Alina Cojocaru is one of ballet’s most remarkable talents. The Romanian born dancer is famed for her rapid rise through the ranks of The Royal Ballet; she became a Principal of the company after two years, aged just 19 years old. After 10 years she moved to English National Ballet, where she remains a Lead Principal and is also a Guest Artist at Hamburg Ballet. In a career filled with awards, acclaim and awe-inspiring performances, we’ve picked just a few highlights from her journey so far…
WORKING WITH CHOREOGRAPHER ALEXEI RATMANSKY
It would be any ballet dancer’s dream to work with Ratmansky. The Russian choreographer and former director of the Bolshoi is widely considered to be ballet royalty. While at The Royal Ballet, Alina danced in his first ever creation for a British ballet company, 24 Preludes. The music of Chopin provided the inspiration for this dazzling piece of choreography for eight dancers in equally resplendent metallic costumes. Each fragment of the ballet evoked a different mood and unique characteristics of the dancers, in a series of solos, duets and trios.
HER FAREWELL PERFORMANCE WITH JOHAN KOBBORG IN MAYERLING
Their partnership has been compared to that of Margot Fonteyn and Rudolf Nureyev. As a fellow Principal of The Royal Ballet, Alina met her partner Johan Kobborg in 2001 when the couple danced together in Romeo & Juliet. The pair said a final farewell to The Royal Ballet in 2013 with a memorable performance in Sir Kenneth MacMillan’s ballet Mayerling, as the leading roles of Crown Prince Rudolf and his young lover Mary Vetsera. This dark tale of death and desire was perfectly executed with extraordinary synchronicity from the esteemed couple. For many ballet fans, the news of their departure marked the end of an era.
HER DEBUT WITH ENGLISH NATIONAL BALLET
Alina’s first performance with English National Ballet was the company’s restaging of Le Corsaire: a thrilling pirate adventure, in which she danced the role of the heroine Medora. It was a show-stopping debut, made all the more special with a spectacular set by Hollywood designer, Bob Ringwood (the creator of Batman’s iconic Batsuit!). The Independent described it as a “radiant performance.”
WHEN SHE REINVENTED GISELLE
Alina is no stranger to the role of Giselle. She cited it as one of her favourite roles to dance from the classical ballet canon. In 2016, she was challenged by choreographer Akram Khan to reinvent the role for English National Ballet, drawing from influences from the Indian classical dance style of kathak. Her curiosity was a driving force in the creative process, which she admits was unlike rehearsing previous versions of the Romantic ballet. She told the Financial Times, “when I was trying to just find the movement, I always failed and it never looked right — but the moment we started talking about emotions, I felt at home.” The resulting performance was revered by audiences and critics as one of the most emotionally powerful productions of Giselle you will ever see.
Alina Cojocaru curates and performs a new programme of classical and contemporary dance at Sadler’s Wells from 20 – 23 Feb. Tickets are available here.
hip hop artists went Back To The Lab to develop their practice and create new
work under the mentorship of leading choreographers, theatre makers and
dramaturgs this month. Nathan Lafayette, Pervez, Shaadow Sefiroth and duo Cat
Jiminez & Jaekwon took part in the latest edition of the artist development
course, led by Sadler’s Wells Breakin’ Convention’s team.
The Lab invites professional hip hop artists to explore and experiment with
different choreographic methods. It supports them as they put their new-found
knowledge into practice by devising new work, which is then presented to, and
discussed with, a live audience at the end of an intensive, two-week period.
Ahead of the final sharing in our Lilian Baylis Studio on 25 January, we speak to Nathan Lafayette about his creative journey, tackling impostor syndrome and more.
does going ‘Back To The Lab’ involve?
It’s very much a
learning process in the first week. You’re picking up a lot of information,
which at times can be quite overwhelming, but also reassuring. A lot of it is
about extending our palette in terms of the tools we work with, and sometimes
focusing more on one specific tool. Using an analogy that Mikey J [Asante, composer
and co-founder of hip-hop dance company Boy Blue Entertainment] shared on a
previous artist development course: “Sometimes you want to work with the hammer.”
Back To The Lab helps me understand what my hammer is. It’s been interesting
finding out how we work, sparking different conversations and hearing people’s
in the second week of the programme. Could you tell us a bit about what you’re
working on and what are you most looking forward to?
The second week is more work focused. It’s about building your piece to show. This being the second week, it feels like we have all these tools we can choose to use, but also, it’s like there’s no right way to do it. Whatever way works for you is the way to work.
looking forward to moving and trying things out, even if it does mess up, or it
doesn’t feel correct. It’s been a while since I’ve had the space to make
decisions, so it’s a bit surreal. I always say when I’m teaching a class: if
you find something you don’t like, then you’ve learned that and you know what
direction you want to go in. It’s about having the space to refine what’s
also really looking forward to seeing how I work in the studio with someone
else, whose movement I love and whom I really love working with. But also
seeing how we learn from each other.
a valuable piece of advice you’ve received so far? How has it impacted and
informed your approach to your work?
A bit of advice that was given to me for my own movement by Ivan [Blackstock, choreographer] is to find out what my 100% is. Also, something [choreographer] Jonathan Burrows said about ‘decorating’ your work made me think a lot more about that. How can I decorate my work? How little or how much can I say through movement? I feel like my movement is very slow and internal, so it’s about learning the opposite of what I usually do and not holding back.
you share a personal highlight of the course?
with Saskia, the dancer I’m creating this duet with. She’s such a beautiful
mover and thinker, and sometimes when we’re next to people like that, we can go
into ourselves a bit. We’re always going to see more in other people than we
see in ourselves. Having conversations with Saskia and hearing how she works,
but also what she appreciates in my own movement, has given me that reassurance
in realising what my ‘superpower’ is.
there been any challenges?
through the self-doubt and self-awareness has been on my mind for the last
couple of years. I can look around a room and think ‘Oh, that person is dope
because of this or that’, but I don’t often feel dope for anything. I don’t
know what my ‘thing’ is. I feel more comfortable knowing now that I have accumulated
what I’ve accumulated, and whatever I’ve accumulated is what I am. In a way, we
become a cross-stitch of all our influences and teachers. I am a product of
everyone I’ve ever interacted with and everyone that has taught me before. It’s
been nice to be able to step back and understand that a little bit more on the
are you feeling about the final sharing?
I’m actually not that anxious about it. I definitely feel like there’s a sense of levelling up but knowing that I’m working with Saskia makes me feel less nervous. Having someone in the room to bounce off [ideas] means a lot; it settles my mind.
kind of excited. Of course, [as it happens] inside every artist you want people
to like your work. The purpose of a piece isn’t necessarily to inform, but it
would be nice to know that mine puts the audience in a state of thought. The
work is called Player2 and is very much based on a world of energy, chemical
reactions, magnetism and vibrations. How elements react and come together is a
core part of it. It’s turned into something that is quite scientific, but it uses
science as an analogy for relationships. It would be interesting to see the
piece as a catalyst that gets the audience to think about the people they
you describe the Back To The Lab experience in a few words?
Reassuring. Comfortable. Open. Needed. I’m in London, performing on Saturday at Sadler’s Wells theatre! To know that I’m one of four choreographers whose work is going to be seen is surreal. It’s a great opportunity, but again, I don’t feel the pressure to do it ‘right’. Coming from Birmingham and being a part of something that is as high-profile for the hip-hop dance community as Back To The Lab, I feel even more of a push to represent myself.
Convention presents Back To The Lab is at Sadler’s Wells’ Lilian
Baylis Studio on Saturday 25 January. Tickets are available here.
We’re delighted to announce the launch of our new
young person’s ticket scheme, as part of a major partnership with Barclays.
Barclays Dance Pass offers £10 tickets to 16 to
30-year-olds registered with the scheme for all productions across our venues.
These include Sadler’s Wells Theatre and the Lilian Baylis Studio in Islington,
north London, and The Peacock theatre in the West End. The scheme will also
apply to performances at our new mid-scale venue, opening in Stratford in 2022.
Once registered, Barclays Dance Pass members will be able to purchase two
tickets per production at no extra booking fee cost.
From today at 10am, Barclays Dance Pass holders will be able to book for shows in our Spring 2020 season, including Sadler’s Wells production Message In A Bottle by our Associate Artist Kate Prince, based on the songs of Sting, which runs at The Peacock from 6 February to 21 March. The season also features Drawn Lines, the latest in our Composer series, focusing on Nico Muhly; double bill The Rite of Spring/ common ground[s], a Sadler’s Wells, Pina Bausch Foundation and École des Sables Production; Lloyd Newson’s Enter Achilles, co-produced by Rambert and Sadler’s Wells; and UK premieres of works by Sadler’s Wells Associate Artists Crystal Pite and Michael Keegan Dolan.
To mark the launch of the scheme, Sadler’s Wells is offering the first 10 sign ups a pair of free tickets for the premiere of Message In A Bottle on 19 February.
The scheme makes available 10,000 tickets each year at £10 each, providing a wide range of new audiences with access to ground-breaking work and world-class artists – furthering our mission to make and share dance that inspires us all.
Barclays will also become Associate Partner of
National Youth Dance Company (NYDC) for the next three years. Run by Sadler’s
Wells and funded by the Department for Education and Arts Council England, NYDC
creates and performs innovative and influential dance, bringing together the
brightest talent from across England to work intensively with Sadler’s Wells’
renowned Associate Artists and visiting companies.
Since its creation in 2013, NYDC has worked with
2,800 young dancers, over 80% of whom have gone on to further dance training or
professional work. New support from Barclays extends opportunities for talented
young dancers from all areas and backgrounds to be part of the company and
underlines NYDC’s commitment to artistry and accessibility.
Alistair Spalding, Artistic Director and Chief
Executive of Sadler’s Wells, said:
“Young people are the dance artists
and audiences of the future and we are committed to offering them access to the
best dance from all over the world. I am delighted that our partnership with
Barclays will help us grow the number of 16 to 30-year-olds enjoying our shows,
while supporting young dancers to develop and perform on our stage and across
Tom Corbett, Head of Sponsorship at Barclays, said:
“Barclays is proud to partner with Sadler’s Wells to extend opportunities to young people throughout the country. Over three years, Barclays Dance Pass will give 30,000 young people the opportunity to experience world-class dance at Sadler’s Wells, and our support will enable National Youth Dance Company to provide a diverse, talented group of young artists from across the country an unrivalled opportunity to jump-start their careers.”
We’re thrilled to announce Olive Hardy, Vidya Patel, John-William Watson and Magnus Westwell as our Sadler’s Wells Young Associates for 2020-21.
The artist development programme nurtures choreographers under the age of 25 over the course of two years. As part of it, the four artists will receive a tailored programme of professional development, including support with production time across our studios and theatres, advice and networking opportunities, as well as the opportunity to present their work.
The aim is to help the young artists take the crucial first step into their career as dance makers, enabling them to deepen their understanding of their own practice and gain valuable insight into dance production.
WELCOMING A NEW GENERATION OF DANCE MAKERS
London-born and Bristol-raised, Olive Hardy first started dancing for Rise Youth Dance and has performed with the company for most of her young adulthood. Her training began at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, and she graduated from London Contemporary Dance School in 2019.
She has performed in works by choreographers Samir Kennedy, Leila McMillan, Rick Nodine and Seke Chimutengwende. Olive is interested in delving further into the creative and collaborative process of dance making and hopes to produce work that resonates with the people who experience it.
Vidya Patel comes from Birmingham. Her background is in Kathak, training under the guidance of Sujata Banerjee. After graduating from the Centre of Advanced Training at Birmingham DanceXchange, Vidya took part in the inaugural BBC Young Dancer 2015, where she was selected as the finalist for the South Asian category. She has since performed in international touring works created by critically acclaimed artists Sir Richard Alston, Gary Clarke, Thick & Tight and Akademi.
While continuing her Indian classical dance training, Vidya is looking to develop her own choreographic practice.
Born in Leeds, John-William Watson began his training at Phoenix Dance Theatre’s Youth Academy. During this time, he was also a member of National Youth Dance Company for two years and trained under the artistic direction of Sadler’s Wells’ Associate Artists Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and Michael Keegan-Dolan.
He then moved to Belgium to study at The Royal Conservatoire of Antwerp. He was selected as the Wild Card finalist in the BBC Young Dancer 2017 competition. Returning to the UK, he is following his creative path within the world of absurd and often comedic dance theatre.
Edinburgh-born interdisciplinary artist Magnus Westwell is a graduate from The Dance School of Scotland and Rambert School, where he was the recipient of a scholarship from the Veronica Bruce Memorial Trust. Magnus works at the intersection of music, movement and visual art. He is interested in placing contemporary performance art in a variety of different settings and his work has been shown at electronic music festivals, in theatres, clubs, churches and on BBC4.
Magnus creates and mixes his own music, drawing inspiration from his background in traditional Scottish fiddle and his interest in left-field electronic music. He is the resident choreographer with multi-media collective SYNTREX.
The Young Associates programme has been nurturing budding dance makers while bringing fresh and exciting new work to the fore since its launch in February 2018. Sadlers’ Wells’ inaugural Young Associates 2018-19 – Anthony Matsena, Wilhelmina Ojanen, Ruby Portus and Christopher Thomas – completed the programme in December. All continue to work on exciting upcoming projects, adding their talents to a new artistic generation of dance makers.
Images throughout: Camilla Greenwell.