporary face

Jenny Gilbert

Osipova is astonishing as ever, but Medusa the ballet misses its mark

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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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