mon 02/10/2023

Dance reviews, news & interviews

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

Guy Oddy

These days Black Sabbath aren’t short of admirers in the arts and even further afield. Artists as disparate as veteran soul man, Charles Bradley and Scandi popsters the Cardigans have covered their songs – and then there’s Jazz Sabbath, who do exactly as their name suggests.

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

Jenny Gilbert

Dance lovers with no access to a major city could feel genuinely hard done by were it not for Dance Consortium. This sainted organisation works to bring a company from overseas each autumn to a dozen or so large-scale theatres across the UK and Ireland – theatres whose dance offering might otherwise rarely extend beyond the latest Strictly spin-off.

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre, Sadler's...

Helen Hawkins

A big welcome awaited the Alvin Ailey dancers at the Wells, on their first international tour since lockdown. The company has scheduled four...

Matthew Bourne's Romeo + Juliet, Sadler...

Helen Hawkins

Matthew Bourne regularly revamps the first version of a new piece so that by the second go-round it really zings. For the return of his 2019 Romeo +...

Jewels, The Australian Ballet, Royal Opera House...

Helen Hawkins

Every time you see Jewels, George Balanchine’s masterpiece from 1967, something new emerges from its treasure trove. What the Australian Ballet...

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

Jungle Book reimagined, Sadler's Wells review - a doomy revision of the Kipling stories

Helen Hawkins

Akram Khan repurposes the classic as a futuristic eco-disaster saga

Cinderella, Royal Ballet review - the first British ballet learns the language of flowers

Jenny Gilbert

Plant life blooms everywhere you look in Frederick Ashton's earliest full-evening ballet

Tom Dale Company, The Place review - immersive and genre-busting

Jenny Gilbert

Dazzling, ingenious, thought provoking - a big thumbs-up to the digital revolution

'You want to cry from loving to do it so much' - Lynn Seymour 1939-2023

Ismene Brown

Remembering the unique ballerina who injected me with her poison

Turn It Out with Tiler Peck, Sadler's Wells review - America's ballet wonder-woman raises the barre

Jenny Gilbert

On her UK solo debut, New York City Ballet’s queen of speed gives audiences a wild ride

Woolf Works, Royal Ballet review - Wayne McGregor's modern classic impresses all over again

Helen Hawkins

Alessandra Ferri returns as the moving focus of this powerful piece

The Sacrifice, Dada Masilo, Brighton Dome review - eye-popping dance from South Africa

Jenny Gilbert

The dance is riveting but the story is murky

Creature review - Asif Kapadia shines light on a dark dance piece

Helen Hawkins

The ballet has been transformed by a film version that gets up close and personal

Julie Cunningham & Co, Sadler's Wells review - a fine piece of work, with added spice

Jenny Gilbert

The other Cunningham stakes out their territory in contemporary dance, and the non-binary debate

Swan Lake, English National Ballet, Coliseum review - the story of a deluded prince

Jenny Gilbert

The corps de ballet take the laurels in Derek Deane's dependably fine production

Best of 2022: Dance

Jenny Gilbert

It might not be business as usual, but memorable work has come through

Matthew Bourne's Sleeping Beauty, Sadler's Wells review - a gothic romance with loads of goth and not much love

Jenny Gilbert

Revival of Bourne's vampire ballet drives a stake through the heart of Beauty

Ruination, Linbury Theatre review - Medea gets a makeover

Jenny Gilbert

Ben Duke and Lost Dog inject fresh life - and some laughs - to the grisliest of Greek tragedies

English National Ballet: Ek, Forsythe, Quagebeur review - two masters, two marvels

Jenny Gilbert

ENB shows its range in a devastating new Rite of Spring from Mats Ek, and pop heaven from William Forsythe

Birmingham Royal Ballet: Into the Music, Sadler's Wells review - a visual and aural feast

Jenny Gilbert

Beethoven rules the day in a fine mixed bill, and an overlooked choreographic master belatedly takes a bow

Light of Passage, Royal Ballet review - a new full-evening work by Crystal Pite is eloquent and moving

Jenny Gilbert

Proof, once again, that ballet has the muscle to tackle big topics

Mayerling, Royal Ballet review - a masterpiece of storytelling, darkly gripping

Jenny Gilbert

Kenneth MacMillan's royal-family-in-death-spiral dance drama reconfirms its potency

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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