“I have never found it hard to turn a corner and walk down a new pathway without a map,” says Sadler’s Wells’ Associate Artist Christopher Wheeldon, with a grin. “I know most people like to know where they are going, but I struggle with that notion. It’s not who I am at all. Maybe I will turn the corner and there will be a precipitous drop that I’ll step off, but the risk-taking and the potential for disaster in the end is actually quite good fuel for creativity.
“And maybe that’s why I enjoy working with BalletBoyz, because they’re that way too.”
He laughs. When you first meet him, Christopher Wheeldon is the man least likely to be branded a risk taker. He is calm, polite and – despite years living in New York – still has the demeanour of the nice boy from Somerset that he is. But in more than 20 years as a choreographer and a director, he has changed directions numerous times. This means he has built a body of work that is essentially uncategorisable from the Broadway musical An American in Paris, to pure classical ballet works for the Royal Ballet and New York City Ballet among other companies, to more contemporary pieces such as Us for BalletBoyz.
It all started in 1993, when, at the age of 19, he defied his destiny. Having trained at the Royal Ballet School and seeming to be on track to spend his entire career with the company, he used the airline flight he won in a competition to go to New York and talk his way into New York City Ballet. Four years later, he became the company’s first resident choreographer.
Since then, he has been constantly busy, but his career has taken many twists and turns. He has founded his own dance company and watched it fold due to lack of funds; he has won a Tony for best choreography, for his award-winning rethinking of An American in Paris, which he also directed and has enjoyed worldwide success. He is an Artistic Associate of the Royal Ballet, where he made the hugely popular The Adventures of Alice in Wonderland, a three-act ballet, as well as numerous smaller works.
Now, in collaboration with the Michael Jackson Estate, he is working on a musical about Michael Jackson, alongside the Pulitzer prize-winning American playwright Lynn Nottage. Called Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough, it focuses on the moment, in 1992, when Jackson was preparing for his Dangerous World Tour. It is due to open in Chicago in October 2019, before moving to Broadway in 2020.
He accepts he is unlikely casting for such a job. “The first thing I said to them was, ‘Do you know who I am?’” He is looking forward to the challenge, in the same way he did when he took the much-loved movie An American in Paris and put it on stage in a radical new form. “I love doing such different things and being all over the place. I have to use my brain in different ways, and I think that’s what’s stimulating about being able to jump between different forms of dance and theatre.
“I think that is probably what allows me to work
as much and as consistently as I do without getting exhausted. I have quite a lot of belief in my ability to
Christopher is also capable of working at incredibly high speeds. For his new piece for BalletBoyz, Us, he is expanding a duet to the music of Keaton Henson, that took him 14 days to create. Its expansion has taken 10 days. “There is a kind of excitement contained within that breathlessness. There’s no time to mess around. You just have to get on with it.”
He has known the company’s founders, Michael Nunn and William Trevitt, since they were all at the Royal Ballet School together. “They were both seniors when I was a junior. And I love being able to say that now,” the 45- year-old says, with another laugh.
They bonded when Nunn and Trevitt accompanied him to Moscow in 2006, where Christopher was choreographing his first piece for the world-famous Bolshoi Ballet. The commission turned into a saga of disaster, only retrieved at the last minute; the story was recorded in Strictly Bolshoi, an engrossing tale of triumph snatched from the jaws of defeat. Since then, Christopher has been a regular contributor to the Boyz’s endeavours.
His latest piece will be presented in a double bill, alongside a piece called Them choreographed by the all-male company themselves. “I love the way that they are always thinking a lot about how to make their programmes entertaining. How we can make challenging, complex dance more accessible to a broader audience,” Christopher says.
“They are very creative in the room and really hands on, in a way that I think contemporary dancers tend to be more than ballet dancers anyway. Ballet dancers wait to be told what to do, and there’s an etiquette and a politeness about rehearsals that doesn’t exist so much in the contemporary dance world, and certainly doesn’t exist with the Boyz.
“Which is not to say they are impolite. I think they are about the most polite group of gentlemen that I have ever worked with, but they’re hands on and they like to roll their sleeves up and be part of it.”
BalletBoyz return to Sadler’s Wells with Them/Us on 5 – 9 March. Tickets are priced from £15. To book, call the Ticket Office on 020 7863 2000 or book online.
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.
Charlotte Conroy Legge teaches GCSE dance at Bohunt School in Liphook, Hampshire. She recently took part in a teachers’ workshop we delivered with the company of our Associate Artist Hofesh Shechter, who returned to our stage this month with his latest work Grand Finale. Here, Charlotte shares her thoughts about the experience.
“As a dance teacher in a secondary school, I was excited and intrigued to participate in the Hofesh Shechter dance teachers’ workshop at Sadler’s Wells in July. I didn’t know what to expect, but I was hoping to at least learn some repertoire from Hofesh’s latest piece Grand Finale. I have been teaching in schools for three years now and try and take any opportunity to improve my practice. This in turn helps me to inspire my students and have an impact on the future generation in dance – something I’m always aspiring to do. I looked upon this workshop as a chance to expand my knowledge and gain a better insight into Hofesh Shechter Company.
The workshop was run by Bruno Guilore, the company’s Associate Artistic Director, and Merel Lammers, a long-time dancer in the company. “The spine is a b****!” said Bruno as the class were improvising, attempting to move every muscle they could on all fours. The day started with a session based around how Hofesh Shechter Company dancers usually start their rehearsal. Hofesh works a lot with improvisation and this was what our first session was based around. As we went back to basics and really worked through the body, it reminded me of my training at university, back to a time when you really had to know your body. Reminiscent as it was, it prompted me to think about why I had chosen to pursue dance in the first place. As teachers, we often run out of time in our busy week to take classes for ourselves.
After our improvisation workshop, we were able to watch some of the company’s rehearsal. To our pleasant surprise, they were doing the exercise we had just finished in our first session. This was a nice touch and solidified the feeling we were really getting the full experience. Of course, the dancers were ‘nailing it’. I almost wished we could have watched them before our task, so I could have cheated – although I feel like Bruno was canny and would have known!
Back down to the studio, we got ready to learn some repertoire from Grand Finale. I’ve always enjoyed Hofesh’s style and embodying this was challenging but different. You could see the fatigue and sweat of the fellow teachers around you, but continued to push through. With its high energy and quick, dynamic changes, it was exhausting, but I felt like I was getting my money’s worth! Merel pushed us and really wanted us to keep the integrity of the movement – meaning that, although we were sweating buckets, we were still striving to improve. It wasn’t “here you go, here’s the repertoire, get on with it”; it was “if you’re leaving with this repertoire, it will be in your body and it will be performed how it should be”.
Having two company members take the sessions was fascinating, especially when they talked about the origin of the movement content and the way in which Hofesh works. Going back to primal ways of moving and creating organic, authentic movement came across vividly. Finding the groove and allowing the body to move instinctually was very much encouraged. At the end of the practical session, we took a much-needed breather and sat down. We were then shown the costumes from the show and had a Q&A session with the dancers. This was an opportunity for us all to listen to the first-hand experiences and interpretations from the company members. In another valuable part of the day, nothing was left unaddressed and we had plenty of time to get as much out of the session as what we had come for.
And it wasn’t over. After what seemed like a long but engaging day of moving and improvising, we took a break before arriving at the theatre. We were greeted by welcome drinks, when we were able to network and chat about what we had experienced so far. To top off what had already been an incredible day of learning, we got to enjoy a performance of Grand Finale. I couldn’t help but pick out the repertoire I had just learnt as I watched. What a wonderful way to bring the whole day together and come back around full circle. A truly immersive experience, which not only benefited me but will benefit my students.
The event was advertised as a teacher workshop in support of the new A-Level specification, but what I got out of the day was far greater.”
Sadler’s Wells has commissioned Associate Artist Akram Khan to create a short film, XEN, inspired by XENOS, his final new full-length solo which receives its UK premiere at Sadler’s Wells on 29 May 2018.
Watch the full film below:
Created especially for the screen, XEN is a reimagined version of Akram Khan’s live performance, and is a response to XENOS’ evocation of the shell-shocked dream of a colonial soldier in the context of the First World War.
Meaning ‘stranger’ or ‘foreigner’, XENOS takes place where humanity stands in wonder and disarray, on the border between East and West, past and present, mythology and technology. The live production of XENOS reveals the beauty and horror of the human condition and seeks to express tales of loss, hope and redemption, through a movement language that shifts between classical kathak and contemporary dance.
XEN is produced by Illuminations for Sadler’s Wells, and is part of Sadler’s Wells’ commitment to developing new forms of dance which reach new audiences.
Akram Khan is one of the most celebrated and highly regarded dance makers working today. He has collaborated with artists including actress Juliette Binoche, ballerina Sylvie Guillem, choreographers/dancers Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and Israel Galván, singer Kylie Minogue, visual artists Anish Kapoor, Antony Gormley and Tim Yip, writer Hanif Kureishi and composers Steve Reich, Nitin Sawhney, Jocelyn Pook and Ben Frost. A career highlight was the creation of a section of the London 2012 Olympic Games Opening Ceremony, set to Emeli Sandé’s rendition of Abide with Me.
Akram Khan became a Sadler’s Wells Associate Artist in 2005. Sadler’s Wells has co-produced many works with Akram Khan Company, including his acclaimed solo work DESH.
XENOS was commissioned by 14-18 NOW, the UK’s arts programme for the First World War centenary. It is part of Sadler’s Wells’ 20th anniversary celebrations, and is among 20 commissions celebrating 20 years of the current building, which opened in 1998.
Today, we announce a thrilling new season of dance coming to Sadler’s Wells in Autumn/Winter 2018-19, featuring new creations by some of the world’s leading dance-makers and unique collaborations between artists. Priority booking opens to members on 16 May, so become a member today to ensure you secure the best seats and avoid missing out on these truly remarkable shows.
American choreographer Mark Morris teams up with the Silkroad Ensemble – the musical collective founded by Yo-Yo Ma – to present the UK premiere of Layla and Majnun, adapted from an Azerbaijani opera. The tragic story of Majnun (meaning “possessed”), who is driven mad over his love of Layla, is performed by 16 dancers that tailor their movements to improvised mugham music, with traditional Asian instruments alongside Western strings and percussion.
Rambert presents one of the last opportunities to see a company classic, Ghost Dances, alongside exhilarating work by early-career dancers in their young company, Rambert2. The mixed programme features work by Sydney Dance Company’ Rafael Bonachela’s, Sadler’s Wells’ Associate Artist Sharon Eyal and Rambert’s guest artistic director Benoit Swan Pouffer.
This is followed by Dystopian Dream, a concept originated by composer Nitin Sawhney and co-devised with dancers and choreographers Honji Wang and Sébastien Ramirez. Taking inspiration from threads woven through Nitin Sawhney’s album of the same name, this stage interpretation directed by Wang Ramirez combines choreography, live music and theatre to examine themes of loss, isolation, surrender and continuity.
Award-winning collaborators Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and Antony Gormley reunite in the UK premiere of Icon and Noetic, two works created with Swedish contemporary dance company GöteborgsOperans Danskompani, which makes its first visit to Sadler’s Wells.
Icon sees three-and-a-half-tonnes of clay moulded, heaped and shaped by 18 dancers to the sound of traditional songs from the Amami Islands, French ballads and medieval compositions. In Noetic, 19 black-clad dancers manipulate Antony Gormley’s pliable carbon fibre strips in an exploration of noetic (from the Greek “noesis” meaning intellect) philosophy.
Also announced for spring 2019 is a new evening by our International Associate Company Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch, whose style was forged over decades performing the late Pina Bausch’s huge catalogue of works. The company embarks on the expansion of its repertoire with new works by Greek choreographer Dimitris Papaioannou and Norwegian choreographer, director and award-winning playwright Alan Lucien Øyen.
Full details of Sadler’s Wells Autumn/Winter 2018-19 Season are available on our website. To become a member and take advantage of priority booking as well as other exclusive benefits, sign up online or call 020 7863 8000.
As part of the celebrations marking the 20th anniversary of Sadler’s Wells current building, we commissioned our Associate Artist Michael Hulls to create a light installation for the stage curtain of our main auditorium, which is usually lit with red light.
“I immediately imagined a slow wave of light descending the curtain that would be understated and subtle. Something people might not immediately sense, something peripheral. I’ve always been interested in creating movement through light, movement that might not immediately be apparent, and this was an opportunity to do that,” says Hulls. “Something you might catch out of the corner of your eye while chatting to friends or reading the programme for the show you are about to see. A slowly repeated descent of a curtain of light, to create some gentle pre-show movement in the auditorium.”
The lighting installation will grace our stage curtain pre-show throughout the year, starting with the performances by Richard Alston Dance Company this week. Watch a clip of the installation and find out when it will be on here.
A number of Sadler’s Wells’ Associate Artists received nominations for the 2018 Olivier Awards today.
In the Best New Dance Production category, Grand Finale by our Associate Artist Hofesh Shechter at Sadler’s Wells, Tree Of Codes by our Associate Artist Wayne McGregor and The Paris Opera Ballet at Sadler’s Wells and Flight Pattern by our Associate Artist Crystal Pite at the Royal Opera House all received nominations, alongside Goat by Ben Duke, performed by Rambert as part of a mixed bill at Sadler’s Wells last November.
In Outstanding Achievement In Dance, Francesca Velicu has been nominated for her role in our Associate Company English National Ballet‘s performance of Pina Bausch’s Le Sacre Du Printemps, part of a mixed programme the company presented at Sadler’s Wells in spring last year. Other nominees in this category are Rocío Molina – for pushing the boundary of flamenco in Fallen From Heaven (Caída Del Cielo) at the Barbican – and Zenaida Yanowsky, for her performance in Liam Scarlett’s Symphonic Dances at the Royal Opera House.
Two Sadler’s Wells’ Associate Artists are among the nominees for Best Theatre Choreographer: Kate Prince for Everybody’s Talking About Jamie at the Apollo Theatre and Christopher Wheeldon for An American In Paris at the Dominion Theatre.
The full list of nominations is available here. The Awards ceremony will take place at the Royal Albert Hall on Sunday 8 April.
Many congratulations to all our Associate Artists on their nominations! We’ll keep our fingers crossed…
Image: Hofesh Shechter’s Grand Finale Photo: Rahi Rezvani
The National Dance Awards were announced today and we were delighted that a number of Sadler’s Wells’ associate artists and companies were among the winners.
Our Associate Artist Michael Keegan-Dolan’s moving Swan Lake/Loch na hEala for Teac Damsa was awarded Best modern choreography. Our Associate Artist Akram Khan’s wonderful Giselle for Associate Company English National Ballet won the Best classical choreography award, with Lead Principal Alina Cojocaru receiving the Outstanding classical performance (female) award for her performance in the title role.
Resident Company New Adventures’ Ashley Shaw took the Outstanding contemporary performance (female) award for her performance as Vicky Page in our Associate Artist Matthew Bourne’sThe Red Shoes. Lez Brotherston, Matthew’s long-time collaborator and creator of New Adventures’ spectacular set designs, was honoured with the Ninette de Valois award for outstanding contribution to dance.
Among other winners, Richard Alston Dance Company’s Liam Riddick received the award for best male dancer and former principal of The Royal Ballet Zenaida Yanowsky, who recently performed as part of Sadler’s Wells Sampled, won best female dancer. The full list of winners is available here.
Many congratulations to all on their awards!
Image: Michael Keegan-Dolan’s Swan Lake/Loch na hEala. Photo: Marie-Laure Briane.
Artists are the lifeblood of Sadler’s Wells. Our productions and our theatre wouldn’t exist without them. Today, we are delighted to announce new additions to the Sadler’s Wells family.
Sharon Eyal becomes our newest Sadler’s Wells’ Associate Artist. One of the most original choreographic voices in contemporary dance, Sharon made her Sadler’s Wells debut with OCD Love in 2016, which received critical and public acclaim. There are four opportunities to see her work this year: her piece Bill is part of Ballet British Columbia’s triple bill in March.; the world premiere of her work as Guest Artistic Director of NYDC, Used To Be Blonde, is in April; Love Chapter 2, her latest production for her company L-E-V, has its UK premiere in July; and her piece Killer Pig is part of Rambert 2’s programme in November.
Speaking about her appointment, Sharon said: “L-E-V’s last two creations were co-produced with Sadler’s Wells, which was a fantastic vote of confidence from the theatre. This year, as well as bringing Love Chapter 2 here in July, another fortune has been bestowed on me by Sadler’s Wells – working with the National Youth Dance Company. I’m known as an emotional person – but working with those young people brought me to a new level of emotion, fulfillment and a genuine sense of purpose. L-E-V means heart in Hebrew – and this project shows what a big heart Sadler’s Wells has. So it’s with great honour and excitement that I receive this appointment of Associate Artist. For me, Sadler’s Wells was always one of the dance summits – now I’m privileged to reach and be part of it.”
We are committed to supporting artists at every stage of their career and to nurturing the pipeline of future talent. This encompasses the promising young performers in the National Youth Dance Company, early career artists consolidating their work in our Lilian Baylis Studio, our New Wave Associates and our more established Associate Artists. However, we have identified the need for more support to be given to those at the very outset of their dance-making careers, those who have just left higher education with a desire to establish their choreographic voices early on. So we have launched a new initiative, the Young Associates programme, supporting talented young people aged between 18 and 24, and providing a crucial first step into their career as choreographers.
The first Young Associates are: Anthony Matsena, Wilhelmina Ojanen, Ruby Portus and Christopher Thomas. We are supporting them in a variety of ways, including with production time in our studios and theatres, providing advice and networking opportunities. The Young Associates present a mixed bill of work later this year in the Lilian Baylis Studio.
Image: Anthony Matsena, Christopher Thomas, Ruby Portus and Wilhelmina Ojanen
We have also appointed three more artists as New Wave Associates: Julie Cunningham, Project O and L’Atisse Rhoden. Julie Cunningham recently launched her own company after 15 years of dancing with the iconic Merce Cunningham Dance Company and Michael Clark Company. Her work employs text and movement, and is concerned with gender identity. Project O is a collaboration between artists Alexandrina Hemsley and Jamila Johnson-Small. Their work explores the body as a site of politics, considering the impact of colonial history in the UK today. L’Atisse Rhoden comes from the hip hop dance theatre community. Introduced to us by our Breakin’ Convention team, she trained with dance companies Avant Garde Dance and Botis Seva’s Far From the Norm. A solo artist and director of the female collective 25, her work is heavily influenced by surrealism.
Image: Julie Cunningham, L’Atisse Rhoden, and Project O’s Alexandrina Hemsley and Jamila Johnson-Small
Alistair Spalding, Sadler’s Wells Artistic Director and Chief Executive, said: “Supporting artists and their creative journeys is at the very heart of what we do. I’m delighted to welcome a new collection of artists to our stable today, marking our commitment to long-term investment in artists at every stage, from fledgling choreographer, to the emerging, mid-scale and the most established artists. It is absolutely fitting that in our 20th anniversary year, we look to the future with our Young Associates initiative, addressing the need for more support to be given to those at the very outset of their dance making careers.”
We are thrilled to welcome these artists to our associates’ family and look forward to seeing their work on our stages soon!
Nominees have been announced for the Critics’ Circle National Dance Awards 2017 and we are delighted that a number of artists and companies we present and support are among them.
Our Associate Artists Akram Khan and Crystal Pite have received nominations in the Best Classical Choreographer category. Akram is recognised for his choreography of Giselle for our Associate Company English National Ballet, a Sadler’s Wells co-production. Crystal has been nominated for two works: Emergence, which we presented as part of a double bill by Scottish Ballet in June, and Flight Pattern, presented at the Royal Opera House in March.
Matthew Bourne and Michael Keegan-Dolan, also Sadler’s Wells Associate Artists, are up for the Best Modern Choreography Award. Matthew has been nominated for TheRed Shoes, which had its world premiere at Sadler’s Wells in December 2016, while Michael Keegan-Dolan has been recognised for Swan Lake/Loch na hEala, which we presented in November 2016 and will return to our stage later this month.
We are thrilled to see that Botis Seva has been nominated in the Emerging Artist category. Botis presented a Wild Card evening in our Lilian Baylis Studio in 2015 and also took part in Open Art Surgery and Back To The Lab, Breakin’ Convention’s artistic development programmes. Composer Vincenzo Lamagna is also nominated for the same honour, for his music for Akram Khan’s Giselle.
Dancer Ashley Shaw, of our Resident Company New Adventures, is among the Outstanding Female Performance (modern) nominees for her performance as Vicky Page in The Red Shoes, while Syrian-born, France-based dancer and choreographer Mithkal Alzghair has been nominated for Outstanding Male Performance (modern) for Displacement, which we presented in the Lilian Baylis Studio in July, as part of the Shubbak festival.
In the Outstanding Female Performance (classical) category, nominees include English National Ballet’s Alina Cojocaru for her leading role in Giselle and Scottish Ballet’s Bethany Kingsley-Garner, for her performance in Emergence. The Award for Outstanding Male Performance (classical) sees English National Ballet’s James Streeter nominated for his role as Albrecht in Giselle, Scottish Ballet’s Christopher Harrison for his performance in MC 14/22 (Ceci est mon corps), presented here in summer alongside Emergence, and Israel Galván for his performance in FLA.CO.MEN, which he performed at Sadler’s Wells’ Flamenco Festival in February 2017. Eva Yerbabuena, who also performed her show Apariencias at the Flamenco Festival, is nominated for the Grishko Award for Best Female Dancer and the Outstanding Female Performance (classical) award.
Birmingham-based Rosie Kay Dance Company, whose sold-out run of 5 SOLDIERS: The Body is The Frontline we presented at Yeomanry House in September, is up for Best Independent Company.
The full nominations’ list is available here. Winners will be announced on 19 February 2018, when two other honours will be bestowed: the De Valois Award for Outstanding Achievement and the One Dance UK Industry Award.
Many congratulations to all on their well-deserved nominations and best of luck!
Image: Laurent Liotardo