Monthly Archives: May 2018

Portaits in Otherness: Meet the Artists

Four uniquely different dance artists will take to the stage in the Lilian Baylis Studio this June to perform a solo work as part of Portraits in Otherness. Mentored by Akram Khan Company Producer Farooq Chaudhry, they will each embody their distinctive dance styles to represent a new generation of dance artists in two double bills across four evenings.

In this blog, we meet the artists and discover more about their work…

Dickson Mbi
Street dance artist Dickson Mbi is renowned in the hip hip community for his popping skills, strong personality, powerful movement and positive attitude. For his latest work, entitled Duende, Dickson makes the transition to contemporary dance as captured in the BBC Four Danceworks documentary (watch here). Originally a term associated with Flamenco, Duende invites you to connect with the spirit of the artist, as he conquers the habit of concealment to reveal something of the soul’s living history. We are all visitors in the object world, stepping in and out of the light of reality. Through the ritual of dance, Duende reveals a fairy tale, animating a certain emotion from these moments of light.

Ching-Ying Chien
Initial inspiration for this piece came from an old myth about vultures. It is said that nobody ever sees the body of a deceased vulture. When a vulture knows its life is close to ending it will fly high up towards the sun and melt away into nothing. True or not, this has been the inspiration for Vulture by Ching-Ying Chien, who is originally from Taiwan. In 2017, she won the Outstanding Female Performance (Modern) award for her performance in Akram Khan Company’s Until the Lions at the UK National Dance Awards. As human beings, we feel a need to understand our surroundings and question our existence in a way that other creatures simply don’t/can’t. Vulture explores the life cycle, flaws and triumphs of the human, but from the eyes of an animal.

Joy Alpuerto Ritter
L.A. born dancer and choreographer Joy Alpuerto Ritter takes inspiration Mary Wigman’s Witch Dance in her piece BABAE. Combining roots in Philippine folk dance, classical training and vocabulary of hip hop & voguing, BABAE is a one-woman interplay between the animalistic and sensual qualities of ritual and mightiness. It examines inherited vocabularies and reconfigures the meaning of summoning the power and mystical practices of woman as witch. It’s set to this electro-orchestral sounds of Italian composer Vincenzo Lamagna who has worked with some of the most acclaimed choreographers of this generation.

Maya Jilan Dong
Whip takes its inspiration from the “Whip Dance”, one of the most popular folk dances of the Bai – an ethnic minority living in the Yunnan province in southwest of China. Amongst seventy-four other folk dances, the “Whip Dance” is charged and knitted with Bai’s history and customs. It represents their humor, primitive simplicity, elegance and energy. Only a few Bai people know the most primitive version and Whip is a modern and personal interpretation instilling a new breath into a secular dance tradition. It represents Maya Jilan Dong’s homeland and conveys the aspirations of many people. Whip is an international collaboration with the talented London based Hong Kong composer Joanne Clara.

Portraits in Otherness runs in the Lilian Baylis Studio from 5 – 8 June. Tickets are just £17 and available by calling the Ticket Office on 020 7863 8000 or book online.

Sadler’s Wells joins The Old Vic’s 200th birthday party

Today is The Old Vic’s 200th birthday and Sadler’s Wells, which shares historic links with the Waterloo-based theatre, will be taking part in the celebrations marking the milestone anniversary this weekend. As part of The Old Vic’s Bicentenary Open House event on Saturday 12 May, Sadler’s Wells staff will join a procession from the National Theatre to The Old Vic, with a marching band and special performances along the way – including a short opera performance celebrating The Old Vic’s historic connections with us, the National Theatre and English National Opera.

Sadler’s Wells shares part of its long and colourful history with The Old Vic. Our common thread is deeply entwined with the life of one extraordinary woman: Lilian Baylis. The theatrical entrepreneur’s belief that art should belong to everybody underpinned her management of both theatres. Baylis wanted tickets to be “affordable by artisans and labourers” and the fact that, like the Old Vic, Sadler’s Wells was surrounded by working-class communities appealed to her passion for social outreach.

At the turn of the 20th Century, both The Old Vic (then officially the Royal Victoria Hall and Coffee Tavern) and Sadler’s Wells were experiencing a dip in their popularity. After suffering conversion into a skating rink and then a cinema at the end of the 19th Century, Sadler’s Wells closed its doors in 1915 and was then neglected to the point of dereliction. After taking over management of The Old Vic in 1912, Baylis re-emphasised the Shakespearean repertoire – a welcome change after a period of temperance – and in 1931 re-opened Sadler’s Wells to great fanfare.

The two theatres acted as sister venues for a while. “For four years, drama productions, opera and ballet shuttled between the Old Vic and Sadler’s Wells until Baylis decided to dedicate Sadler’s Wells to opera and ballet for eight months of the year and give the Vic-Wells Ballet a permanent base,” wrote dance critic Sarah Crompton.

“The new season opened on 27th September 1935 to great acclaim, with one critic noting ‘the splendid dancing of the young newcomer Miss Margot Fonteyn, who has a compelling personality and exceptional gifts, though only just 16.’

Whilst opera continued to be important (Peter Grimes premiered at the Wells in 1945), it was in this period that Sadler’s Wells became most strongly associated with dance. It was where De Valois founded British ballet here and built both a company of dancers and a repertory that included her own works and those of Frederick Ashton and Robert Helpmann. She also founded a school which remained throughout World War II, when the theatre was itself acting as a refuge for the homeless.

At the end of the war, De Valois took her fledging ballet company to Covent Garden to become the Royal Ballet. However, her touring ballet company, known first as the Sadler’s Wells Theatre Ballet, then the Sadler’s Wells Royal Ballet, remained until 1955 and returned from 1970 to 1990 before moving permanently to Birmingham to become the Birmingham Royal Ballet.”

Lilian Baylis and her two pups; University of Bristol Theatre Collection. 

The latest collaboration between Sadler’s Wells and The Old Vic centres on another trailblazing woman: the suffragette Sylvia Pankhurst. Co-commissioned by 14-18 NOW as part of a series of works commemorating the Great War, Sylvia is choreographed by our Associate Artist Kate Prince and set at the end of the war, when gender roles in society were being revised and women were agitating for long-overdue change to the distribution of political power. With original music by Josh Cohen and DJ Walde, Sylvia’s story has had a modern injection of hip-hop, soul and funk.

The production is closely tied to the Mayor of London’s #BehindEveryGreatCity campaign, commemorating the centenary of the first women in the UK winning the right to vote. A number of cast members from the production recently performed in Parliament Square to celebrate the unveiling of a statue of Millicent Fawcett created by Turner Prize-winning artist Gillian Wearing OBE. Fawcett’s is the first statue of a woman to have been erected in the historic square.

One hundred years after the 1918 Representation of the People Act and two hundred years after the establishment of The Old Vic, our two theatres are marching arm-in-arm with a series of partners and supporters for a celebratory parade of the arts as a force for good in the community, for the community. Lilian would no doubt be proud.

Life is a Dream: In Quotes

This May, Rambert Dance Company return to Sadler’s Wells with a stunning new work by the Olivier Award-winning Danish Choreographer Kim Brandstrup and inspired by Pedro Calerdon de la Barca’s Spanish Golden Age play Life is a Dream. As we prepare to be transported to a dream-like world in this brand new production, we take a look at some quotes from famous writers, musicians and filmmakers on the theme of ‘dreams’…

“What is life? A madness. What is life? An illusion, a shadow, a story. And the greatest good is little enough; for all life is a dream, and dreams themselves are only dreams.” Pedro Calderon de la Barca

“Dreams are often most profound when they seem the most crazy.” Sigmund Freud

Life is a Dream in rehearsal

“We are such stuff as dreams are made on; and our little life is rounded with a sleep.” William Shakespeare

“Lose your dreams and you might lose your mind.” Mick Jagger

“All human beings are also dream beings. Dreaming ties all mankind together.” Jack Kerouac

Life is a Dream in rehearsal

“I have dreamed in my life, dreams that have stayed with me ever after, and changed my ideas; they have gone through and through me, like wine through water, and altered the color of my mind.” Emily Brontë

“But I, being poor, have only my dreams; I have spread my dreams under your feet; Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.” William Butler Yeats

Life is a Dream in rehearsal.

“It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.” J. K. Rowling

“I can’t remember any dreams in my life. There’s so much strange in real life that it often seems like a dream.” Tim Burton

Life is a Dream runs at Sadler’s Wells from 22 – 26 May. Tickets are available now priced from £12 by calling the Ticket Office on 020 7863 8000 or visit our website.

Help Sadler’s Wells win €100,000

Sadler’s Wells has commissioned a new work from one of the world’s most renowned choreographers, William Forsythe, and this production has been shortlisted for the FEDORA prize – with a potential €100,000 prize attached.

For Sadler’s Wells to be eligible, we are required to create a crowd-funding campaign to raise €10,000, which would allow us to take this exciting production on tour to smaller venues throughout Europe.

There are a range of benefits available for anyone donating €10 or above to this campaign, with donations starting at €5.

Donate €25 and you’ll receive a personalised email from our Artistic Director and Chief Executive Alistair Spalding and a digital programme booklet of A Quiet Evening of Dance.

Donate €150 and as well as the above benefits, you’ll also receive two exclusive production photos, exclusive access to a filmed Q&A with Alistair Spalding and William Forsythe, and one year of Sadler’s Wells membership.

To donate, please visit the FEDORA website, and select the amount you’re able to give.

William Forsythe’s A Quiet Evening of Dance will be a combination of new and existing work, performed by seven of Forsythe’s most trusted collaborators, who promise to provide insight into the workings of ballet and the mind of the man who has dedicated his work to this task.

The FEDORA Platform is a collection of cultural institutions from across Europe. Sadler’s Wells has been a member of FEDORA since 2015 and we are very excited to be one of four nominees for this prestigious prize. The prize, a grant of €100,000, will be given to the project the jury feel most closely articulates the Platform’s values of innovation and creativity.


Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan are known for their spectacular set designs and stunning choreography, fusing influences from Asian culture and tradition and often incorporating projection and poetry to offer audiences a multi-sensory experience. Their latest piece, Formosa, is a tribute to the beauty of the island of Taiwan and will be the last production with choreographer Lin Hwai—min at the helm, having spent 45 years as Artistic Director of the company. Here we reflect on some of their most impressive works to have visited the Sadler’s Wells stage…

1. Songs of the Wonderers (2016)

An epic work inspired by Buddhist meditation and the quest for enlightenment. A single element constitutes the set: three and a half tonnes of golden rice! The landscape it creates – by raining down on the stage, being thrown in the air by the dancers or shaped into beautiful patterns by a rice rake – defines the performance as much as the dancers’ movements.

2. Nine Songs (2014)

Based on a series of classical Chinese poems by Qu Yuan, Nine Songs draws on ancient imagery and sensibilities to create a thoroughly contemporary piece. Like the poems, the dance reflects the cycles of nature. The first half moves from day to night, from the bright and powerful Sun God to the dark Gods of Fate who bring deceit and abuse to the human world. The second half of the work follows the seasons.

3. Rice (2014)

Co-produced by Sadler’s Wells, Rice was created to celebrate Cloud Gate’s 40th anniversary, and is inspired by the landscape and story of Chihshang in the East Rift Valley of Taiwan. Previously tainted by the use of chemical fertilizer, this farming village has now regained its title as Land of Emperor Rice by adopting organic farming. Featuring folksongs in Hakka – the oldest among the existing Chinese dialects – and operatic arias from the West, this is a stunning, thought provoking piece of dance.

4. Moonwater (2008)

Set to Bach’s Six Suites for Solo Cello, Moon Water is a contemporary exploration of Qi Kong, an ancient form of breathing exercise. Towards the end the stage is quietly flooded with water. A wall of mirrors upstage reflects the soaked dancing bodies and their images on the water. The only sound is of water gently flowing over the rim of the stage.

5. Wild Cursive (2007)

For this piece, choreographer Lin Hwai-Min drew choreographic ideas from Kuang Chao, ‘wild calligraphy’, which is considered the pinnacle in Chinese cursive aesthetics and frees characters from any set form and exposes the spiritual state of the writer in its expressive abstraction.

Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan return to Sadler’s Wells with their production Formosa, from 9 – 12 May. Tickets are avaialble now priced from £12 by calling the Ticket Office on 020 7863 8000 our by visiting our website.

NYDC workshops get young people dancing nationwide

National Youth Dance Company (NYDC) has begun delivering its annual series of experience workshops across the UK, showcasing its talent and encouraging young people to dance. The workshops are aimed at anyone aged 16 to 18 (or up to 24 if deaf or disabled) who is interested in dance, or looking to pursue a career in the sector. A selected number of participants will be called back to a final workshop at Sadler’s Wells later in the year, after which 30 young dancers will be invited to officially join the company’s next cohort.

Run by Sadler’s Wells, NYDC seeks out the brightest talent in dance from across England to work closely with renowned professional artists. Since its inception in November 2012, the company has built a reputation for creating ground-breaking work and producing high-calibre artists that are curious and brave. Each year, a different group of 30 dancers has the opportunity to work with a world-class choreographer and their creative team to create new work and perform it at art venues around the country. Acclaimed dance makers Jasmin Vardimon, Akram Khan, Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, Michael Keegan-Dolan, Damien Jalet and Sharon Eyal have been Guest Artistic Directors of NYDC in previous years. Emerging choreographer Botis Seva was recently announced a the next Guest Artistic Director for the company, which has been performing to over 30,000 people to date.

NYDC’s experience workshops give participants a sense of what life is like as a NYDC dancer. Participants join a company class, get to learn repertoire from NYDC productions and take part in different creative tasks. This is a great chance for young aspiring dancers to meet the company, learn more about it and further their personal trajectory in the world of dance.

In line with Sadler’s Wells’ core ethos and values, NYDC prides itself on being open and inclusive. Its workshops actively encourage dancers from a wide range of abilities, backgrounds and dance styles. A diversity of experience makes for a better team, and it is an important part of our working practice to bring the workshops as far as possible outside London, to those who otherwise might not be able to take part. An in-built philosophy within the Company is that of giving back – the sharing with others of what has for so many been a fundamentally life-changing experience.

The company is embarking on a concurrent tour to eight venues across England with Used to be Blonde, its latest production by Sadler’s Wells’ Associate Artist Sharon Eyal, with music by composer Ori Lichtik. The show has been commissioned as part of a series of 20 original works celebrating the 20th anniversary of Sadler’s Wells’ current building in Rosebery Avenue – the sixth to be built on the site since the theatre was first established in 1683.

NYDC will deliver experience workshops in 18 cities across England throughout May, June and July. For more information, visit the NYDC website. Participation in the workshops is free, but places must be booked using the online booking formTickets for performances of Used To Be Blonde are available here. 

Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella Coming to Cinemas Nationwide

Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella will be screening in cinemas across the UK and Ireland on Tuesday 15 May. This special cinema event will be followed by a Q&A with Matthew Bourne broadcast LIVE by satellite from the Curzon Soho in Shaftesbury Avenue, London.

The Q&A will be hosted by Sarah Crompton, Joint Chief Critic for WhatsOnStage and one of Britain’s most respected writers and broadcasters. Sarah will invite questions from the audience at Curzon Soho as she talks to Matthew Bourne about his award-winning production of Cinderella and his career as one of Britain’s leading choreographers.

Matthew Bourne said: “Cinderella is one of my most heartfelt works and a personal favourite amongst my re-imagined classic stories. I’m thrilled that this beautifully filmed production will be in cinemas nationwide on 15 May and that the screening will be followed by a live Q&A. I’m very much looking forward to talking directly to cinema audiences on the night.”

Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella is a thrilling and evocative love story set in London during the Second World War. The internationally acclaimed choreographer’s interpretation of the classic fairy tale has, at its heart, a true war-time romance. A chance meeting results in a magical night for Cinderella, danced by Ashley Shaw, and her dashing young RAF pilot Andrew Monaghan, together just long enough to fall in love before being parted by the horrors of the Blitz. A talented cast of New Adventures veterans and exciting young dancers perform in the production filmed live at Sadler’s Wells, including Liam Mower as the Angel, Michela Meazza as the Step-Mother and Alan Vincent as Cinderella’s Father.

The sights and sounds of war-torn London are recreated by Lez Brotherston’s Olivier Award-winning costumes and sets, lighting by Olivier Award-winning Neil Austin, video and projection designs by Duncan McLean, and surround sound designed by Paul Groothuis. Matthew Bourne’s vivid story telling has never been more heart-stopping and touching, and will take the audience into the heart of Prokofiev’s magnificent score.

Filmed live at Sadler’s Wells, London, in December 2017, Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella is directed for the screen by Ross MacGibbon and produced by Illuminations.

To book tickets for the screening and live Q&A event at Curzon Soho visit their website. Submit questions for the Q&A in advance on Twitter #AskSirMatt @NewAdventures @More2Screen.

A teacher’s perspective on our Associate Schools scheme

Sadler’s Wells works closely with a number of local schools in north and east London, with the aim of widening participation in the arts for young people by integrating dance into their education. Our Learning & Engagement team devises a bespoke programme of workshops and events for each of the 12 Associate Schools, so that students can benefit from classes and talks by dance professionals, and their teachers are supported in delivering dance as part of the curriculum.

Here, Carolyn Wells – Head of the Performance and PE Faculty at Elizabeth Garrett Anderson School in Islington – speaks about her experience of our Associate Schools scheme:

“As a dance teacher, I am a great believer in the importance of the arts in education and the lasting, positive impact they have on young people. It’s all about experiences, in the classroom and beyond. It has been an absolute joy to be an Associate School with Sadler’s Wells, and the scheme’s ethos goes hand-in-hand with the ethos of the dance department here at Elizabeth Garrett Anderson School (EGA).

We officially became an Associate School of Sadler’s Wells in the summer of 2017 and when term began in September, the opportunities that the dance department and our students have received have been second to none – and we haven’t even finished the school year yet! As part of the scheme, EGA students took part in a workshop with Rambert, Britain’s oldest dance company, to aid with their study of A Linha Curva for GCSE. Oh – and not forgetting to mention this was on the main stage! That’s right, our girls have trodden the same boards as world-renowned dance companies, choreographers and artists. The very next day we returned to watch Rambert’s matinée performance of A Linha Curva, and other works. The ability to see professionals perform what our students had learnt on the same stage truly brought learning to life.

Later, we had the opportunity to attend an audition for Sadler’s Wells’ Associate Artist Matthew Bourne’s company New Adventures. This resulted in 11 of our students working with the company dancers and other school pupils to create a curtain raiser piece that was performed during the run of New Adventures’ Cinderella. It was such a special and unforgettable moment for the girls involved.

More recently, Sadler’s Wells’ Director of Technical & Production Emma Wilson and her team came into school to help us to ‘make sense’ of our lighting and sound system in our school theatre space. So thanks to a world-class and very friendly team of technicians, it’s all working much better now.

I’m so pleased we’ve had the opportunity to forge this partnership with Sadler’s Wells and their education coordinator Sara Daniels. I can’t wait to see where it leads.”

Sadler’s Wells distills Elixir at Age on Stage

Sadler’s Wells’ Elixir festival will be among the examples of best practice in highlighting the contribution of older dancers to be presented at Age on Stage this summer.

Following successful editions in 2015 and 2017, Age on Stage – the brainchild of Swedish choreographer Charlotta Öfverholm – returns with a one-day festival of activities on 2 June in celebration of dancing at a mature age. Taking place at Dansens Hus in Stockholm, the event includes a documentary screening, performances by dancers over 45, talks and presentations.

Among the speakers is our Director of Learning & Engagement Joce Giles, who will discuss the Elixir festival at Sadler’s Wells. The festival, which we programmed for the first time in 2014, recognises the contribution to the art form made by older dancers and challenges assumptions about who can dance. By showcasing the richness and benefits of creativity in later life, it wants to promote discussion on the value of dancing at an older age, and to advocate for more work created and performed by older artists to be made and shared with wider audiences. It also hopes to encourage more older people to take up dancing as a way to be physically and mentally active.

Our commitment to this issue is longstanding. We have been running two initiatives aimed at engaging over-60s in dance at Sadler’s Wells for many years: the Lilian Baylis Arts Club and the Company of Elders. The Lilian Baylis Arts Club gives participants the opportunity to learn more about dance and our programme through weekly meetings with artists and performers, workshops and visits to shows. The Company of Elders, established in 1989, is the embodiment of the social and health benefits of dancing at 60+. The company has worked with internationally renowned choreographers and performed in prestigious venues across the UK and overseas, from the Houses of Parliament to the Venice Biennale.

The Elixir Festival was born as a natural continuation and expansion of our work with older dancers. Following the success of its first edition, we presented the festival again in 2017, with a successful four-day programme of performances, workshops and events.

Other speakers in attendance at Age on Stage will be Christopher Roman, former Associate Artistic Director of The Forsythe Company and Artistic Director of DANCE ON ENSEMBLE, who performed at Elixir last year; and Cecilia Ferm-Almqvist and Ninnie Andersson from Luleå Tekniska Universitet, who will present the results of their research on workshops for people aged 65+.

Dance artist Liz Aggiss will be performing excerpts of her show Slap and Tickle, while Charlotta Öfverholm will also give a special performance, in addition to hosting the mini-festival.

Age on Stage is part of Dance On, Pass On, Dream On (DOPODO); a European-wide partnership project devoted to challenging preconceived notions about age and promoting a model of sustainable career and audience participation that values older people on stage and, generally, in society. DOPODO involves nine dance organisations, including Sadler’s Wells, from eight European countries, and receives funding from Creative Europe, a European Union programme supporting the cultural sector. The Elixir Festivals in 2014 and 2017 were kindly supported by the Baring Foundation.