Monthly Archives: September 2017

Figuring It Out: Michael Johnson on his Producing and Touring Internship

On the last day of his internship, Michael Johnson reflects on his six-month experience in the Producing & Touring team at Sadler’s Wells.

Getting out of the lift to the offices of Sadler’s Wells Theatre – just above and behind the historic main stage, there is an image by photographer, Mike Figgis of Ballet Frankfurt, taken in April 2004. Within the picture hides the uber-tall and magnificent dancer, Stephen Galloway waving his arm. Galloway is a giant creative force in both the dance and fashion industry, with a career I aspire to follow, so it felt inspiring to see this image every working day in my new role as the Producing and Touring intern.

Photograph by Mike Figgis that hangs in the Sadler’s Wells office buildings.

I came to Sadler’s following a few years of working as a professional dancer and came wanting to learn as much as I possibly could about the role of producing and ways to tour dance works internationally, as well as playing a small part in one of the strongest powerhouses of contemporary dance in the world, which I have admired for most of my life.

This was not your average or basic internship. There is of course the odd post office errand to run, expenses to file and internal mail to send to stage door, but you are never treated as the office aide.

Alongside continual development opportunities across the team, you are pulled in many directions, which reminds me of a dancer in the studio. I had the chance to work on a variety of tasks and projects in my six-month placement.  There is rarely a dull day in the Producing & Touring office. You are mentored with guidance and care, such as one-to-one meetings with senior producers who seek to fulfil your individual expectations.

Sweet treats from foreign trips are always in abundance, as producers are flying back from all corners of the world such as international festivals, opening nights or rehearsals, where a vast portfolio of Producing & Touring shows are created and presented.

Challenges morph, but rarely escalate in the Producing & Touring team. You’re constantly learning both hard and soft skills, from finding out the most efficient modes of travel for your productions on the road, to witnessing how to evacuate members of your team from a category 5 hurricane.

In my final week as an intern, I was offered the chance to oversee the London Fashion Week show of fashion designer and Sadler’s Wells ambassador Hussein Chalayan. Chalayan’s collaborations with Sadler’s Wells include Gravity Fatigue, the first dance production he ever directed, and the upcoming new show Dystopian Dream, of which he is designing the costumes. This opportunity was a perfect chance to gauge my skills in helping to produce a live fashion event within a traditional dance theatre context.

My biggest revelation was realising that the Producing & Touring team, from freelance technicians to wardrobe staff, producers and coordinators, all work tirelessly against constant pressures, both financial and artistic, to ensure that the best contemporary dance shows get out there and seen all over the world. Following this internship, I hope to continue my own projects as an independent dance producer, specialising in dance and fashion. In the not so distant future, I look forward to producing my own projects in dance and fashion through my company, Mode and Motion. Taking the breadth of experiences gained here at Sadler’s with me, I hope to continue chasing in Stephen Galloway’s footsteps.

Image of Michael by Nick Eagle


12 Things You Didn’t Know About La Bayadère

This October ground-breaking choreographer Shobana Jeyasingh brings Bayadère – The Ninth Life to the Sadler’s Wells stage. This work is a departure from Jeyasingh’s usual works as it is a full-length piece that has a strong narrative. Moving between fact and fantasy, the choreography interweaves the original story of Marius Petipa’s La Bayadère ballet with the first-ever visit of Indian temple dancers to Europe in 1838.

But what is the original ballet about? Where and when was it created? And how did it become one of the most well-known ballets still performed throughout the world?

1. The word bayadère is French for Indian temple dancer, originating from the Portuguese word ‘ballar’, meaning dance.

2. The first visit of temple dancers to Europe was in 1838. They were brought over to France by an enterprising impresario – EC Tardival (pictured left) – from Pondicherry in south India. They stayed for over a year and performed in Paris, Vienna, Antwerp, Brussels, London and Brighton.

3. Once in Paris, the prevailing attitude towards the cultures of India and the Far East (Orientalism) was vividly reflected by theatre critic, Théophile Gautier:
‘The very word bayadere evokes notions of sunshine, perfume and beauty even to the most prosaic and bourgeois mind… and through the pale smoke of burning incense appear the unfamiliar silhouettes of the East. Until now bayaderes had remained a poetic mystery like the hours of Muhammad’s paradise. They were remote, splendid, fairylike, fascinating.’

4. La Bayadère was first staged in 1877 by French choreographer Marius Petipa to the music of Ludwig Minkus at the Bolshoi Theatre in St Petersburg.

5. The ballet was created especially for the benefit performance of Ekaterina Vazem, Prima Ballerina of the St. Petersburg Imperial Theatre.

6. Petipa spent almost six months staging La Bayadère. During rehearsals, he clashed with Prima Ballerina Vazem over the matter of her entrance in the ballet’s final Grand pas d’action, while also experiencing many problems with the set designers who constructed the ballet’s elaborate stage effects.

7. La Bayadère takes place in the Royal India of long ago, here’s the synopsis:
The temple dancer, Nikiya, has secretly sworn her eternal love to the warrior Solor. When she rejects the High Brahmin, he takes revenge on Solor. But his actions have terrible consequences. The High Brahmin reveals the secret affair to Solor’s fiancé – the Rajah’s daughter. To his horror, she arranges Nikiya’s murder. Solor dreams of reuniting with Nikiya in the famous Kingdom of the Shades scene – then awakens, remembering that he’s still engaged. At his wedding, however, he sees a vision of Nikiya. He mistakenly says his vows to her, instead of his bride-to-be and the gods become infuriated and destroy the palace. Solor and Nikiya reunite in spirit, in the Kingdom of the Shades.

8. The ballet wasn’t seen in the West until 1961 in Paris. Two years later, Rudolf Nureyev staged The Kingdom of the Shades for the Royal Ballet with Margot Fonteyn as Nikiya (pictured left). Minkus’s music was re-orchestrated by the Royal Opera House’s composer/conductor John Lanchbery. The premiere was a resounding success, and is considered to be among the most important moments in the history of ballet.

9. The Kingdom of the Shades is one of the most celebrated excerpts in all of classical ballet. Traditionally, the dance begins with 32 women in white, all making their way down a ramp in unison. The dance is exquisite, and often performed by itself.

10. Nearly all modern versions of La Bayadère are derived from the Mariinsky Ballet’s production, which was originally staged in 1941 by Vakhtang Chabukiani and Vladimir Ponomarev. Natalia Makarova’s 1980 production for American Ballet Theatre has also been staged by several theatres throughout the world and is itself derived from Chabukiani and Ponomarev’s version.

11. American ice skater Gracie Gold will be performing a version of La Bayadère in the 2018 Winter Olympics.

12. La Bayadère was the last production Rudolf Nureyev worked on, performed at the Palais Garnier, Paris in 1992.

Shobana first saw Natalia Makarova’s production and whilst admiring the staging and the choreography, was shocked by its clichéd vision of the Orient and the Indian temple dancer. In Bayadère – The Ninth Life she challenges the West’s fascination with the myth of the Orient and examine how this legacy has directly affected the Indian diaspora today.

12 Things You Didn’t Know About La Bayadère originally featured on

Shobana Jeyasingh Dance will be performing Bayadère – The Ninth Life at Sadler’s Wells 16 and 17 October. Book here.

Sadler’s Wells’ Voices: Maurice Rowan-Bishop on his apprenticeship

Sadler’s Wells offers a number of apprenticeships, giving young people the opportunity to access practical training and develop crucial knowledge and skills across different areas of the creative industries. In October 2014, Maurice Rowan-Bishop joined Sadler’s Wells as Cultural Venue Operations Apprentice, as part of the creative employment programme, to gain experience in the Front of House, Catering and Events departments. Following his successful apprenticeship, Maurice was offered a permanent role as Catering Team Leader in October 2016. He is responsible for helping to train staff and ensure the smooth running of the cafes and bars at the theatre. We spoke to Maurice about what he learnt from his apprenticeship at Sadler’s Wells.

What is your background?

I came to Sadler’s Wells straight from education, having spent 2 years studying English Literature at the University of Essex. My experience with higher education was not what I had hoped for and so I left in 2014 without gaining my degree. This was a big disappointment at the time, however looking back now I feel like coming out of education and into work benefited me in a huge way. I came to Sadler’s having worked previously for Aramark at the 2012 Olympics in the dining hall of the Athletes village. Not only did this give me a first experience working in hospitality, but it left me with a feeling that I was participating in something significant and influenced my desire to pursue a career in the arts.

How did you find out about the apprenticeship you applied for?

On the website. They have an entire section dedicated to Apprenticeships, which I was searching with a particular eye on the arts sector. When I saw that Sadler’s Wells was offering one I knew I had to apply as I recognised it as a really important institution in the arts world and great way to start a career in the arts.

Why did you apply to work at Sadler’s Wells?

It was perfectly suited for what I was looking for at the time; I knew I was interested in working in theatre, however I was unsure of what area to focus my attention on. The apprenticeship was very general, offering experience in a number of departments within the theatre so provided me with an opportunity to gain a flavour for the various careers one can pursue within the arts and decide which was best for me.

What did your apprenticeship involve?

I spent my apprenticeship working in three of the theatre’s departments. Front of House, Catering and Events. For the majority of this, I worked in the events department of the theatre, assisting the team with the sale of events spaces and the organisation and smooth running of events. These spaces included the theatre’s main auditorium, reception areas, meeting rooms and dance studios. My responsibilities within the team included: Communicating with other internal operational departments to ensure the needs and requirements of clients are met, receiving external phone calls and forwarding them to the appropriate team member, using the diary system to book internal departments into events spaces as per their requests, generating a daily schedule of events each week to be used by all departments and carrying out market research to improve the sales of spaces. I also attended Lewisham and Southwark College and completed an NVQ in Cultural Venues operation during this time.

What did you learn?

The fact I was given an opportunity to work in so many departments gave me a fantastic insight into how a theatre is run and the various roles its many staff have. During the first four months (the portion of the apprenticeship spent in FOH and Catering), I was able to really hone my customer service experience, especially working as an usher during the sold-out Christmas show where a large portion of the audience were new to the theatre.

Working in the events department was my first time in an office environment, so I was able to learn a lot. Everything from sending emails to colleagues and clients as well as answering enquiries over the phone were all new things to me, but I got a lot of support from the rest of the team and by the end of the 8 months I very comfortable with those sort of tasks. I also learned a lot about time management and the prioritising of tasks, skills that are still very valuable to my current job even though it is more operationally based.

What did you particularly enjoy as part of the apprenticeship?

The experience of learning whilst working was very refreshing when compared to the academic approach I had struggled with at university, particularly when it came to the structure that comes with full time work. I also remember being really impressed by how friendly the atmosphere was within the theatre. It felt a bit like a family full of people who were proud of what they did and where they worked.

How do you feel the apprenticeship benefited your career?

It’s hard to imagine how else I could have gotten my foot in the door at a theatre like Sadler’s without a degree. The apprenticeship also gave me a fantastic understanding of the arts sector in general, and helped me understand what direction I could take with my career.

What advice would you give to other graduates doing an apprenticeship at Sadler’s Wells?

I would say definitely don’t put off the coursework. It’s basically functions as a portfolio of all the little things you learn as you work, making it a lot easier if you add to it as you go rather than leaving it to the end of the year as I did. Another thing would be to hold on to the contacts you build throughout the apprenticeship – from your tutor to the other apprentices on the course with you, because it is a useful way to build a network of both personal and professional support.

UK Theatre Awards 2017 Nominations

We’re very excited to announce that we have been nominated for UK Theatre’s Award for Achievement in Marketing/Audience Development for our new membership scheme.

Sadler’s Wells’ membership scheme has proved hugely popular with our audience since its launch in February 2017, and the first five months have seen a 52% increase in new Members and a 77% increase in new Rehearsal Members. To find out more about our new membership scheme, read more here .

Scottish Ballet have also been nominated for two awards – they join us in the Marketing/Audience Development category for their Digital Season, and their European premiere of Crystal Pite’s Emergence, which appeared at Sadler’s Wells in June 2017, appears in the Achievement in Dance Award. Also nominated is Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, who performed at Sadler’s Wells in September 2016, for “a rich and full programme performed with distinctive personality”, presented by Dance Consortium.

The Awards take place on Sunday 15 October at a ceremony at London’s Guildhall, and the full list of nominations is available here .

Wayne McGregor awarded Honorary Science Fellowship

Sadler’s Wells’ Associate Artist Wayne McGregor has been awarded an honorary fellowship by the British Science Association for his dedication to engaging and inspiring people with science.  He joins an illustrious rank of honorary fellows, including Professor Brian Cox and Sir David Attenborough.

Wayne’s work has long been at the forefront of dance innovation, exploring the possibilities of the human body and movement through our cognitive and scientific processes. He has worked closely with researchers to create work informed by cognitive science and social anthropology, and even devised a choreographic thinking tool, Mind and Movement, now used in schools and other educational environments.

His long-standing interest in scientific research is reflected in his choreographic works, which are often at the cutting edge of scientific and technological advancements. Atomos, performed at Sadler’s Wells in 2013, probes the idea of choreography growing from the form of an atom, exploring the movement and manipulation of the body with wearable technology mapping the dancer’s biometrics and reflecting their own emotional algorithms. His upcoming production Autobiography, premiering at Sadler’s Wells in October, is similarly ambitious, a deeply personal work stemming from world-leading geneticists sequencing Wayne’s genetic material, and thereby re-processing and exploring nature’s code through dance.

Many congratulations to Wayne on this important recognition!

Image credit: Nick Mead

In conversation with Rosie Kay

Rosie Kay is the founder of Birmingham-based Rosie Kay Dance Company. This September her company will perform the award-winning 5 SOLDIERS: The Body is the Frontline at the Yeomanry House. We chatted to her about her inspiration for the work and the future of her company.

Tell us about Rosie Kay Dance Company, how did the company come about?
I founded Rosie Kay Dance Company in 2004. I’d danced abroad for several years, in Poland, France and Germany and had been making about one new work a year. I returned to the UK to really focus on making my own work, and found a home in Birmingham. The company has grown, from small duet and solo work, to full length shows and mid-scale touring. We’re really delighted to receive NPO status from 2018, which will really help us reach more audiences.

What about 5 SOLDIERS, what inspired you to create a piece exploring the body in combat?
I experienced an injury to my leg whilst performing on stage. A lift went wrong and I ended up dislocating my left knee. I was told I wouldn’t be able to dance again and that it would take a year to build up the strength to walk again. Under the influence of the anaesthetic, I had a vision that my leg had been blown off and I was in a desert surrounded by bombs going off.  It was around the time of the Iraq war and I suddenly saw these faces of young soldiers in a new light. Conversations around warfare have more recently become focused on technological advancements, but soldiers are still putting their bodies on the frontline, risking their health and knowing that they could return with amputations or other life-changing injuries. I began wondering what the training was like that prepared these soldiers for taking that risk and so started my research with the 4th Battalion The Rifles. Training for combat is both physically and psychologically demanding. It requires discipline, teamwork and trust in others, attention, strength and stamina, things that I felt dance training had a particular connection with. It was these links that suggested how dance, and its use of the body, could be a powerfully appropriate medium to explore the lead up to and effects of combat. 5 SOLDIERS became the first of a trilogy of works that I went onto create that looks specifically at the body and asks who exercises control over it in these different contexts.

Can you tell us a bit about the process behind creating the show?
I’ve spent a lot of time with soldiers, talking about their experiences, watching them train, joining in full battle exercises, and also getting to know those being treated at military rehabilitation centres. I’ve met soldiers who I’ve seen go through training and then have returned from Afghanistan as amputees. I always put in a lot of research before developing a show, and in this case that felt especially important given the sensitivity of the issues that I was proposing to explore. This is real life for many young men and women and it was vital to get it right. To prepare the dancers for performing the work, this year we enrolled them on three days of intense combat exercises deep in the Scottish countryside. The dancers trained alongside Exercise Solway Eagle, which involved members of The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards (Scots DG) who are soon to be deployed on an overseas peacekeeping mission, so they were able to absorb their movements, body language and see the relationships between soldiers.

How has creating the show changed/ influenced your views on the armed forces?
Before I started developing the show, I felt quite distanced from the Armed Forces, as I’m sure many of the general public feel. It’s a world full of codes, signals and terminology that perhaps creates a divide that makes engagement and understanding quite challenging. What we know of soldiers is often through representations in the media or as statistics in the news, so what I’ve tried to do in this work is humanise the people that serve in The Army. They are not merely bodies that are sent off to war, they have their own struggles which they deal with individually and as a team. The institution has this overarching control over their bodies however there’s still huge scope for individual experience within that. It’s this relationship between collective identity and individual experience that really comes through in the show.

What’s next for Rosie Kay Dance Company?
We’ve just been awarded a huge commission from The Space which is enabling us to live stream one of the performances of 5 SOLDIERS, so I’d highly recommend tuning in to that on Friday 8 September, 7.45pm. I’d also recommend looking out for Modern Warrior, which is happening on Sunday 24 September as part of Birmingham Weekender. We’re looking for participants (‘warriors’) interested in vintage kung-fu films and martial arts to help us stage a procession through the city which will culminate in Birmingham New Street Station. People can sign up to get involved via the Facebook page: /RKDCModernWarrior

Click here for more information about 5 SOLDIERS’ live stream.

Book here for tickets to performances of 5 SOLDIERS at the Yeomanry House 7 – 9 Sep.