Monthly Archives: August 2018

A behind-the-scenes look at Wilkie Branson’s digital craftsmanship

TOM is a dance for camera installation created by award-winning choreographer and film-maker Wilkie Branson, a Sadler’s Wells New Wave Associate. This cutting-edge new work receives its world premiere in November as one of our landmark 20th anniversary commissions, and new performances have just been added due to popular demand. We spoke to Wilkie to find out more about his unique creative process.

Wilkie is an interdisciplinary dance-artist and film-maker with a talent for storytelling, bringing together the magic of the man-made and the wonder of technology. Self-taught in both dance and film, the roots of his practice lie in b-boying, developing into a unique fusion which emphasises emotional connection (demonstrated in his previous works Varmints and Boing!). Sadler’s Wells first premiered Wilkie’s work in 2011 with White Caps, followed by Varmints in 2013, based on the award-winning book by Helen Ward and directed by children’s theatre specialist Sally Cookson. It was co-produced and commissioned by Sadler’s Wells with the help of East London Dance and Stratford Circus. Following a successful opening run, Varmints went on to tour nine cities in the UK.

Since 2015, Wilkie has been further developing his work in film. This year, as part of our ‘20 for 20’ series of commissions, he has created a digital installation using layers of a special screen to create depth and a three-dimensional effect. Instead of generating models entirely digitally, he has crafted maquettes by hand that are subsequently digitised in a process called photogrammetry. This process creates a poignant, organic physical landscape, questioning our emotional relationship to the real, the digital and ourselves.

“The starting point for TOM was really the essence of a story I wanted to tell about loss of identity and estrangement from the people we were when we were going up – asking questions about who we are as we try to navigate our lives as adults”, explains Wilkie. “Once the idea was there, the narrative and the inhabitants of this world became clearer. It was then a process of working out the best tools to share that vision with an audience.

The intricate process of Wilkie’s workflow and his intertwining of physical and digital crafts can be seen in the above video. Marked by an interdisciplinary approach to the creative and performing arts, Wilkie’s extensive research into technology and development clearly shines through in the seamless blending of film, live dance and animation into a unified three-dimensional digital installation.

“The most difficult part in the creation of TOM has definitely been making decisions on where, and where not, to compromise. The amazing thing about making an animated work like this is that, in principle, it’s possible to create anything that I can imagine. The challenges that arise from the complexity and scale I’m working at forces me to make decisions all the time about what to develop further, leave out or push to include. It’s a real challenge when you know what is possible to do, but impossible to implement. It’s a constant tussle between dreaming, letting go, compromising and pushing on.” 

The world premiere of TOM takes place in the Lilian Baylis Studio on 15 – 17 November. Tickets are available now via the Sadler’s Wells website.

Wilkie Branson is one of Sadler’s Wells’ six New Wave Associates, alongside Julie Cunningham, Hetain Patel, Project O, L’atisse Rhoden and Alexander Whitley. Read more about our New Wave Associates on our website. More of Wilkie Branson’s video work can be found on his Vimeo account

Full Programme Announced for Natalia Osipova’s Pure Dance

Multi-award-winning superstar ballerina Natalia Osipova returns to Sadler’s Wells with a new production and world premiere, from Wednesday 12 to Sunday 16 September, featuring four new works.

A Sadler’s Wells production co-produced with New York City Center, Pure Dance is a handpicked programme of dance works exploring both contemporary and classical ballet repertoire.

The eclectic programme includes an original solo for Osipova created by Yuka Oishi whose previous work Renku, choreographed with Orkan Dann, won the Rolf Mares Prize for Outstanding Creation of the Year in 2012.

Special guest, American Ballet Theatre Principal David Hallberg, joins Osipova in two duets over the course of the evening. These include a pas de deux from Antony Tudor’s The Leaves Are Fading, one of the last works by the British choreographer, as well as a new commission by Alexei Ratmansky, artist in residence at American Ballet Theatre, former director of the Bolshoi Ballet and former MacArthur Foundation Fellow.

Hallberg will also appear in a new solo, choreographed by Kim Brandstrup, the Olivier Award-winning creator of Rambert’s Transfigured Night and Life is a Dream.

Natalia Osipova in rehearsal with David Hallberg in New York Photo Credit: Stephanie Berger.

Dancers Jason Kittelberger and Jonathan Goddard complete the company. Kittelberger, who performed alongside Osipova in her programme for Sadler’s Wells in 2016, appears in Israeli choreographer Roy Assaf’s Six Years Later. The duet reveals a couple who find each other after a long separation, performed to Beethoven and Arvo Pärt. Goddard joins Osipova in Flutter, an exciting new work by Iván Pérez, who has created work for Ballet Moscow, Compañía Nacional de Danza and Balletboyz. In 2016, a feature film of Pérez’s work for Balletboyz, Young Men, received a Rose D’Or and a Golden Prague award.

Pierre Rigal: “It’s my job to catch all the surprises”

This September, Breakin’ Convention brings the work of French choreographer Pierre Rigal to the stage, fusing contemporary and hip hop styles in Scandale. We spoke to Pierre to find out more.

You studied mathematical economics and cinema as well as being a top athlete specialising in 400m hurdles!! How did you end up becoming a choreographer?
Not a coincidence but almost! It’s a question of instinct. One day I took an African contemporary dance class with a friend and I really loved it. I looked at a lot of videos of pieces and it quickly became something very important in my life. After a few years I had an audition as a choreographer in London. At the beginning I thought it would only last for 3 or 6 months because I thought I was too old because (I was already almost 30 at this point and already working in the movie industry). Now, more than 10 years later, I’m still in dance and creating my own work. I suppose dance is the best way for me to express myself. It was more natural for me to express myself through the body.

Your work is often described as being on the border between hip hop, theatre and contemporary dance. Where do your different influences come from?
I like to mix different styles. Of course, I learnt a bit of African dance but also a bit of contemporary and hip hop, and I like to mix the aesthetics of these types of movement. I also like to work with actors, singers, contemporary and classical dancers. I did a piece for the Paris Opera Ballet, which is certainly one of the most classical dance companies. I like to understand how different people move, how they are interested in dance and then I compose my own choreography, my own universe, with the collaboration and participation of all these talented dancers. In Scandale, I work with some very talented dancers and I encourage them to play with the borders of movement aesthetics, mixing contemporary choreography and also perhaps primitive and African traditional dance.

Your piece Scandale explores the origins of choreography and questions whether music is the mother of dance. As a choreographer, is music always the starting point for your work?
In my own work the music is a partner, rather than a mother. Usually we compose the music at the same time or sometimes after the choreography. The music of my pieces is usually original, with the musician/composer present during rehearsals and the creation of the movement. He is looking at the movement we are creating and then he starts to compose in parallel with us. I like to work in this way because it allows the music to be very ‘in-dialogue’ with the movement.

In Scandale, the composer is waiting for the dancers first; waiting for their sounds, the noises they are making. The breaths, the cries, the love. The musician captured these sounds live and then composed his own trance music.

For me, it’s important that the audience experience what the music does to the body. Sometimes when we hear music, especially trance or ritual forms of music, the body is obliged to move. It cannot stay still. Perhaps the audience will experience this a little bit!

Your work is often very theatrical and tongue in cheek, creating visual spectacles on the stage! Can we expect any surprises in Scandale?
Scandale is a very choreographic piece, with some light surprises and scenography surprises! The main purpose of the piece is the energy and movement of the dancers, and also the link between the energy of the musician and the music. I think that the scenography is very simple, but with something very simple we can create some very beautiful images.

What has it been like working with dancers from the b-boy crew Yeah Yellow on this piece?
We had worked together for a while before establishing their own crew, Yeah Yellow. We ended up doing a show that was more for the theatre; a narrative fictional piece. Yeah Yellow is a very spectacular battle crew and I like these two different ways of seeing hip hop. Hip hop can be very efficient for battles and very inspiring for longer, narrative-based shows.

Why did you choose to name the work ‘Scandale’?
The etymology of this word ‘scandale’ comes from the word ‘scandere’ in Latin, which means ‘stumble’ in English. Change the normality of the walk. That’s why later it became ‘Scandale’ – something that changes the normality. I was interested in the stem of this word and also the same word in French, ‘scancion’, which is kind of repetitive singing. I like the link between these two etymologic interpretations.

What was your biggest challenge in creating Scandale?
I like surprises, and I have to create the right conditions to allow the birth of surprises and to be aware of them and catch all the little ideas that could be developed. It’s like a game with some stress, some love, some joy and when it’s finished and the audience like the piece, we are very happy. That’s why I’m excited to come back to London, to Sadler’s Wells, and for Breakin’ Convention to present this piece!

Scandale is performed at Sadler’s Wells on 5 & 6 Sep. Tickets are available now priced at £20 by calling the Ticket Office on 020 7863 8000 or book online at

NYDC and Corali deliver inclusive workshops inspired by dance film

Last summer, National Youth Dance Company (NYDC) teamed with Corali Dance Company to create a short dance film. It was directed by Paul Davidson, a Corali dancer who has been with NYDC for two years.

Paul has autism and was interested in creating a piece of art with an inclusive cast of disabled and non-disabled dancers. The film and accompanying documentary were created over a three-day residency. The final result was Escape the Nowhere, a piece following a young man trapped in a maze that creatively explores the idea of parallel co-existing perspectives and realities.

With the finished product in hand, Sadler’s Wells have worked with Paul, NYDC alumni and Corali to develop a two-hour workshop that uses the film as a stimulus for the making and exploration of new movement. In tandem, the film was screened across the country enjoying success at venues and events from Croydon to Durham.

Zara Rush, Creative Producer at Corali Dance Company was optimistic the partnership: “Corali Dance Company were delighted to act as inclusive lead for this partnership with NYDC. The project grew from strength to strength and enabled young people to find their artistic voice, take the lead and share practice. It’s been great to see how young dancers across the country have gone on to explore the themes from Escape the Nowhere in the projects legacy workshops and how they’ve made new creative discoveries for themselves.”

You can see the video documenting the creation process here:

The workshop series was delivered in tandem with key regional partners. Magpie Dance were the first to experience the session and their co-Artistic Director Natasha Britton has spoken about the experience

“We were thrilled to welcome NYDC alumni Paul and Kennedy, who delivered two-hour workshops to both our junior and youth groups on day one of our Easter intensive.

The workshops were confidently delivered and rich with creative challenges, all pitched at an appropriate level for our dancers with learning disabilities. The creative tasks they chose all linked back to the dance film made by Paul, Escape the Nowhere. Having watched the film, this allowed our participants to really engage with the theme and the process.

After the workshops, the facilitators at Magpie Dance supported the Easter School participants to further develop the ideas they had explored, leading to the creation of their own piece. At the end of the third and final day, family and friends were invited to watch Escape the Nowhere and our piece inspired by it. The participants and their families were hugely grateful for the opportunity to use such a powerful dance film as a stimulus and work with such exciting visitors.”

Click through to learn more about Corali Dance Company and Magpie Dance

Photo credit: Natasha Mansfield-Osborne
Video credit: Tobi Meneses

Sadler’s Wells nominated for Most Welcoming Theatre Award

At Sadler’s Wells, we understand that the theatre experience of our audiences consists of more than what takes place on stage. Our staff, facilities and the way we engage with our local communities and the people we welcome through our doors every day all shape your time with us as much as the dance works we present.

This is why we are delighted to have been nominated for the UK’s Most Welcoming Theatre Award 2018. The award is organised by UK Theatre, the country’s primary theatre and performing arts membership organisation, and its winner determined by public vote.

It would mean a lot to us if you voted using this link, selecting London on the map and following the instructions. UK Theatre is offering £250 worth of theatre tokens to a randomly-selected participant. Voting is now open until 18 September.

Sadler’s Wells and partners celebrate 100 years of women’s suffrage

Together with our partners in the East Bank project, Sadler’s Wells hosted a free event in Stratford on 22 July, celebrating 100 years of women’s suffrage. Held at Here East, Open Doors: Vote 100  was co-curated and jointly delivered by us alongside the BBC, the Smithsonian Institution, UAL’s London College of Fashion, University College London and the Victoria & Albert Museum.

The family-friendly event featured  dance, music, poetry, displays, debates, workshops and screenings, all inspired by the the centenary of the UK’s 1918 Representation of the People Act, which gave some women the right to vote for the first time.

The Women Work Parade arrives at Here East

As part of the eclectic programme,  we presented performances by Company Wayne McGregor – a duet from our Associate Artist McGregor’s latest work Autobiography, co-produced by Sadler’s Wells – and Myself UK Dance Company, which presented a piece titled RED. Each of the two companies also delivered a free workshop, where participants had the opportunity to learn some moves from professional dancers.

Company Wayne McGregor performs a duet from Autobiography


Participants in the Company Wayne McGregor workshop


Myself UK Dance Company performs RED


Participants in the Myself UK Dance Company workshop

Dance artist Pepa Ubera speaks as part of the Long Conversation

Open Doors: Vote 100 was supported by Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, Foundation for FutureLondon and Here East.