Monthly Archives: February 2018

Akram Khan and Micheal Keegan-Dolan win at National Dance Awards

The National Dance Awards were announced today and we were delighted that a number of Sadler’s Wells’ associate artists and companies were among the winners.

Our Associate Artist Michael Keegan-Dolan’s moving Swan Lake/Loch na hEala for Teac Damsa was awarded Best modern choreography. Our Associate Artist Akram Khan’s wonderful Giselle for Associate Company English National Ballet won the Best classical choreography award, with Lead Principal Alina Cojocaru receiving the Outstanding classical performance (female) award for her performance in the title role.

Resident Company New Adventures’ Ashley Shaw took the Outstanding contemporary performance (female) award for her performance as Vicky Page in our Associate Artist Matthew Bourne’s The Red Shoes. Lez Brotherston, Matthew’s long-time collaborator and creator of New Adventures’ spectacular set designs, was honoured with the Ninette de Valois award for outstanding contribution to dance.

Among other winners, Richard Alston Dance Company’s Liam Riddick received the award for best male dancer and former principal of The Royal Ballet Zenaida Yanowsky, who recently performed as part of Sadler’s Wells Sampled,  won best female dancer. The full list of winners is available here.

Many congratulations to all on their awards!


Image: Michael Keegan-Dolan’s Swan Lake/Loch na hEala. Photo: Marie-Laure Briane.

Our week with Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch

Cecil Rowe was among three members of the Company of Elders cast as extras by our International Associate Company Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch for their recent performances of Viktor on the Sadler’s Wells stage. Here, he reflects on their extraordinary week with the renowned company.

There are not many shows that come along that are actively looking to cast older gentlemen as extras, so when that show happens to be a Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch production like Viktor and is being staged at Sadler’s Wells, then the Company of Elders is not a bad place to start looking for such gents.

When the  invitation arrived to audition on Sunday afternoon the 4 February for a coveted walk-on role in Viktor, three men from the Company of Elders took up the invitation and were absolutely delighted to make it through. What an amazing week we have had!

The audition was hardly out of the way before rehearsals began, just hours later! We had to work fast, Opening Night would take place on the Thursday evening, just four days later. The elder extras were divided into two groups: those ostensibly invalided by a disaster of some kind, who would be carried across the back of the stage by the younger extras in what is known as ‘the chaos scene’, and those who would be dressed in white doctor’s coats, pretending to make their way over shifting ground with two planks of wood, using them as stepping stones.

Each came with its pros and cons. Being carried across the stage at speed, slung over the shoulder of a young man, might sound a doddle, but if you were picked up and carried off without having established a comfortable posture, it was no fun having a hard shoulder digging into your ribs for the entire journey. Those of us in the doctor’s white coats, had to keep low and try and balance on the two tricky planks of wood we used as stepping stones.  It was murder on the knees! And woe betide you if you got caught up in the traffic jam that would sometimes develop as you headed for the wings and the music cue to exit caught up with you.

Our favourite scene by far was in the second act, when all the older gents gather around a table to quaff some wine and play cards while some of the women in the company grab hold of rings hanging from the flies and swing back and forth out into the auditorium, their heels not far from our heads as they swing back over the stage.  The wine was real and very drinkable and the card games totally fictitious but great fun.

We all, also, just before interval, had the opportunity to waltz briefly with a member of the company. That was pure magic! At the end of each performance, what a thrill too, to take a curtain call on the main stage at Sadler’s Wells, hand in hand with members of Tantztheater Wuppertal! For all three of us, I think, a huge honour to share the stage, if only for a few minutes, with them.

All in all, a week etched in our memories and one we will treasure and never forget.

“To work with the company was truly amazing, the work ethic of them all is awe-inspiring and they are all so friendly. And to stand on the Sadler’s Wells stage at the end and be part of the company receiving the audience’s appreciation was just wonderful. It is an experience I shall not forget, especially the chaos section!” Christopher Dunham


Image: (L to R) Company of Elders members Cecil Rowe, Christopher Dunham and Damien Murphy.

Interview: Luc Dunberry on Körper

Coming to Sadler’s Wells this March, Sasha Waltz & Guests present Körper – a unique study of the human body performed by an ensemble of 13 dancers. In this interview, Canadian-born ensemble member and co-creator of the piece, Luc Dunberry reveals how the functions the of the body became a starting point for its creation and how it has evolved during its 18 year life-span.

Tell us a bit about yourself.
I was born in Valleyfield, Canada, studying music at the Collège de Sherbrooke, drama at the UQAM (Université du Québec à Montréal) and dance at LADMMI (Les Ateliers de Danse Moderne de Montréal Inc.). As a member of the Groupe de la Place Royale I have worked with various choreographers, among them Sasha Waltz who introduced me to dance for her company in 1996. I have been a member of her dance ensemble at the Schaubühne am Lehniner Platz Berlin as both dancer and choreographer. Alongside my work with Sasha Waltz & Guests, I have always been developing my own choreographies and dance films.

You performed in Körper during its world premiere, and created the piece with Sasha Waltz. What is it like to work with Sasha?
We have a long-lasting relationship and we understand each other well in the work. We start often from improvisation so we are really involved in the creative process, we are searching for something together.

What was the starting point for the subject matter of this piece? Where did you draw your inspiration?
We started with a very broad spectrum on the idea of the body, but it became rapidly clear that the subject was too vast for a single piece. So we concentrated for this first part of the trilogy, on the very basic matter that composes the body, the biology and physics of it. A lot of the research has developed from fundamental systems of the body, like the bones, the skin, body fluids, nervous system etc.

How would you describe the style of this piece to audiences?
It’s a very graphic piece that functions like a collage of images. The sound design from Hans-Peter Kuhn sets a very strong tone and ties in with the visual identity of the piece. There is no narrative per se but I believe the abstraction of the piece is balanced by some glimpses of humanity under the flesh and bones.

What was the process involved in creating this piece?
There were two preparatory projects with public showings in 1999, prior to developing the piece itself. One was shown in Sophiensaele, a theatre that Sasha and her husband Jochen had inaugurated in 1996, and the second one in the yet to be opened Jewish Museum in Berlin. As for the dance material itself, we did a lot of improvisations on specific functions of the body, from which a selection of elements were then researched and deepened into the finished choreography. We dialogued with the architectural features of the Daniel Liebeskind building which had a strong influence on the set design for the stage. There were as well image-based ideas that were used as starting points, like the Vitrine at the beginning of the piece or the Body Mountains where the bodies are piled, arranged or aligned in different ways.

How has the experience of performing in Körper changed since you were involved in its creation and premiere over 18 years ago?
It is, at the same time, exactly the same as before and every time different. We have played the piece over a hundred times, it has accompanied us, we evolved with it. There is an aspect of it that is so well-known and second nature-like, but on the other hand, there’s always the unique present moment of doing it, every time its own, even if for the 115th time.

What do you want audiences to take away from watching this piece?
I think there is space for every spectator to witness, interpret and question the piece in their own personal way. I believe some images have a potential for strong physical impact and identification. If I would wish for something, it would be that the viewers get physical sensations from their own bodies from watching.

What one word would you use to describe Körper?

Körper runs on the main stage at Sadler’s Wells Theatre from Thurs 1 – Sat 3 March. Tickets are priced from £12 and are to book now via

Header image: Sebastian Bolesch


With our annual Flamenco Festival set to return this February celebrating its 15th anniversary, discover 15 things you may not already know about this unique art-form! In this landmark year for the festival, many incredible performances will take to the stage, showcasing a variety of styles from the most talented companies and artists.

1. It is widely believed that flamenco actually originates from India!

2. Flamenco dance is called baile, while a flamenco dancer is known as a bailaor (male) or bailaora (female).

3. The typical flamenco outfit is called the Traje de Flamenca. Dresses are said to have a guitar shaped body, to enhance a woman’s figure and hide flaws. Heels are an essential and range from 4 – 7cm in height. They can also have special nails in the soul to enhance their sound.

4. ‘Duende’ is a term in flamenco that is considered difficult to define. It is used to describe the ‘soul’ of flamenco and a heightened sense of emotion that overtakes you. The term is also known as an elf or goblin-like creature in Spanish mythology where it is derived from.

5. Palos, which also means stick or branch, refers to the different styles of Flamenco. There are more than 50 different styles or palos, from Alegrías to Bulerías!

6. Castanets are not part of traditional flamenco; they are an element that has been added to enhance the finger snapping. These wooden percussion instruments are more than 3,000 years old and over time have become an iconic symbol of Spanish Flamenco.

7. Flamenco is made up of four elements, Cante (Voice), Baile (Dance), Toque (Guitar), and the Jaleo, which roughly translated means ‘hell raising’ and involves the handclapping, foot stomping, and shouts of encouragement.

8. Silverio Franconetti Aguila, born in Seville in 1831, is considered a legendary singer of flamenco and opened the famous Café Silverios. It became known as the top ‘Café Cantante’ in Spain during a golden age of flamenco, where he invited only the most talented singers to perform and promoted only the purest forms of the art.

9. The Cajón is another popular percussion instrument, originating from Peru, sometimes used in Flamenco performances. Legendary Spanish Flamenco guitarist Paco de Lucía discovered the cajón during one of his tours in America in the late 1970s and described the sound as “restrained to flamenco.”

10. From 1920 to 1955, many flamenco shows took place in bullrings and theatres and became known as ‘Opera Flamenca.’ One reason why this name became popular was because opera paid much lower rates of tax than flamenco shows so was more economical.

11. One of Spain’s greatest writers, Federico Garcia Lorca, was a keen ambassador of the art-form. Two of his most important poetic works, Poema del Cante Jondo and Romancero Gitano, show Lorca’s fascination with flamenco and appreciation of Spanish folk culture.

12. Rhythmic hand-clapping, known as palmas, is an important part of flamenco. There are two types of palmas, known as Palmas Sordas and Palmas Abiertas, which use different parts of the hand to produce different sounds.

Under the Franco regime, flamenco gained the status of a Spanish national symbol, while secret police simultaneously repressed any form of cultural dissent in lower-class neighbourhoods, illegalizing many flamenco concerts and gatherings.

14. In classical music theory, Compás is the word used to describe the rhythm or time signature in Flamenco. Flamenco uses three basic counts or measures: Binary, Ternary and the (unique to flamenco) twelve-beat cycle.

15. The fastest flamenco dancer ever recorded danced 1,274 taps in one minute.

Staff make Time to Talk about mental health

On 1 February, Sadler’s Wells took part in Time to Talk Day, a national initiative encouraging everyone to have a conversation about mental health.

It’s easy to think there’s no right place to talk about mental health. But the more we talk about it openly, the more we can remove barriers, challenge stereotypes and have better lives.

Time to Talk Day aims to spread the word that anywhere can be the right place to talk about mental health – including at work.

To support the campaign and encourage our staff to discuss mental health, we ran a ‘Time for Tea’ break at Sadler’s Wells. Along with snacks and drinks, the event included a range of conversation starter materials to help get the flow of conversation going in a relaxed environment.

As in any busy organisation, it’s difficult to find a spare moment to prioritise yourself. Taking an hour out of your day to relieve yourself from daily stresses is helpful in the long run. Whether it is taking the time to talk about mental health or just catching up with a colleague you haven’t spoken to in a while, taking time out of the daily grind to clear the mind is important not just in terms of increasing our productivity, but also, and more importantly, for our general wellbeing.

Find out more about Time to Talk at

Sadler’s Wells axes use of plastic straws

Creativity and sustainability are central to the future of arts and culture. Which is why, as part of our ongoing commitment to being as green as possible, we have stopped using plastic straws across our venues’ cafes, restaurants and bars. These have been replaced by biodegradable paper straws, which are less harmful to the environment and will now only be available on request. Previously, we were disposing of around 3,000 plastic straws every year at our venues.

“Removing plastic straws is one of many measures we are undertaking to make Sadler’s Wells as sustainable as possible. We are delighted to join the Evening Standard’s campaign to help reduce non-biodegradable waste and raise awareness of this important issue,” said Emma Wilson, Director of Technical and Production and Chair of Sadler’s Wells’ Green Team.

“Other initiatives for our café and bars include replacing plastic cutlery with biodegradable cutlery made from corn starch, and swapping polystyrene takeaway boxes with biodegradable kraft board ones. We are also investigating alternatives to the plastic cups that audiences use to take drinks into the auditorium. We get through an awful lot of those, so we are looking to replace them with something much more sustainable.”

Vote for us to win the FEDORA Prize

We are pleased to announce our membership of the new FEDORA Platform, a collection of 18 other European organisations committed to showcasing innovative ballet and opera projects.

As a platform member we are lucky enough to have access to funds provided by the European Commission’s Creative Europe fund. This year we have been shortlisted for the FEDORA – VAN CLEEF & ARPELS Prize for Ballet for our new commission, William Forsythe’s A Quiet Evening of Dance.

In order to make sure this commission is considered for funding by the jury, we need your help! Please follow the link below to vote.


Thank you.

Image: Sadler’s Wells Artistic Director and Chief Executive Alistair Spalding announces our membership of the FEDORA Platform

Our family of associates is growing!

Artists are the lifeblood of Sadler’s Wells. Our productions and our theatre wouldn’t exist without them. Today, we are delighted to announce new additions to the Sadler’s Wells family.

Sharon Eyal becomes our newest Sadler’s Wells’ Associate Artist. One of the most original choreographic voices in contemporary dance, Sharon made her Sadler’s Wells debut with OCD Love in 2016, which received critical and public acclaim. There are four opportunities to see her work this year: her piece Bill is part of Ballet British Columbia’s triple bill in March.; the world premiere of her work as Guest Artistic Director of NYDC, Used To Be Blonde, is in April; Love Chapter 2, her latest production for her company L-E-V, has its UK premiere in July; and her piece Killer Pig is part of Rambert 2’s programme in November.

Speaking about her appointment, Sharon said: “L-E-V’s last two creations were co-produced with Sadler’s Wells, which was a fantastic vote of confidence from the theatre. This year, as well as bringing Love Chapter 2 here in July, another fortune has been bestowed on me by Sadler’s Wells – working with the National Youth Dance Company. I’m known as an emotional person – but working with those young people brought me to a new level of emotion, fulfillment and a genuine sense of purpose. L-E-V means heart in Hebrew – and this project shows what a big heart Sadler’s Wells has. So it’s with great honour and excitement that I receive this appointment of Associate Artist. For me, Sadler’s Wells was always one of the dance summits – now I’m privileged to reach and be part of it.”

We are committed to supporting artists at every stage of their career and to nurturing the pipeline of future talent. This encompasses the promising young performers in the National Youth Dance Company, early career artists consolidating their work in our Lilian Baylis Studio, our New Wave Associates and our more established Associate Artists. However, we have identified the need for more support to be given to those at the very outset of their dance-making careers, those who have just left higher education with a desire to establish their choreographic voices early on. So we have launched a new initiative, the Young Associates programme, supporting talented young people aged between 18 and 24, and providing a crucial first step into their career as choreographers.

The first Young Associates are: Anthony Matsena, Wilhelmina Ojanen, Ruby Portus and Christopher Thomas. We are supporting them in a variety of ways, including with production time in our studios and theatres, providing advice and networking opportunities. The Young Associates present a mixed bill of work later this year in the Lilian Baylis Studio.

Image: Anthony Matsena, Christopher Thomas, Ruby Portus and Wilhelmina Ojanen

We have also appointed three more artists as New Wave AssociatesJulie Cunningham, Project O and L’Atisse Rhoden. Julie Cunningham recently launched her own company after 15 years of dancing with the iconic Merce Cunningham Dance Company and Michael Clark Company. Her work employs text and movement, and is concerned with gender identity. Project O is a collaboration between artists Alexandrina Hemsley and Jamila Johnson-Small. Their work explores the body as a site of politics, considering the impact of colonial history in the UK today. L’Atisse Rhoden comes from the hip hop dance theatre community. Introduced to us by our Breakin’ Convention team, she trained with dance companies Avant Garde Dance and Botis Seva’s Far From the Norm. A solo artist and director of the female collective 25, her work is heavily influenced by surrealism.

Image: Julie Cunningham, L’Atisse Rhoden, and Project O’s Alexandrina Hemsley and Jamila Johnson-Small

Alistair Spalding, Sadler’s Wells Artistic Director and Chief Executive, said: “Supporting artists and their creative journeys is at the very heart of what we do. I’m delighted to welcome a new collection of artists to our stable today, marking our commitment to long-term investment in artists at every stage, from fledgling choreographer, to the emerging, mid-scale and the most established artists. It is absolutely fitting that in our 20th anniversary year, we look to the future with our Young Associates initiative, addressing the need for more support to be given to those at the very outset of their dance making careers.”

We are thrilled to welcome these artists to our associates’ family and look forward to seeing their work on our stages soon!

20 commissions for 20 years

2018 marks the 20th anniversary of Sadler’s Wells’ present building. Erected on the same spot where entrepreneur Richard Sadler first established a ‘musick house’ on the site of a mineral spring in 1683, the current theatre, purpose-built for dance, opened in October 1998.

A lot has changed since then, but we are very proud that two things have stayed the same: our determination to work with exceptional artists and our commitment to reaching an ever wider audience through what we do.

Today, Sadler’s Wells is the UK’s national dance house and a large portion of our programme each season is made up of works we have commissioned, produced or co-produced, mainly with our associate artists and companies. What better way to celebrate, then, that commissioning 20 new works for our stages? They include Reckonings, a special triple bill premiering in our anniversary week in October, featuring pieces by three distinct choreographic voices who are creating work for our main stage for the first time: Julie Cunningham, Alesandra Seutin and Botis Seva.

Our 20 commissions also look back at our longstanding relationships with established artists. These include: two new works in William Forsythe’s first full-length programme since his company closed in 2015; the UK premiere of Mark Morris’ acclaimed Layla and Majnun; a new mixed programme created for ballerina Natalia Osipova; and our Associate Artist Akram Khan’s final full-length solo production, XENOS. We also commissioned our newest Associate Artist, Sharon Eyal, to create work for National Youth Dance Company as their Guest Artistic Director for 2018.

Developing dance for and by young people continues to be a priority. We have commissioned two new works for families – balletLORENT’s Rumpelstiltskin and upsidedowninsideout, an immersive, site-specific journey for families. We also launch our inaugural Young Associates programme, designed to nurture young choreographic talent aged 18 to 24, giving them a platform to create new work.

The full list of commissions is:

National Youth Dance Company/ Sharon Eyal
Used to be Blonde





one step at a time like this

upside down inside out


Breakin’ Convention 2018

Jazz Refreshed


Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan



Akram Khan Company



Company of Elders

Mixed Bill


Natalia Osipova

Pure Dance


William Forsythe

A Quiet Evening of Dance


Young Associates

Mixed Bill


Julie Cunningham/ Alesandra Seutin/ Botis Seva



Jasmin Vardimon Company

New Work


Mark Morris Dance Group

Layla & Majnun


Nitin Sawhney & Wang Ramirez

Dystopian Dream


Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui & Antony Gormley



Rambert 2

Mixed Bill


Jefta van Dinther

Dark Field Analysis


Eva Recacha

New Work


Mavin Khoo

From Man to Monk – Part 1


Wilkie Branson



We would like to thank The Monument Trust for their generous support of our new commissions.

American Express renews support of Sampled

We are delighted to announce that the American Express Foundation has renewed their commitment to Sadler’s Wells, with a grant supporting our Sampled festival for the next two years.

American Express are long-term partners of Sadler’s Wells. Their ongoing support of Sampled ensures we can continue to give audiences the chance to experience a wide range of world-class dance at an accessible price. It is also enabling us to deliver two new engagement programmes for school children and members of our local community, as part of this year’s festival.

Robert Glick, Vice President of Corporate Communications & Head of International Government Affairs at American Express said, “At American Express we are thrilled to continue our support of Sadler’s Wells. We believe that access to world class dance should be without barriers and remain proud of our association with an organisation which works continuously to encourage all to experience the joy of live performance.”

Sadler’s Wells relies on contributions from individuals and partner organisations to help us reach new audiences and continue to transform lives through dance, and this renewed support from American Express is a valued part of our family of supporters.