Shama Rowland

WELL SEASONED, CELEBRATING BLACK DANCE

Happy 2022! We’re extremely excited for this year at Sadler’s Wells, where we continue to showcase wonderful projects and productions, build relationships and bring joy to our visitors, participants, artists, communities and audience members, in our venues, on tour and abroad. 

Kicking off 2022, Sadler’s Wells is proud to announce Well Seasoned, Celebrating Black Dance. 

Well Seasoned was designed by Sadler’s Wells’ Artistic Director and Chief Executive Alistair Spalding and Artistic Director of Breakin’ Convention Jonzi D, to platform work by both UK-based and international Black dancemakers. 

Jonzi D said: ‘Well Seasoned is a flava full celebration of work from the African diaspora and beyond. As a statement of intent, we want to present the artistic diversity of People of Colour, particularly from the Black community. Our programme will reflect London’s cultural melting pot. A nourishing blend of local and global dance theatre makers, presenting work that is vibrant, challenging and delicious!’ 

Alistair Spalding said: ‘We wanted to highlight dance made by Black artists to celebrate them and to share with our existing and new audiences that this is happening at Sadler’s Wells. This is not a one off but an indication of a direction of travel for our venues and you will see more of the work of these amazing performers and choreographers in future seasons. We hope this selection of works in Well Seasoned gives a taste of the wonderful variety of dance being created by Black artists in the UK and beyond’. 

Well Seasoned includes work by Anthony and Kel Matsena, L’atisse Rhoden, Johannes Radebe and Breakin’ Convention, as well as Sadler’s Wells Production TRAPLORD by Ivan Michael Blackstock, and Botis Seva’s BLKDOG on tour, co-produced by Sadler’s Wells. 

Botis Seva said: ‘It’s great to see Sadler’s Wells upholding its promise to platform and champion more artists of colour in its programming, it finally reflects the breadth of ideas and artists in the UK and beyond! The artists featured as part of Well Seasoned are not just change makers of colour but they are change makers full stop! We’ve still got a way to go, but Well Seasoned is certainly a huge acknowledgement of the need for inclusivity and better visibility’. 

L’atisse Rhoden said: ‘Shining a light on Black dance artists allows new audiences to experience their work. It also acts as a much-needed voice in theatre when sharing opportunities can be limited for Black creatives’. 

Wild Card: Akeim Toussaint Buck – Radical Visions  

Wild Card returns with more offerings from a new generation of artists, invited to curate their own night. This January, Sadler’s Wells welcomes Akeim Toussaint Buck to the Lilian Baylis Studio to present his Wild Card, Radical Visions, featuring live music, film and powerful performance.   

Co-produced by Sadler’s Wells and Akeim Toussaint Buck.

In front of an altar and stained glass window, Akeim Toussaint Buck leaps towards us, left leg lifted straight in front, right arm extended in a high diagonal. His long locks fly straight up above his head. His chest and feet are bare and he wears loose, layered white trousers with intricate black embroidery that echoes the rich patterns of the church interior.
Wild Card: Akeim Toussaint Buck – Radical Visions. © Ashley Karrell

Dance Consortium presents Acosta Danza – 100% Cuban 

International ballet superstar Carlos Acosta’s critically acclaimed Cuban company Acosta Danza has garnered an unrivalled reputation for creating work that combines both classical and contemporary genres effortlessly, infused with Cuba’s rich musical and dance influences.  

Acosta Danza is a Sadler’s Wells International Associate Company.

A young black woman with a shaved head wears a sky-blue sleeveless dress with a full skirt that falls to the floor. Her body forms a dynamic zigzag: balancing on the ball of her left foot, with the knee bent, right hip swung out as she twists upwards to look at her right hand, palm to the sky above her head.
Dance Consortium presents Acosta Danza – 100% Cuban. © Manuel Vason

Ivan Michael Blackstock – TRAPLORD  

Award-winning dance artist and cultural innovator Ivan Michael Blackstock’s TRAPLORD is an immersive dance performance meditating on life, death and rebirth. Wandering between dreams and reality, TRAPLORD takes us on a new heroic journey to self-actualisation. 

Sadler’s Wells x 180 Studios. A co-production with The Factory and ALTRUVIOLET. Supported by Cockayne – Grants for the Arts and the Maria Bjornson Memorial Fund. Supported using public funding by Arts Council England.

Seven young men are gathered around a black car which sits on a bed of pink and white flowers, like a tribute for a funeral. The men wear black hoodies, combat trousers and puffa jackets. One, with large rabbit ears coming from his hood, has a wide, relaxed smile; another holds a latex pig mask. The men’s faces are painted a dark, metallic black, contrasting with the warm brown tones of the skin on their necks and hands.
Ivan Michael Blackstock – TRAPLORD. © Glodi Miessi 

Phoenix Dance Theatre – 40 Years of Phoenix 

Sadler’s Wells National Partner Company Phoenix Dance Theatre celebrates its 40th birthday with a range of work from across its illustrious history. The programme features five pieces by internationally acclaimed, award-winning choreographers, including former Artistic Directors and collaborators.  

Featuring Pave Up Paradise from Lost Dog (Ben Duke and Raquel Meseguer); Darshan Singh Bhuller’s Heart of Chaos; Signal by Henri Oguike; Jane Dudley’s 1938 masterpiece, Harmonica Breakdown; and Family, choreographed by Shapiro & Smith.  

Phoenix Dance Theatre is a Sadler’s Wells National Partner Company.

Phoenix Dance Theatre – 40 Years of Phoenix. © Foteini Christofilopoulou 

Johannes Radebe – Freedom  

Strictly Come Dancing sensation and international champion, Johannes Radebe, comes to the Peacock Theatre for the London premiere of his debut tour, Freedom.  

This is a celebration of the dances that you love, with Johannes’ signature flair and energy. From ballroom to Latin, the company will perform to classic dance arrangements, South African rhythms and party anthems. Johannes will take you on his journey from growing up in South Africa, to travelling the world, winning competitions and starring in Strictly’s most memorable numbers.

A dancer leaps towards us in mid-air, against a sandy background spattered with red and brown pigment. His legs and midriff are bare, and he wears a loincloth and large collarpiece, both of leopardskin decorated with triangles of coloured beads. A matching beaded headband has long feathers sprouting from the top. He holds a staff topped with a large knob decorated with beads and feathers.
Johannes Radebe – Freedom.

Breakin’ Convention 22 International Festival of Hip Hop Dance Theatre 

Sadler’s Wells’ annual festival of hip hop dance theatre is back for its 19th year, platforming cutting-edge dance rooted in the streets and presented on stage. 

Expect bright lights, loud music and colourful costumes coming together in an annual Sadler’s Wells event that will excite and entertain the whole family. 

Breakin’ Convention is far more than just a show – arrive early for activities in the foyers, including live DJs, dance circles, have-a-go graffiti, popular improvisation-based warm-up show Freestyle Funk Forum, workshops with the artists and much more. 

Line-up to be announced spring 2022. For more information, see breakinconvention.com. 

Breakin’ Convention 22 International Festival of Hip Hop Dance Theatre. © Belinda Lawley 

Matsena Productions / House of Absolute – Shades of Blue / Warrior Queens 

Experience first-hand the next generation of leading London choreographers in this double bill which touches on both a social movement and cultural heritage.  

Shades of Blue is a work from Matsena Productions that beats to the tune of change, lasting change, systematic change - in which performance and protest clash and mould together.   

The work combines thunderous choreography, powerful text and a slick score that will not only make you rethink your position in society but celebrate a stronger future which we all have a part in building.   

Matsena Productions / House of Absolute – Shades of Blue / Warrior Queens.

L’atisse Rhoden – L CASA 

Sadler’s Wells New Wave Associate L’atisse Rhoden presents a night of new digital works. 

Inspired by personal narratives and shifting perspectives, Bom Dia! and Dutopia both explore the contrast between reality and dream-like surrealist worlds.  

As part of the evening, L’atisse invites NAVA LDN to curate NAVA Café. Designed by Russell Royer, this pop-up brings communities together in a comfortable and collaborative environment, through a shared love of hip hop and neo soul. L’atisse is co-founder of NAVA LDN alongside Stefan X.   

Expect beats, moves and good vibes.  

L’atisse Rhoden – L CASA.

Impact Dance – Chapter 25+1 

Impact Dance returns to the Peacock Theatre for Chapters 25+1. Join one of the UK’s most innovative dance organisations in celebrating their 26-year journey with a night of bite-sized extracts of excellence inspired by hip hop culture.   

Featuring: ACE Youth, BOP Jazz Theatre Company, Boy Blue, Far From The Norm, FFI of Impact Dance, Fusions Elite, Impact Youth, Myself UK Dance, REDO (HOL), Reading School of Dance, The Urdang ACS, and ZooNation Youth Company.   

Impact Dance – Chapter 25+1. © Gorm Ashurst Photography

On tour… Botis Seva’s BLKDOG  

BLKDOG is Botis Seva’s Olivier award-winning haunting commentary on surviving adulthood as a childlike artist. A genre-defying blend of hip hop dance and free form antics, BLKDOG explores the inner battlefield of an ageing artist trying to retain his youth.    

With music from long standing collaborator Torben Lars Sylvest and performed by Botis’ powerhouse company Far From The Norm, BLKDOG searches for coping mechanisms in the ultimate hunt for acceptance.

A Sadler’s Well’s Co-production. BLKDOG is touring internationally with dates in the USA as well as the UK, including dates in Nottingham, Oxford, Poole, Saffron Walden and Guildford.

In a white-painted, institutional corridor with barred windows, a dancer spirals in mid air, both feet off the ground, one leg and one arm extended straight behind him. He wears loose trousers and his chest is bare. A quilted hood is drawn up tightly around his face and his expression is strained.
Botis Seva’s BLKDOG. © Camilla Greenwell

Coming soon… NYDC 2022 – Alesandra Seutin 

Following the success of 2021’s Speak Volumes, National Youth Dance Company (NYDC) once again collaborates with internationally renowned choreographer Alesandra Seutin. 

33 outstanding young dancers present a new contemporary work, exploring the relationship between movement, voice and music. 

NYDC has established a reputation for producing high-quality, critically acclaimed productions by leading choreographers including Botis Seva, Russell Maliphant, Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, Sharon Eyal, Damien Jalet, Michael Keegan-Dolan, Akram Khan and Jasmin Vardimon

National Youth Dance Company is run by Sadler’s Wells and supported using public funding by Department for Education and Arts Council England.

NYDC 2022 – Alesandra Seutin. © Stephen Wright Photography.

Akeim Toussaint Buck, Acosta Danza, TRAPLORD, Phoenix Dance Theatre, BLKDOG and Johannes Radebe are already on sale. 

Breakin’ Convention, Matsena Productions / House of Absolute, L’atisse Rhoden and Impact Dance are on sale from Monday 31 January at 10 am via www.sadlerswells.com

NYDC will be on sale at a later date, to be confirmed. 

Sadler’s Wells Digital Stage will feature exclusive commissions and world premieres celebrating and profiling Black dance in an exciting programme online. Details to be announced. 

KNIGHTHOOD FOR ARTISTIC DIRECTOR OF SADLER’S WELLS

Alistair Spalding CBE, Artistic Director and Chief Executive of Sadler’s Wells, has been awarded a Knighthood for Services to Dance in the New Year Honours. 

Alistair Spalding has been the Artistic Director and Chief Executive of Sadler’s Wells Theatre since 2004 and is currently overseeing the construction of a fourth venue, Sadler’s Wells East, opening in 2023.  

Under Alistair Spalding’s leadership, Sadler’s Wells has become one of the most respected dance institutions in the world, presenting an ambitious programme of cutting-edge dance in all its forms and hosting world-class national and international companies and artists. 

Sir Matthew Bourne:

‘Sir Alistair is the UK’s foremost champion of dance in its many forms. As Artistic Director of Sadler’s Wells – one of the world’s foremost dance organisations – he has overseen a golden age of exciting developments in contemporary dance in particular and has served as a mentor to several generations of world class choreographers whose work has been commissioned and brought to prominence under his inspired leadership. My own collaboration with Alistair has been a mainstay of his time at Sadler’s Wells and I’m proud to have been part of the ongoing success story of this beloved theatre – Bravo Sir Alistair! A much-deserved honour! Long may you continue at The Wells!’

With its historic Islington base and a West End platform at Peacock Theatre, Sadler’s Wells’ London theatres attract audiences of over half a million each year, with many more visiting its internationally touring productions or exploring its digital platforms. 

Spalding’s vision and commitment has always been to discover and nurture new talent. In 2005, he created the Associate Artists programme which represents some the most exciting artists working in dance today. 

Botis Seva: 

‘Alistair is such an ambitious and inclusive leader; he takes the risks without knowing if they will pay off but undoubtedly believes in either the artist or the work. I can’t thank him enough for the support and encouragement he has shown me during my career; because of him, Sadler’s Wells feels more like a homecoming than a building – congratulations Alistair, here is to the next chapter’. 

Alistair Spalding, sitting on Sadler’s Wells Theatre stage.

He has also launched projects such as the international festival of hip-hop dance theatre, Breakin’ Convention, and the Flamenco Festival London, as well as inviting New Adventures, Company Wayne McGregor and ZooNation: The Kate Prince Company to become Sadler’s Wells’ Resident Companies and English National Ballet Sadler’s Wells’ Associate Company. He was instrumental in initiating Sadler’s Wells and Universal Music UK’s production of Sting’s Message In A Bottle, created by Kate Prince, for the West End and plans an ambitious international tour for 2022/3.  

Under Spalding’s direction, Sadler’s Wells has now embarked on the most significant development in its history: the creation of Sadler’s Wells East to support the next generation of artist development and training, and the creation of dynamic new work. Opening in London’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in 2023, the new venue is part of the East Bank development along with the BBC, University of the Arts London College of Fashion, University College London and V&A East. 

Sadler’s Wells East will be permanent home to the Hip Hop Theatre Academy and Choreographic School and will build the infrastructure for dance to make it accessible to more people. Community will be at the heart of the new development, with a large open foyer that can be used by everyone, as a meeting or performance space. There will also be dance studios and world-class dance facilities for dancemakers to train, create and rehearse productions. The project will touch the lives of everyone living on, working in and visiting the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. 

Tamara Rojo, Artistic Director, English National Ballet: 

‘The impact of Alistair in the UK dance scene cannot be underestimated. His foresight in recognising chorographic talent and determination in supporting creativity and risk taking has been unparalleled and will leave a legacy for decades to come. Thank you, Alistair and congratulations Sir!!’ 

Alistair Spalding on the set of Matthew Bourne’s Nutcracker!, currently playing at Sadler’s Wells.

Nigel Higgins, Chair, Sadler’s Wells said: 

‘Alistair is that rare character – a genuine visionary in the performing arts world. Thanks to his leadership and creativity Sadler’s Wells has become a British beacon of the thriving home and international dance community. In a couple of years, the opening of our new venue in Stratford, East London will further underline his tireless efforts to build new audiences and encourage the dance talent of tomorrow. This honour is more than deserved’. 

Alistair Spalding CBE said: 

‘It is a great honour to have the work of Sadler’s Wells recognised in this way. It has presented and invested in more new dance than any other theatre in the world. Dance is now one of the most popular art forms in this country. I believe this award is an indication that our vibrant dance culture goes from strength to strength, and that our ambitious plans for Sadler’s Wells East will inspire and nurture a new generation. Dance is, of course a team effort, and the honour is very much shared with my wonderful team at Sadler’s and our artists and collaborators’. 

From everyone at Sadler’s Wells, we would like to say a huge congratulations to Alistair Spalding on his Knighthood.  

CELEBRATING BLACK HISTORY MONTH AT SADLER’S WELLS

October is Black History Month, and at Sadler’s Wells we marked it by inviting Black colleagues to share their personal experiences and inspirations in dance.  

In the spirit of Black History Month, in this post we are profiling some of our Black colleagues as they shout out the contributions and achievements of Black people across the arts.  

We hear from five of our colleagues – Natasha Anderson, Shakira Holder, Adanna Lawrence, Bo Makhokolo and Shama Rowland – as they give us an insight into their personal views on dance, arts and Black culture.  

HOW ARE DANCE AND THE ARTS IMPORTANT TO YOU? 

Bo: Dance has always been a big part of my life, for as long as I can remember. It’s the cliché of watching a Missy Elliott music video and learning all the moves, dreaming to be part of something so iconic! I found myself through dance – there’s a freedom about expressing myself through dance that I can’t quite explain. 

Adanna: Dance was the first language that taught me how to be vast in my body, mind and soul. Dance has taught me how to be disciplined in my routines of life, set boundaries in my personal space and energies, as well as trusting the process. 

Shakira: Dance and the arts is an integral part of my existence! Growing up, my mother took me and my sister to every art gallery, every theatre, every participatory workshop she could find. Sometimes I loved it, sometimes I hated it. But I can hand on heart say that being surrounded by so much dance and art from a young age, educated me and played a big part in why I work in learning and engagement roles in the arts today. 

HOW DO YOU THINK BLACK CULTURE AND DANCE HAS INSPIRED DANCE TODAY? 

Bo: The influence Black culture has had on dance and the arts in undeniable. It’s evident in everything. There’s such a rich history and so many Black people that are truly innovators. In Black culture and dance, I think of Aakomon Jones, who choreographed Aaliyah’s More Than A Woman music video. 20 years later, watching it still feels timeless. There are artists all over the world that takes inspiration from such work, and this is just one example from the styling / fashion, the hair – it’s all part of the performance. 

Natasha: There has been a long history of Black culture shaping world culture. This is especially true when we look at street culture and dance styles through the same lens. It’s often the case that trend setters will spend their time in Black communities and on their dance floors to see what people are doing. From jazz to funk, hip hop to dancehall and west African dance to contemporary, I understand how Black dance styles have influenced choreographers around the world. For example, choreographers like Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, who is a Sadler’s Wells Associate Artist, working with Beyonce and Jay-Z. I think it’s very interesting how contemporary dance is influencing hip hop culture, as it constantly evolves. 

Shakira: I think Black culture highlights enjoyment and community. For example, Notting Hill Carnival. Carnival is a place of pure vibes, fun, movement, grooving and smiling. I find so much joy in dancing through the streets and celebrating my Caribbean roots. I feel that sometimes Black culture has been sexualised in dance and is seen more in commercial and music video settings. I find that we tend to find Black culture in these environments more and rarely find it in theatres and on stages, which I’d love to see more of.  

Colville Ward Councillors, Carnival Village Trust and Mural Republic’s Inaugural Black History Month Mural. © Notting Hill Carnival.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE DANCE STYLE AND WHY? 

Shama: My favourite dance style is new style hip hop. It has the essence of original hip hop dance, but ‘new style’ allows dancers and choreographers to put their own vibe and personalised style on it. For example, Beyonce and Les Twins – my favourite high-profile dancers. Beyonce’s creativity in her dance performances are indisputable. Beyonce can DANCE and it’s her own style that she has created and owned. And then Les Twins, are another level of dance creatives who have shown the world that they’re unique and are here to leave a stamp in Black culture. They have created moves that I have never seen before. Because new style hip hop incorporates so many genres of dance and music, it will always evolve and bring something new to the table. 

Les Twins Breakin’ Convention Hip Hop Dance Festival Showcase 2015 OFFICIAL Footage. © Breakin’ Convention BCTV on YouTube. 

Bo: My favourite dance style is commercial hip hop because you have the space to make it your own. I find that ten people could be doing the same choreography but perform and interpret it differently. Commercial hip hop feels very personal. 

Adanna: I started in musical theatre and trained in contemporary and ballet but have always loved freestyle. Freestyle allows the body to do exactly what it feels and there’s something about putting on a track and letting your body sit in the pocket of the music and being able to move and explore.  

Shakira: Contemporary fusion is my favourite. It is such an umbrella term, and when different styles are merged, for example, ballet, hip hop and dancehall, these styles together can create something incredible. It reminds me of how I like to dance. I started ballet at the age of two but found my love for hip hop at around 12-years-old and discovered how incorporating various dance styles has influenced my movement catalogue.  

WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE DANCE / ARTS PIECE YOU’VE SEEN PERFORMED?  

Adanna: I attended a beautiful photography exhibition run alongside an all-Black cast performance of Black Victorians, which was part of the Greenwich + Docklands International Festival. One of my friends was performing and it was so incredible to see them perform, and I felt truly honoured to witness her move. To see a performance like this, during the year we’ve had, was needed and I can only say we need more of it.  

Black Victorians Dance by Artistic Director and Choreographer Jeanefer Jean-Charles. © Greenwich + Docklands International Festival. 

Shama: For as long as I can remember, I have attended the Sadler’s Wells Breakin’ Convention (BC) Hip Hop Dance Festival, every year. Attending BC festival every May bank holiday weekend is a family tradition and is a major highlight of the year for us. The artists and choreographers that have graced Sadler’s Wells’ stage over the years are so unique and passionate about what they do, and it shows in their moves and storytelling. BC festival has taught me a lot about hip hop culture. Every year there is always a new artist that is a game changer in hip hop dance.  

Shama and her family at Breakin’ Convention in 2019. © Shama Rowland.

Natasha: That’s a hard one and it’s between the beautiful storytelling of paired down hip hop in Blak, Whyte, Gray by Boy Blue or the graceful storytelling of Alvin Ailey. As I can only choose one, I would say Blak, Whyte, Gray as I have a soft spot for hip hop. It was the first piece of hip hop dance that brought me to tears and as a genre, hip hop theatre has evolved massively during my working career, from commercial films and music videos to filling out theatres. However, I think what makes a real difference is the multicultural audience that it attracts and how the energy and enthusiasm for the dancers makes the whole experience electric for everyone attending.  

Boy Blue Whyte (excerpt) from Blak Whyte Gray. © Sadler’s Wells & BBC Arts present Dancing Nation.

Shakira: iTMOi by Sadler’s Wells Associate Artist Akram Khan, in 2013. This piece lives rent free in my mind, forever! It was dynamic, emotive and powerful, but beautiful at the same time. The movement was strong, and the dancers made it look effortless. The use of contemporary and classical Indian dance had me stunned – I’d never seen anything like it! I would also say Speak Volumes; by National Youth Dance Company (NYDC) and Alesandra Seutin, who are hosted by Sadler’s Wells, as another favourite!    

iTMOi / Akram Khan Company – Final Trailer. © Akram Khan Company on YouTube. 

CAN YOU NOMINATE SOMEONE THAT INSPIRES YOU AND WHY?  

Adanna: I’d have to say my grandmothers. They were both top nurses in their prime, and so much more. They are my inspirations for fashion and black female artistry, in a way that fuels my creativity.  

Bo: Sean Bankhead. My favourite choreographer of all time! Everything he touches turns to gold. The thing that inspires me most about him is he hears everything. His musicality is out of this world, and then his movement on top – greatest of all time. He is so authentic and genuine and when you see something with his name on it, he never compromises his art. 

Missy Elliott – I’m Better Music Video Choreography. © Sean Bankhead on YouTube.

Natasha: Again, I have more than one, but someone who I admire greatly is Debbie Allen. I was too young to watch Fame (where she played the principal of a performing arts school), but it was a must see in my household. Not only is Debbie an American actress, dancer, choreographer, singer-songwriter, director and producer, she has been nominated and has won many awards. On top of this, she finds time to run the Debbie Allen Dance Academy. The academy stages the Hot Chocolate Nutcracker to showcase the talents of the next generation of dancers, who most of them due to their background and lack of opportunity, are there on scholarship. You can watch them yourself in Dance Dreams on Netflix. Bring your tissues! 

Dance Dreams: Hot Chocolate Nutcracker Official Trailer. © Netflix on YouTube. 

Shama: My nominee is not related to dance but is a Black figure who has been an advocate for a huge amount of change over the years, especially regarding racial equality. My nominee is Lewis Hamilton. Lewis is a 7-time world champion in Formula 1 and the only Black F1 driver, ever! On top of Lewis’ wins and championships, he has created a platform where he openly speaks about how society can open doors for young Black and People of Colour to be whatever they want to be, with no boundaries. Something that really inspired me from him recently is his purchase of a table at this year’s Met Gala. He invited three very talented young Black designers, to give them a platform to showcase their passion. The change and awareness Lewis Hamilton is showing to the youth, and even adults, is undeniable and is truly an inspiration to so many.  

Shakira: The Alleyne twins and TJ Lowe. They were in iTMOi by Akram Khan, and they resonated with me. They have played a massive part in my physical dance journey, ever since I saw them perform for the first time. I have worked with them all on several occasions and I look forward to working with them again. They are very well known and have so much knowledge but always find the time to talk to me, and that is special. 

The Alleyne Twins. Photo credit: Irven Lewis. © Alleyne Dance.

We support and recognise the importance of Black History and this October, and every month in between, we celebrate! 

A very huge thank you to our colleagues who participated in this post. 

INTRODUCING THE NEXT GENERATION OF CHOREOGRAPHERS – YOUNG ASSOCIATES

Four new movement portraits on Sadler’s Wells Digital Stage introduce the unique creative perspectives of Sadler’s Wells’ Young Associates:

Olive HardyVidya PatelJohn-William Watson, Magnus Westwell.  

The Young Associates programme supports talented 18- to 24-year-olds for two years, providing a crucial first step into their career as choreographers. The artists receive a tailored course of professional development and support, including the opportunity to present their work as part of the Sadler’s Wells artistic programme. 

To create these short films, each Young Associate was mentored by one of Sadler’s Wells’ Associate Artists; Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui with John-William Watson, Michael Keegan-Dolan with Olive Hardy, Wayne McGregor with Magnus Westwell and Kate Prince with Vidya Patel. All four films were made in collaboration with innovative photographer and filmmaker, Jacob Sutton.

Sadler’s Wells is committed to supporting artists at every stage of their career and to nurture the pipeline of talent. We identified the need for more support to be given to those at the very outset of their dance-making careers. So, we created the Young Associates programme in 2018, with the goal of supporting artists establish their choreographic voices early on.

Each Young Associates’ film is available on Sadler’s Wells Digital Stage, and each artist is also making a work to be performed in person in a Mixed Bill at the Lilian Baylis Studio. The Mixed Bill by the Young Associates will be their first live performances of the work. This evening of dance will showcase the distinct and diverse creative voices of these young artists, as they embark on their careers as choreographers.

OLIVE HARDY 

Olive Hardy is London born and Bristol raised. Olive started dancing for Rise Youth Dance and performed with the company for most of her youth, under the direction of Helen Wilson.  

Taking an organic and improvisational approach to her choreography, Olive’s piece focuses on the experience of catharsis and the surfacing and release of strong emotion.  

Introducing the next generation of choreographers – Olive Hardy

How would you describe your experience working with Michael Keegan-Dolan? 

‘I had a really nice time with him, I was pretty star struck! We had a hearty chat; he gave me some passionate advice on moving forward as a choreographer and we laughed and shared stories. As someone I look up to, it affirmed the way in which I’d like to work, which feels more concrete now’. 

VIDYA PATEL 

Vidya Patel is a Birmingham-based dance artist, choreographer and performer with a training background in kathak. She was encouraged to attend Indian classical dance classes by her parents from a young age. Vidya graduated from The Centre of Advanced Dance Training – south Asian strand at Birmingham DanceXchange and learns from Sujata Banerjee. 

Inspired by the storytelling in Indian classical dance, this piece by Vidya is a love letter to kathak dance, a homage to her cultural roots and feeling at home amongst nature, with a twist that embraces her own choreographic style. 

Introducing the next generation of choreographers – Vidya Patel

How did you find the process of creating the film? 

‘It was very personal because it includes people and elements important to my dance journey, my kathak teacher Sujata Banerjee, composer Shammi Pithia, the sound of tabla played by Amritpal Singh and the artform kathak. I really wanted to honour the Indian classical dance form that has led me to new experiences and has been a vehicle to connect with others. I wanted to go back to the main source of training and influence, bringing it back home. I chose to rehearse for the film at home, in my bedroom and garden, amongst nature, where I feel most comfortable’. 

JOHN-WILLIAM WATSON 

John-William Watson was born in Leeds and began his training at Phoenix Dance Theatre’s Youth Academy and CAPA College. During this time, he was also a member of the National Youth Dance Company for two years. Now, having studied at Koninklijk Conservatorium Antwerpen (BE), he is based in the UK as a freelance dancer and dance theatre maker. 

Using a surrealist lens, John-William’s piece takes inspiration from the elements used in silent film to create an entire world around a story, with an unapologetic commitment to musicality, composition and character. 

Introducing the next generation of choreographers – John-William Watson

How would you describe your choreographic style? 

‘My dance theatre work and movement practice focuses on abstracting and playing with the everyday, utilitarian and pedestrian; both from a physical and theatrical standpoint’. 

MAGNUS WESTWELL 

Magnus Westwell is a Scottish-born choreographer and composer, based in London. They work at the intersection of dance, music and visual art, with their work performed across the UK and Europe. Magnus’ creations can be haunting and romantic, often looking at the extremes of ecstasy and emptiness, as well as their experience of being queer and neurodivergent.  

This raw and rhythmically driven piece takes us inside the mind of Magnus and how they visualise music. 

Introducing the next generation of choreographers – Magnus Westwell

What was the inspiration behind your film? 

‘The film is like a representation of how I visualise music. Whenever I’m listening to music, I’m often imagining something like this in my head. I was also inspired a little by ‘cows & cows & cows’ – a YouTube video which went viral in 2011’.   

See the Young Associates’ work live on stage, Tuesday 23 November – Wednesday 24 November 2021, at the Lilian Baylis Studio. You can get your tickets here.  

Find out more about our Young Associates. Find out more about our Associate Artists

Olive Hardy – Instagram: @olivehardy  

Vidya Patel – Instagram: @_vidyapatel  

John-William Watson – Instagram: @johnwilliamwatson 

Magnus Westwell – Instagram: @magnuswestwell  

Anti-racism at Sadler’s Wells

Our commitments, progress and plans to continue to address racism at and beyond Sadler’s Wells and work towards a more equal and just future.

Our vision is to create, through dance, a depth of connection beyond borders, cultures and languages so we see ourselves in each other. There is no doubt that playing our part to ensure racial justice and equality is essential for us to achieve this vision.

The last year has brought an overdue acceleration of global anti-racist efforts. This has also been true at Sadler’s Wells. We collaborated as colleagues on the following statements and commitments to guide our work:

  • Black lives matter and we stand united against racism.
  • We acknowledge the pain and injustice caused by systemic racism.
  • We join in solidarity with global anti-racist movements.
  • We know that being anti-racist requires concrete action.

We want to create positive, lasting change through the following commitments:

  • We will actively listen to colleagues, artists and the public to continue to educate ourselves. This work will inform how we update these commitments and future plans.
  • We will increase our support of Black and other People of Colour artists.
  • We will produce, commission, and present work that represents and engages Black and other People of Colour communities.
  • We will further diversify our organisation and address bias (conscious or unconscious) at every level.
  • We will use our position of influence to support and share anti-racist work in dance.
  • We will continue to bring the world together through dance.

In the spirit of transparency, we will continue to update you on our progress and plans to deliver concrete and meaningful action on these commitments.

While these actions aim to address racism, which can affect all People of Colour, we acknowledge that the racism experienced by Black individuals and Black communities is unique. We wish to reflect these realities and this document will refer to ‘Black and other People of Colour’ communities.

We are committed to delivering our broader Equality Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) action plan. However, this update focuses specifically on the anti-racism elements of that plan.

We took action

  • We conducted ‘zesting sessions’ led by Sour Lemons; an organisation dedicated to dismantling systemic racism in the arts. These sessions were a starting point for colleagues and our Board to see what systemic barriers may be affecting the people working at Sadler’s Wells, who holds power and how equity is disseminated throughout the organisation.
  • We have also engaged the inclusion-focused consultancy Creative Equals to run listening sessions with all our colleagues. This will consist of Safe Spaces for Black and other People of Colour colleagues to listen and share their lived experiences in the workplace. There will also be a wider session for all colleagues to discuss where we’ve come from, and what the future looks like for racial equality. This will inform the next steps in our journey to become an actively anti-racist organisation.
  • We commissioned and presented artistic responses to the Black Lives Matter movement including Anthony Matsena’s work for the stage Shades of Blue, and the film Our Bodies Back directed by Jonzi D and written by jessica Care moore.
  • Through an organisation-wide process, we selected ‘inclusion’ as one of our core organisational values to sit alongside ‘excellence’, ‘collaboration’ and ‘innovation. These values guide our work and decisions.
  • We have interrogated the language we use. We have stopped using the terminology of ‘Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic (BAME)’ and instead are using ‘Black and other People of Colour’. Part of our work with Creative Equals will include revisiting this decision to reflect how our colleagues choose to identify.
  • All employment policies are being reviewed and updated to make them more accessible and relevant, ensure that they support our anti-racist objectives, and lay out clear procedures for raising and addressing issues.
  • We will carry out Equality Impact Assessments to ensure our policies, practices and decisions support organisational priorities, and are not discriminatory.

We put structures in place

  • Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Steering Group: This is a long-standing structure at Sadler’s Wells. We have increased its membership, redefined its purpose, and made its meetings more frequent. Objectives include meeting our anti-racism commitments. The group engages external speakers into the organisation to share their experiences and expertise. It also works on the procurement of external consultancy services to support our anti-racism work.
  • Anti-racism Volunteer Group: This is a collection of colleagues who have volunteered to meet on a regular basis to form an open space for conversation, reflection, learning and the sharing of lived experience.
  • Racial Equality Task Force: This is a group comprised of artists associated with Sadler’s Wells who meet on a regular basis to discuss, share knowledge and collaborate on anti-racist activity, particularly in relation to our artistic programme.
  • Head of People and Inclusion: We changed the role of Head of People to Head of People and Inclusion. The new appointee will undertake diversity assessments of wider organisational practices and processes. They will create positive action interventions to support under‐represented groups.

We are working towards concrete targets

As part of our planning as an organisation, we have set ambitious targets to support our anti-racism work. Here we highlight two of these targets.

Colleagues

  • We value and respect diversity of thought and lived experience.
  • However, we acknowledge that some communities are underrepresented across the sector and within our teams.
  • Using the most recent Census data as a reference, we are working toward diversifying our overall workforce. One key area of focus is that we have set an inclusion target to increase the representation of People of Colour at Senior Management level from the current 7% to 20% in the next three years.

Artists

  • We will allocate at least 30% of available commissioning funds to People of Colour artists in the next two financial years.
  • We will review how successful this action has been in increasing representation to inform commissioning targets thereafter.
  • By comparison, commissioning funds allocated to People of Colour artists in our in-person programme were 11% of funds in the 19/20 financial year and 19% of funds in the 20/21 financial year.
  • We will put more robust processes in place for gathering data from commissioned artists. This will ensure we have an accurate picture to inform decision-making.

We’re being transparent

  • Last summer, we published data for our workforce, in response to the #pulluporshutup campaign. We have now updated that data in a three-year picture here.
  • We will continue to update on this work and our progress toward targets on no less than an annual basis, with the next update coming in August 2022.

We thank our colleagues and collaborators who have taken part in this work, including the Equality Diversity and Inclusion Steering Group, Anti-racism Volunteer Group, Racial Equality Task Force, Sour Lemons and Creative Equals, all of whom are helping to guide, shape, and drive this important work.

We welcome your feedback. Please do email anti-racism@sadlerswells.com with your thoughts or suggestions.