Monthly Archives: October 2018

Sadler’s Wells scores top rating for environmental best practice

Sadler’s Wells was awarded an outstanding five-star rating (out of 5) in the Creative Green certification by environmental charity Julie’s Bicycle.

“We’re delighted to have been awarded a five-star rating for 2017-18, improving upon the four stars we obtained the previous year,” said Emma Wilson, Sadler’s Wells’ Director of Technical and Production, and Chair of the theatre’s Green Team. “To be part of a collective approach towards environmental sustainability gives strength to all our voices, and we are proud to stand alongside our colleagues across the cultural sector.”

Sadler’s Wells achieved the top rating for the first time this year, alongside the Lyric Hammersmith, Battersea Arts Centre and Almeida Theatre. This is the third year we’ve been working with Julie’s Bicycle toward the Creative Green certification, an accreditation that recognises environmental awareness and achievement within the creative sector.

Among the initiatives implemented in 2017-18 – overseen by our Green Team, a dedicated group of staff who meets regularly throughout the year to discuss new ideas and the implementation of our Sustainability Action Plan – were the presentation of a sustainable refurbishment workshop in collaboration with the Islington Sustainable Energy Partnership (ISEP), the participation in the Vehicle Idling Action campaign to reduce pollution, and the planting of a herb garden in the Sadler’s Wells courtyard for the benefit of our kitchen and cafe staff.

Members of Sadler’s Wells’ Green Team tend to our herb garden

An area we scored particularly high in is our understanding of the impact of emissions, energy and water use, and waste facilities onsite. Our energy use, energy-related emissions and water use all fell in comparison to data from 2016-17. Through our involvement in the Arts Council England’s Spotlight Programme – also delivered by Julie’s Bicycle – we intend to further improve our environmental literacy and reduce carbon emissions.

Sadler’s Wells’ five-star Creative Green certificate 2017-18

A future project we are proudly taking part in is the Accelerator Programme. Together with our Resident Company New Adventures and Norwich Theatre Royal, we aim to develop a new blueprint for environmentally sustainable touring by creating a change in the relationship between touring companies and receiving houses, starting with the upcoming Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake tour.

Julie’s Bicycle has been working with Arts Council England for over a decade to inspire environmental action across the arts and cultural sector, and we work closely with them in our drive to be more sustainable in all areas of our work, and contribute to global sustainability goals.

Find out more about our Sustainability Policy on our website.

Memories of Ghost Dances

Originally choreographed for Rambert Dance Company in 1981, Christopher Bruce’s Ghost Dances has seen enduring success as one of the companies most popular pieces and a lasting political relevance that still resonates with audiences today. As Rambert prepare to restage Bruce’s iconic dance piece at Sadler’s Wells for its final London performances, we speak to one of the original Ghost Dancers, Nelson Fernandez.

What do you remember about the creation process?

Most of all, I remember the music, which at the start had been very unfamiliar in spite of the fact I was born in Latin America. The music, coming from Chile, is extraordinary, haunting, otherworldly, and at the same time, very much rooted in the traditions of people of the continent. I will never forget hearing the live music from the talented members of the Mercury Ensemble (as it was then called). I found it hard to believe they were able to produce such music and such sounds and to make that music their own. I also remember watching some of my fellow dance artists in rehearsals – people like the unforgettable Frances Carty – and being moved to tears. Chris felt deeply about the subject matter and this showed through in his choreography.

Describe your first memory of the mask, paint and getting ready for that first performance.

I was in the second cast that performed a day or two afterwards. It was an extraordinary experience as it was evident from the start that this was not just another run-of-the-mill ballet but something that had an impact on both performers and audiences.

During the creation period did you have any idea that Ghost Dances would go on to be have the effect on audiences that it has? What do you think has made it so popular over the years?

It became clear that the work had a strong impact from the start. The movement, the mystery of the masks for the ghosts, the eerie and moving music, the extraordinary individual performances all made their contribution.

Lastly, if we had a plague of injuries and you got a last minute call, do you think you could go on in your original role?

You must be joking!

Rambert return to Sadler’s Wells with Ghost Dances as part of mixed programme, Two, on 6 – 10 November. Tickets are available now priced from £12. To book, call the Ticket Office on 020 7863 8000 or book online.

The Movement: Developing new audiences for dance

Over the last two years, Sadler’s Wells has been working in partnership with The Lowry in Salford and Birmingham Hippodrome on a project called The Movement. With funding from Arts Council England’s Ambition for Excellence scheme, The Movement was formed to enable large-scale, world-class dance productions to tour to these venues.

Funding was also made available to test some digital and social media initiatives, three of which were undertaken by Sadler’s Wells: a social media influencers programme called Social Movers; an extension of our Get Into Dance scheme, creating Ambassadors for a Dance Writes programme; and a live stream of Ballet British Columbia’s post-show talk to all the tour venues.

We have recently created a video for the arts sector that highlights some of these projects, examining the process we undertook to create the initiatives, and celebrate their successes – as well as share some of the learnings.

For the Social Movers programme we recruited some dance enthusiasts who we invited to see a cross-section of performances, so that they could share their thoughts and feelings in their own words, across social networks, to help spread word of mouth about the shows. Coco, Evelyn and Jessica were the lucky three who took part in our pilot scheme, and they created some engaging and personal responses to all the shows they saw, all of which were posted on The Movement’s Facebook and Instagram profiles.

Get Into Dance is an established scheme at Sadler’s Wells, working with targeted local community groups to encourage them to see dance at their local venue for the first time, with a subsidised ticket price to incentivise them. As part of The Movement, we extended this scheme and invited some of the participants to join ‘Dance Writes’, an initiative that aimed to deepen the participants’ engagement with dance, with activities including skills training in dance journalism, talks from dance specialists and invitations to behind-the-scenes experiences.

When Ballet British Columbia appeared here in 2018, Sadler’s Wells and the show’s promoter Dance Consortium were keen to use their visit to help promote the UK tour dates that followed. We live streamed the post-show Q&A to all the tour venues’ Facebook pages, and asked people to send in their questions so that wherever they were in the world, they could be answered.

Although The Movement was a pilot project, there were learnings from each of the initiatives, and we will be continuing to develop new initiatives to encourage more audiences to engage with dance around the country.

Photo: Artists of Ballet British Columbia in 16 + a room (c) Michael Slobodian.

QUIZ: What Show Should I See at Sadler’s Wells in Spring 2019?

A new season of world-class dance has just been announced for spring 2019 including shows from internationally renowned artists and companies including Damien Jalet and Kohei Nawa, San Francisco Ballet and Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures! From hip hop to ballet, stages flooded with water and shows influenced by brass bands, The Beatles and Björk – we’ve got your spring ‘19 dance fix covered. Not sure where to start? Try out our personality quiz below to find out which show we recommend for you in our spring season and explore the full programme on our website.

Tickets for our Spring 2019 Season go on sale to members from 31 Oct, and to the general public from 5 Nov. Become a member to access priority booking and save 20% on most tickets.

The enduring story of Layla and Majnun: 3 key works

The ancient and beloved story of Layla and Majnun is a cornerstone of Middle Eastern folklore. Often compared to Romeo and Juliet, this tragic tale of star-crossed lovers is believed to have originated in Arabia in the 7th century and has proved rich inspiration for poets and artists ever since. As Mark Morris Dance Group and the Silkroad Ensemble prepare to bring a stunning new version to the Sadler’s Wells stage, we take a look at three key works which depict this enduring story.

1. Nizami Ganjavi’s poem

Image: Nizami Ganjavi’s original manuscript, from the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg.

Nizami Ganjavi’s influential poem, written in the 12th century, is believed to be the first literary processing of the Layla and Majnun story. Nizami drew upon various oral anecdotes reported in earlier Arabic sources to develop a multi-layered story which he wrote in a rhyming couplet masnawi form.

In the poem, Layla and Qays – who is referred to as Majnun, which means ‘possessed’ – are in love from childhood but forbidden to unite. Majnun is perceived to be mad in his obsession with Layla, and when Layla is married off to another, Majnun becomes a hermit, devoting himself to writing verses about his profound love. The lovers ultimately unite, but only in death.

Nizami’s poem influenced many others, including Muhammad Fuzuli (c. 1483 – 1556), whose equally famous poem became widely known in Ottoman Turkey.

2. Uzeyir Hajibeyli’s opera

Azerbaijani composer Uzeyir Hajibeyli (1885–1948) made history when he composed the opera Leyli and Majnun, which premiered in 1908 in Baku. With a libretto based on Muhammad Fuzuli’s poem, this opera was the first piece of composed music created in Azerbaijan, and holds an important place in national culture to this day – every new season of the Azerbaijan State Opera and Ballet Theater programme opens with a performance of Leyli and Majnun. This filmed version is from April 2012.

3. Mark Morris & Silkroad Ensemble’s dance production  

In this remarkable work, celebrated American choreographer Mark Morris has collaborated with the Silkroad Ensemble and the late British artist Howard Hodgkin to stage Hajibeyli’s opera. Madness and mysticism intertwine as 16 dancers interpret the narrative, tailoring their movements to improvised music sung in the style of mugham by the celebrated father and daughter vocalists Alim Qasimov and Fargana Qasimova. Silkroad musicians perform live on stage with traditional Asian instruments, playing in harmony with Western strings and percussion. This production marks the first time that an adaptation of Layla and Majnun has been presented in the UK on this scale.

Layla and Majnun comes to Sadler’s Wells on 13 – 17 November. Tickets are £12-£45. To book, call the Ticket Office on 020 7863 8000 or book online.

Sadler’s Wells marks 20th anniversary with a double celebration

In October 1998, after two intense years of construction, the new Sadler’s Wells theatre opened its doors to the public. The milestone was marked with two opening events. One, a traditional gala opening and performance by Rambert, took place on Tuesday 13 October. The other, in keeping with Lilian Baylis’ legacy of using theatre as a means for social outreach, was a free public opening for the local community, which took place the previous Saturday 10 October. As a nod to the past, but with our eyes fixed firmly on the future, our 20th anniversary celebrations this month reflected these two separate openings.

On Sunday 7 October, we opened our doors to our local communities for Sadler’s Wells’ first Fun Palace, as part of Fun Palaces 2018.  The campaign promotes the central role of community at the heart of culture with a weekend of action each October, where arts, science and community organisations across the country are called on to facilitate community-led activities.

For the Sadler’s Wells Fun Palace, we invited local community organisations to lead a variety of activities throughout the day; the resulting programme had a strong emphasis on skills, learning and creativity. Workshops throughout the day were grouped into three main categories – dance, crafts, and mindfulness, with a requisite dance floor on the ground floor. With something happening on each of our foyers, visitors were encouraged to wander throughout the building, drop in and out of various activities or simply sit down to watch, chat and relax. By the end of the day, visitors had a chance to learn Tudor dance, Bollywood and flamenco moves, practice yoga, take part in a drawing class and decorate a paper footprint to be displayed on the wall of the Mezzanine level as part of a collective artwork titled Dancing on the Ceiling.

“I particularly loved the silent disco – 100% certified fun! It is wonderful that Sadler’s Wells reaches out to people in the community with such days, particularly this 20-year celebration.” – Wendy Williams, Holloway Neighbourhood Group.

Four days later, on 11 October, we celebrated again with the world premiere of Reckonings, a mixed bill we commissioned to three bold choreographic voices: Julie Cunningham, Alesandra Seutin and Botis Seva. The dance makers each took different conceptual starting points to create an evening that at its core asked questions about identity and the state of contemporary society. Cunningham’s work interrogated traditional gender binaries; Seutin fused African styles with urban dance language to comment on how we perceive brown bodies; and Seva – inspired by Sally Brampton’s memoir about depression – looked introspectively at his own trials as an artist, using a hip-hop dance vocabulary and representations of violence to question our assumptions about black men and street dance.

“The revised, rejuvenated old Wells theatre took on a new life, ‘purpose-built for dance’, twenty years to the day (feels like yesterday), and has gone from strength to strength since taking dance to realms beyond one’s imagining. Long may it continue to dare and innovate.” – Vera Liber, British Theatre Guide.

Sadler’s Wells’ Artistic Director and Chief Executive Alistair Spalding joined the three choreographers and their dancers on stage after the curtain call to give a brief speech, congratulating the artists for creating and bringing to life an amazing performance. He also thanked the exceptional artists we work closely with at Sadler’s Wells: our Associate Artists, Resident and Associate companies, New Wave Associates, Young Associates, National Youth Dance Company members and alumni, as well as all the international dance artists and companies we support and collaborate with. He acknowledged the great contribution of two formative figures in Sadler’s Wells’ history, who were both in the audience that evening: Ian Albery, former Chief Executive of Sadler’s Wells, who led the campaign to transform the theatre into a building purpose-built for dance; and Roger Spence, Project Director, who managed the construction project.

Finally, he ended with a heartfelt thank you to our fantastic audiences for accompanying the theatre on its journey in the last two decades. This was followed by a confetti drop, showering the audience in golden ticket stubs embossed with the night’s date and the names of the production and choreographers.

As part of our digital campaign to mark our anniversary, we took to Twitter to ask people about their favourite Sadler’s Wells memories of the last 20 years. We received some wonderful responses from artists, performers, patrons and guests, which we compiled in this Twitter Moment. Among those who told us about their favourite memory was Florence Welch, musician and lead vocalist of Florence and the Machine.

Thank you to everyone who came to our Fun Palace and to the opening of Reckonings – to all the artists, audiences, communities and supporters who have been part of the Sadler’s Wells journey these past 20 years. Here’s to many more!

Header image: Ian Gavan.

A short introduction to ‘Neurochoreography’ by Matthias Sperling

No need to worry: ‘neurochoreography’ isn’t a real thing! It’s a word that I’ve made up as part of a thought experiment about the future potentials of the relationship between choreography and the neurosciences. Rather than giving it any single, fixed definition, I use this word to invite multiple imaginations about how dance and choreography might interact with future developments in everything that we might popularly consider to be linked with the sciences of the brain and mind. Although (as far as I’m concerned) ‘neurochoreography’ isn’t currently a real thing, I think it could become a real thing in the future, and that’s why I’m interested in proposing it as something for dance artists and dance audiences to think about.

The thought experiment revolves around a fictional institution called the ‘Institute of Neurochoreography’; a place where artists, scientists and scholars collaborate together on investigating the relationship between our bodies and minds. That relationship is a long-standing interest of mine as a choreographer and is the focus of my performance-lecture Now That We Know, which returns to the Lilian Baylis Studio in November. This piece explores how dance might change in the future if science discovers exactly how our bodies give rise to our minds. In that hypothetical future, I imagine the ‘Institute of Neurochoreography’ as playing an important part in leading to breakthroughs in understandings of the relationship between body and mind.

Alongside the performances of Now That We Know this November, I’ll be inviting audiences and a fantastic line-up of guest speakers to join me for a symposium that ‘launches’ the Institute of Neurochoreography and expands on these ideas. The invitation is to join me in presuming that this symposium is, in fact, the ‘First Open Congress’ of the Institute; the first ‘official’ gathering for anyone interested in contributing to and shaping it.

The symposium will be a chance to collectively imagine what the Institute of Neurochoreography could and should become, and why. We will discuss different ideas about what the inaugural research programme of the Institute should include. What specific questions should it look into first? What principles should inform how artists, scientists and scholars work alongside one another? What ethical and political considerations are important for the Institute to be self-aware of, if its work is to make a positive and relevant contribution to the world?

I’m absolutely delighted that four very distinguished guest speakers from different fields will be joining me for this ‘Congress’, each of whom explores closely related questions in their own work in really exciting ways:

I’ve invited Choy Ka Fai – a Berlin-based artist and performance-maker and self-styled ‘Dance Doctor’ along to tell us about his Choreographic Medicine techniques, which form part of his work Dance Clinic, recently presented at Impulstanz (Vienna) alongside several of his other works.

Choreographer Colette Sadler, also based in Berlin, shares my interest in taking a speculative, science-fiction approach to choreography and will make links with her recent choreographic work Learning From The Future. Her work was recently featured in Art Night London, and will also be performed at Southbank Centre later in November.

Dr Kélina Gotman is a Lecturer in Theatre and Performance Studies at King’s College London, and collaborates widely on dance and theatre productions in Europe and North America. She will open up questions around what the Institute’s language of neuroscience does to (or with) the dancing body.

Cognitive scientist Dr Guido Orgs and I have collaborated over the past 8 years on many artistic and scientific projects. He has a background in both performing dance and psychology – he has worked with German Dance Company Neuer Tanz/VA Wölfl as a full-time performer as well as holding a PhD in Cognitive Neuroscience, and is a Lecturer in Psychology at Goldsmiths University of London. Drawing on his background and our collaborations, he will outline his vision of what the Institute of Neurochoreography could become.

I can’t wait to have the help of these speakers and everyone who attends the ‘First Open Congress’ to turn the thought experiment of ‘neurochoreography’ into an embodied thought experiment through this gathering, and begin to bring the imagined future of Now That We Know into reality.

The Institute of Neurochoreography’s First Open Congress will take place in the Lilian Baylis Studio on 2 November, alongside Matthias’s performance-lecture Now That We Know on 1 & 2 November. A combined ticket offer is available for the symposium and performance together for £30.

The symposium is supported by Midlands4Cities, Roehampton University, Dance4 and Siobhan Davies Dance, in partnership with Sadler’s Wells.

Image credit: Matthias Sperling, Loop Atlas, image by David Oates.

Incredible Season of Dance announced for Spring 2019

From hip hop to ballet, stages flooded with water and shows influenced by brass bands, The Beatles and Björk – we’ve got your spring ‘19 dance fix covered.

We have officially announced the line-up for an incredible season of dance next spring, with members priority booking available from Wednesday 31 October, and public booking from Monday 5 November.

Here are some highlights to add to your 2019 dance diary…

Matthew Bourne fans are in for treat with the recently announced world premiere production of Romeo and Juliet (7 – 31 August) coming to the Sadler’s Wells stage in August as part of a UK tour. The choreographer known for his hugely popular and magical ballet adaptations of well-known classics will now turn his trademark storytelling style to Shakespeare’s tale of star-crossed lovers with a passionate and contemporary re-imagining. Britain’s brightest young dance talent join the New Adventures company for this production, with set, costumes, lighting and sound by Bourne’s most-trusted creative collaborators and a Prokofiev’s classic score performed live by the New Adventures Orchestra.

Returning for their fourth visit to Sadler’s Wells, the world-renowned San Francisco Ballet (29 May – 8 June) continue to delight and surprise audiences with a mammoth programme of four triple bills, including eight brand new pieces which premiered earlier this year. These works have been created by choreographic royalty including Christopher Wheeldon, Liam Scarlett, Cathy Marston, Arthur Pita, Alexei Ratmansky and Justin Peck to name a few and range from works inspired by the music of Icelandic icon Björk to the life of Russian composer Shostakovich.

Our stage has seen many spectacular set designs from being covered in two tonnes of soil for Pina Bausch’s The Rite of Spring to Antony Gormley’s 21 wooden boxes in Sutra. Damien Jalet and Kohei Nawa’s latest work Vessel (16 & 17 April), will see the stage flooded with water to reflect the near-naked bodies of the dancers with its mirror-like surface. In striking collaboration, the Olivier Award-winning choreographer and Japanese experimental sculptor blur the lines between human form and its environment.

50 years on from the release of one of the best-selling albums of all-time, Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Mark Morris Dance Group pays tribute to the experimental studio album that famously couldn’t be performed live. Pepperland (20 – 23 March) features Mark Morris’ witty and heartfelt choreography accompanied by new Pepper-inspired orchestrations performed by a live ensemble of voice, theremin, soprano sax, trombone, keyboards and percussion.

In their follow up to the hugely successful She Said, Associate Company English National Ballet return with She Persisted (4 – 13 April); a triple bill celebrating and promoting women’s voices of dance. The company revives Annabelle Lopez Ochoa’s biopic of Frida Khalo, Broken Wings and Pina Bausch’s Le Sacre du printemps. Completing the trio is a brand new work by Stina Quagebeur, which takes inspiration from Henrik Ibsen’s play A Doll’s House.

Become a member to access priority booking from Wed 31 Oct and save 20% on all of these shows and more. Visit our website now for full details of the Spring 2019 Season.

Aakash Odedra: “I think each person physically has the power to change something.”

Choreographer and performer Aakash Odedra’s first company work #JeSuis is a powerful physical exploration of oppression in all its guises. Inspired by a group of Turkish dancers and their collective responses to the widespread misinterpretations of their country, #JeSuis won the Amnesty International Freedom of Expression Award 2017. We spoke to Aakash to find out more about this extraordinary political work.

What inspired you to create #JeSuis?
Social media plays such a big role in people’s lives. In the beginning, it felt like a great tool to be able to voice your opinions, but now social media has become the block. You hashtag something and it’s out there and you think the job’s done, and that’s it. It’s also interesting what gets highlighted. If it’s in Paris or in America, it’s news everywhere. But if it’s in Sudan or Kashmir it’s not as important. So how important is a story, and is hashtagging it really going to resolve it? I felt like I had to action something in person and through people; I think it’s through interaction that a sense of humanity emerges.

People watch things on a screen and they become numb to it. I feel when people see something in real time, in the moment, it gives them a chance to think. I want to make people think, and also to make them act. I think each person physically has the power to change something.

I first went to Istanbul in 2012. I was teaching a workshop in a university, a phrase that I always teach, but the dancers started doing it better than me, so I started to doubt myself. It was really interesting. There was also something about the city that drew me in. I felt very connected to it. And the students stayed in the back of my mind.

There was this boy in particular who I thought was very good, so a year later I mailed the university and said I’d like to work with him. I told them I’d come to the university and they said ‘fine, what’s your fee – and if the university can’t afford your fees, we as the teachers will put it in from our own pockets.’ That really hit me and I just said forget the fees, I’m coming. I spent two weeks there. I was scheduled for two hours a day but all the dancers gave me 15 hours a day of their own time to dance. And it was 110% every time. There was a sense of passion and desperation, and it was this sense of desperation that I wanted to explore. I started to learn about their stories, and what’s going on around them in their political climate. I got intrigued, and I said that if I ever made a group work, I would work with them.

#JeSuis explores timely political issues such as oppression, displacement and the role of the media, and it was awarded the Amnesty International Freedom of Expression Award last year. How important is it for you as an artist, to create work that responds to contemporary issues – and how do you tackle these themes through dance?
I feel like the piece starts in an era – in the 1920s or WWI – and then moves on. There’s a sense of repetition: war is not new. Displacement isn’t new. My family was displaced. Their family was displaced. But there is something in this repeating cycle that I really wanted to explore – this sense of a rising up against oppression. And oppression comes in many forms. There was this interesting picture I saw, a cartoon sketch of a woman in a bikini, and a woman in a burqa. And they both say, ‘This is my freedom’. So freedom has many parts, not what we’re used to.

In Indian classical dance we have angika which is the body, vachika which is the oral way of communicating, and kathak which is a blend of both. So I felt like the natural route for me to go down was a physical theatre dance route. I didn’t want to limit the language, I wanted to make sure that if my mother came to watch it she could understand it. And I wanted it to appeal to people, because it’s a people’s piece. That’s why I’ve chosen dancers who have a sense of voice through their movement, through their being and through their experience.

Do you see dance as a form of activism?
I think just living in this day and age is a form of activism. I suppose as an artist, if you’re affected by something, your medium is your medium and that’s what speaks. The important thing is that it’s not just my piece, I believe it’s our piece. It’s a story of them which I relate to us and then it becomes universal.

#JeSuis is performed by seven Turkish dancers who you first met in 2012 while running a workshop in Istanbul. How collaborative was the making process?
We all know each other so well it’s unbelievable. There’s no nine to five. They would call me at three in the morning, saying ‘Aakash, what are you doing?’ and I’d say ‘I can’t sleep, it just doesn’t feel right’, ‘neither can we, come over’. So at three in the morning, we would sit there, after they’ve done a full day of work, and brainstorm. We’d ask each other, why isn’t this working? That’s the commitment they had to their story, to my story, to our story.

All the dancers are contemporary trained, and I’m not. Orally we speak different languages, but also physically we spoke different languages, which was interesting because we had to use dance and theatre and movement to bridge that connection between us. For me it was almost a therapy, to learn how to communicate with people without words.

How did it feel to be awarded the Amnesty Freedom of Expression Award?
I was surprised – I wasn’t there, the Turkish guys went to collect the award and it was only the work in progress. I had a week to put the whole thing together and it felt like a lot of chaos, but when we got the award it felt like, ok, it can’t be that bad. There must be something there. That was very special and important for all of us. It told us, keep going.

What would you like audiences to take away from this work?
If I can make one person question their role in life, then I feel like there’s a job done. If there’s an auditorium full of 1000 people and even one person decides that they want to do something, that’s what’s important for me.

#JeSuis comes to the Lilian Baylis Studio on 7 & 8 November. Tickets are £17*. To book, call the Ticket Office on 020 7863 8000 or book online.

*Transaction fee applies. Max £3.

20 moments for 20 years

2018 marks the 20th anniversary of the current Sadler’s Wells building – a place where artists and audiences come together to create and experience dance; to take part, learn, experiment and be inspired. As we embark on our next chapter, we reflect on some of the highlights of an eventful two decades, and the moments that have helped to define what Sadler’s Wells is today.

1. The new Sadler’s Wells opens (1998)

In October 1998, after two years of construction, the new Sadler’s Wells theatre opened its doors to the community. The building was brought to life with performances from Rambert, the Royal Ballet and Birmingham Royal Ballet, as audiences were invited to look around and experience first-hand the sixth incarnation of this historic Islington institution. The redesign ensured the technical and stage equipment was modernised, the auditorium and stage more spacious, and incorporated a public café and what was then known as a Community and Education Centre. This was in keeping with the modern vision for the theatre – an organisation rooted in the community, with a cultural programme extending far beyond the main stage.

“It happened. They made it. The new Sadler’s Wells opened on time. And London’s theatrical landscape, as of last Monday, is changed for good. In the face of nay-sayers and gloom-mongers, and some unaccountably spiteful press, the curtain rose on the first major project to be funded by the National Lottery. And it’s magnificent. The deed is greater than the word” – The Independent, 18 October 1998

2. Sadler’s Wells becomes a producing house and appoints first Associate Artists (2005)

At a press conference in March 2005, recently appointed Artistic Director and Chief Executive Alistair Spalding announced that Sadler’s Wells was to become a producing house with artists creating new work at its heart. He appointed the first group of Associate Artists, which included BalletBoyz,  Jonzi D, Wayne McGregor, Matthew Bourne and Akram Khan (whose short film XEN, which we commissioned earlier this year, can be viewed above). To date, we have helped bring to the stage over 160 new productions and our family of Associate Artists has grown to 16 (plus an Associate Artist Emeritus, Sylvie Guillem, who retired at the end of 2015).

“It was like signing the entire England team in a single afternoon” – The Times, 11 December 2006

3. Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch World Cities series (2012)

Ruth Amarante in Viktor (c) Maarten Vanden Abeele.

The late Pina Bausch, one of the most significant choreographers of our time, redefined what dance could be. Known as the inventor of tanztheater, the German dance maker has inspired generations of audiences and artists all over the world, nurturing an ensemble of vivid imagination and grand scale – Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch, a Sadler’s Wells International Associate Company. In 2012, to celebrate the Cultural Olympiad, Sadler’s Wells and the Barbican presented all 10 of Bausch’s iconic World Series productions – epic travelogues inspired by cities around the world, created between 1986 and Bausch’s death in 2009. First up was the extraordinary Viktor, inspired by Rome.

4. Sadler’s Wells announces plans to open a new venue (2013)

Pupils from Mossbourne Riverside Academy take part in a dance workshop.

In November 2013, we announced our ambition to build a 550-seat theatre to support dance talent wanting to up-scale their work, and to present the best international work made for the mid-scale, plugging a gap in London’s dance infrastructure. Not long afterwards, the then Mayor of London and the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) invited Sadler’s Wells to consider being one of a number of cultural organisations to occupy the Stratford Waterfront site within the redevelopment of Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in east London, as part of the ongoing legacy of the 2012 London Olympic Games. Sadler’s Wells East will be part of a new cultural and education district, the East Bank project, alongside the BBC, UAL’s London College of Fashion, UCL and the V&A in partnership with the Smithsonian Institution. Ahead of opening our doors in Stratford in 2022, we are working closely with our East Bank partners and local community and cultural organisations in east London to plan and deliver joint events and activities. These include the Open Doors: Vote 100 held at Here East in July and an ongoing pilot project at Mossbourne Riverside Academy, a primary school on Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, to embed dance within local children’s education. Weekly dance classes in different styles, an after-school club, sessions for teachers and workshops for parents are delivered by dance professionals working in collaboration on the project, including East London Dance, our Associate Company English National Ballet and Studio Wayne McGregor.

5. Sylvie Guillem’s last London performances (2015)

Sylvie Guillem in Mats Ek’s Bye.

After an unparalleled career that spanned almost 35 years, Sadler’s Wells Associate Artist Sylvie Guillem – one of the greatest dancers of her generation – performed her farewell programme on our main stage in 2015. Our production Life in Progress featured work by choreographers who influenced Guillem’s contemporary career, including technê by Akram Khan; Here & After, a duet with Italian dancer Emanuela Montanari choreographed by Russell Maliphant, and Mats Ek’s poignant Bye. Due to extraordinary public demand – the performances sold out in just five days – additional UK tour dates were added. “I have loved every moment of the last 39 years, and today, I am still loving it in the same way”, wrote Guillem in 2015. “So why stop? Very simply, because I want to end while I am still happy doing what I do with pride and passion.”

Guillem’s first contemporary performances on our stage were in 2004 for Broken Fall – a collaboration with fellow Sadler’s Wells Associate Artist Russell Maliphant, and Michael Nunn and William Trevitt. It was followed by PUSH, a duet with Maliphant, which premiered here in 2005 (see no.9). She collaborated with Akram Khan for Sacred Monsters, which also premiered here in 2006, the same year she became an Associate Artist. In 2009, she collaborated with Robert Lepage and Maliphant for our production Eonnagata, with costumes by Alexander McQueen, while in 2011 she devised and performed in 6000 miles away, which we produced. It featured works by three of today’s most important choreographers; Mats Ek, William Forsythe, and Jiří Kylián. All these productions toured internationally to full houses and critical acclaim.

6. First Breakin’ Convention festival (2004)

Breakin’ Convention is the critically acclaimed powerhouse behind a hip hop theatre revolution. It all started in 2003, when artistic director Jonzi D had an idea that would shake up the UK theatre scene forever – a festival that brought together the best hip hop dance theatre performers from around the world on London’s doorstep. On 15 May 2004, Sadler’s Wells helped to make that dream a reality and Breakin’ Convention, the international festival of hip hop dance theatre, was born. The groundbreaking line-up saw artists such as Rennie Harris, Benji Reid, ZooNation, Boy Blue and the Electric Boogaloos performing to a sell-out audience hungry for a dance form that had been missing from the UK landscape. Today, Breakin’ Convention continues to push boundaries through its world-renowned festivals, international tours and education projects.

7. Hofesh Shechter: Uprising/ In Your Rooms (2007)

Hofesh Shechter Company: In Your Rooms (c) Ben Rudick.

Pulsating rhythms, exhilarating energy and excited audiences – we always know when Hofesh Shechter is in the building. One of the most exciting dance artists working today, Shechter’s talent was spotted early on by Artistic Director Alistair Spalding, who programmed his choreographic debut for the Sadler’s Wells stage, Uprising/ In your rooms, to much acclaim. A year later, Shechter established his own company and Sadler’s Wells commissioned Uprising/ In your rooms: The Choreographer’s Cut, a reworking of Shechter’s acclaimed double bill featuring a band of 20 musicians alongside a company of 17 dancers, which stormed London’s Roundhouse with two sold-out performances in March 2009.

8. New Adventures: Matthew Bourne’s Edward Scissorhands (2005)

Richard Winsor as Edward in New Adventures’ Edward Scissorhands (c) Bill Cooper.

Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures has produced some of the most successful dance shows of the last two decades. This game-changing company first came to Sadler’s Wells in 1993 with its Nutcracker!. In 1995, Matthew Bourne’s now-iconic production of Swan Lake premiered on our stage. But it was in 2005, as a newly-appointed Sadler’s Wells Resident Company, that New Adventures first brought its theatrical magic to our current theatre, with its unique twist on the bittersweet story of an outsider, Edward Scissorhands. While the company has occasionally appeared on our stage in the summer months, for example with The Car Man in 2015 and Dorian Gray in 2008, New Adventures productions have long been a regular and much-loved feature of our Christmas season – Swan Lake returns to our theatre in December.

9. Russell Maliphant and Sylvie Guillem: PUSH (2005)

Russell Maliphant and Sylvie Guillem in PUSH (c) Johan Persson.

PUSH was the very first Sadler’s Wells production and signalled the beginning of an exciting new chapter: Sadler’s Wells as a producing house. Choreographed by Russell Maliphant for himself and Sylvie Guillem (“a pairing made in heaven”, The Times), this modern-day classic went on to enjoy a 10-year tour across four continents – Europe, North America, Asia and Australia – with sold-out performances in cities from Paris to New York, Melbourne and Taipei, winning major awards including an Olivier. Since the premiere of PUSH, Sadler’s Wells has regularly produced new works, including major collaborations such as Sutra (Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui & Antony Gormley), Michael Keegan-Dolan’s Swan Lake and Natalia Osipova’s Pure Dance. And, of course, there’s more to come – this season we’re excited to bring Reckonings and Dystopian Dream to our stage.

10. Crystal Pite: Polaris (2014)

Crystal Pite’s Polaris (c) Andrew Lang.

This extraordinary work choreographed by our Associate Artist Crystal Pite in 2014 involved 64 dancers drawn from her company, Kidd Pivot, as well as the London Contemporary Dance School and the Central School of Ballet. Part of See the Music, Hear the Dance, a mixed bill of dance works set to the music of composer Thomas Adès, Polaris saw Crystal orchestrate an organic mass of bodies, morphing and pulsating to the Adès piece of the same name.

11. Lucy Carter / Michael Hulls / Nitin Sawhney: No Body (2016)

This was a first for Sadler’s Wells. No Body was an immersive, multi-part and multi-room series of installations combining elements of a dance performance – lighting, design, sound and projection – while removing the physical presence of dancers. Different installations were dotted throughout the building, including in behind-the-scenes spaces not normally open to the public such as the stage, rehearsal studios and even our light store. Beginning with Michael Hulls’ visual installation LightSpace, audiences then embarked on a trail, including Nitin Sawhney’s sound and visual installation Indelible, spread across three of the foyers, lighting expert Lucy Carter’s three-part Hidden, and films by dance artists Siobhan Davies and Russell Maliphant.

12. National Youth Dance Company awarded to Sadler’s Wells (2012)

National Youth Dance Company present (in between) by Jasmin Vardimon (c) Tony Nandi 2013.

In February 2012, the Department for Education and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport published an independent review by Darren Henley with a key recommendation: ‘a new permanent National Youth Dance Company should be created and funded.’ Following an open application process, Sadler’s Wells was awarded the contract and formed the National Youth Dance Company in September 2012. Since then, every year dancers aged between 16 and 18, or up to 24 if deaf or disabled, work with a Guest Artistic Director during the school holidays to create a full-length dance piece that premieres and then goes on tour across the country each summer. In 2013, the first cohort premiered (in between), choreographed by Jasmin Vardimon. The 2018-19 company will work with Guest Artistic Director Botis Seva and are set to premiere their new work in spring 2019.

13. Company of Elders at Venice Biennale (2006)

Company of Elders, our resident company for the over-60s, has been challenging assumptions about dancing and age longer than our current building has been standing – it was established in 1989. A landmark moment came in 2006, when the company performed Natural, choreographed by Clara Andermatt, at the Venice Biennale in Italy. Increasingly in demand, the company performs regularly, including at our Elixir Festival, established in 2014 as a unique celebration of lifelong creativity. More recently, the ensemble performed in Japan last month as part of the Saitama Arts Festival.

14. Get into Dance launches (2015)

We want to share the best dance with the largest possible audience. As part of our commitment to access and inclusion, in 2015 we launched a new community engagement scheme to reach wider audiences within Islington, our borough. Working in partnership with local organisations, housing associations and community centres, the Get into Dance initiative offers local residents access to specially subsidised tickets. Earlier this year, a pilot Ambassadors’ scheme was launched to deepen the participants’ engagement with dance, with activities including skills training in dance writing, talks from dance specialists and invitations to behind-the-scenes experiences. Two of our Dance Ambassadors – local residents Janice and Kate – came to see Ballet British Columbia in March. Watch our film to find out what they thought.

15. Acosta Danza: Debut (2017)

Founded by Cuban ballet star Carlos Acosta, Acosta Danza made its UK debut on our main stage in September 2017 as an International Associate Company of Sadler’s Wells. Acosta set up the company in Havana after retiring from The Royal Ballet. “Acosta Danza has been founded with the intention of paying tribute to the wealth of Cuban culture”, he said at the time of the launch. “It is an aspiration that has grown out of my vision as an artist, incorporating all that I have learned during the past 25 years of my professional career.” Acosta himself made a guest appearance as part of the Debut programme, which featured the UK premieres of works by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, Goyo Montero, Jorge Crecis, Justin Peck and Marianela Boán.

16. Fashion, dance and film unite in MOVEment (2015)

Sadler’s Wells collaborated with AnOther Magazine to create a unique series of short films uniting fashion, dance and cinema in a radical new way. The series, titled MOVEment, saw seven of the biggest names in fashion create bespoke costumes for seven specially choreographed performances, interpreted for the screen by seven pioneering directors. The collaborations included dancers of our International Associate Company Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch with Prada (film by Kevin Frilet) and a performance by Nevena Jovanovic choreographed by our Associate Artist Jasmin Vardimon with costumes by Stephen Jones Millinery (film by Matthew Donaldson). MOVEment premiered in the Lilian Baylis Studio on 18 April 2015, and all the films are available to watch on the Sadler’s Wells website.

17. Dance in the open air

In 2008 we took to the fields of Suffolk for the first time as part of Latitude Festival. Our Sadler’s Wells Presents stage saw performances from Boy Blue Entertainment, Guari Sharma Tripathi and Wayne McGregor/ Random Dance. We’ve been back every year since, as part of an extensive programme of outdoor events, including regular appearances at Latitude and Wilderness, the Big Lunch/ Great Get Together in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and Cally Fest in Islington, right on our doorstep. This summer was a first for us in programming a weekend takeover of the National Theatre’s River Stage.

18. Launch of Young Associates (2018)

Sadler’s Wells’ Young Associate Ruby Portus.

Nurturing artistic talent is an integral part of what we do. Recognising the need for more support to be given to those at the very outset of their dance-making careers, in February 2018 we welcomed our first Young Associates: Anthony Matsena, Wilhelmina Ojanen, Ruby Portus and Christopher Thomas. The Young Associate programme supports talented 18 to 24-year-olds, providing a crucial first step into their career as choreographers with a tailored programme of professional development, including the opportunity to present their work as part of our artistic programme. The initiative is the newest addition to our artist development programmes, supporting dance artists at every stage in their career. Our Young Associates premiered four new works as part of a Mixed Bill in the Lilian Baylis Studio this week.

19. A new visual identity to reflect a revitalised organization (2014)

Posters in the new Sadler’s Wells visual identity, spring 2015.

By 2014, Sadler’s Wells had evolved so much from the organisation it was when the theatre was rebuilt, but its visual identity had stayed the same. We commissioned design agency Red&White to give our brand a makeover, to reflect our increased role in supporting dance makers and in commissioning and producing new work. The brand refresh integrated Sadler’s Wells’ visual identity with the striking dance imagery of our productions and presentations. We were delighted that our new visual identity and communications materials won Silver in the Media category of the Design Business Association’s Design Effectiveness Awards 2018 in February.

20. Putting our community centre stage

Full Circle was premiered as part of the Destino triple bill on 12 March 2009. This was an ambitious and ground-breaking work involving 120 dancers, from primary school children to pensioners, choreographed by Dance United and accompanied by the Royal Philarmonic Orchestra. They were led by Addisu Demissie and Junaid Jemal Sendi, both born into poverty in Ethiopia, trained in contemporary dance by the Adugna dance project and connected to Sadler’s Wells via our Learning & Engagement team. More recent community productions have been similarly determined in scale. 2011’s Sum of Parts featured a huge cast of 150 dancers of all ages, choreographed by six Sadler’s Wells Associate Companies. Home Turf (video above) in 2016, a collaboration with West Ham United Foundation, explored the relationship between football and dance and was performed by a diverse cast of over 100 dancers.