Ksenia Ovsyanick & James Forbat perform for English National Ballet's Modern Masters Photo: Ash

50 shades of beige: English National Ballet's Modern Masters at Sadler's Wells, reviewed


My moment of the week was stumbling into the shocking, fantastical Cabinet of Curiosities in the Alexander McQueen show at the V&A. On the walls were tier upon tier of dresses, shoes and headdresses, feathered, leathered, beaded, painted, razored, or… Read more

Flamenco Festival at Sadlers Wells Photo: Josep Aznar

A legendary piece of iconoclastic dance returns. Does the piece still stand up?


Funny how things turn upside-down with time. A work of contemporary dance that made an iconoclastic splash decades ago is revived today, exactly as it was, as if it were a museum piece. Yet more long-standing dance traditions — such… Read more

Crystal Pite's 'A Picture of You Falling' at Sadler's Wells. Photo: Michael Slobodian

The Associates at Sadler's Wells reviewed: another acutely inventive work from Crystal Pite


The prodigious streetdancer Tommy Franzén pops up everywhere from family-friendly hip-hop shows by ZooNation, Boy Blue and Bounce to serious contemporary ballet by Russell Maliphant and Kim Brandstrup, but he’s a bit of a Macavity. He ought to be recognised… Read more

Plexus at Sadlers Wells Photo: Aglae Bory

London International Mime Festival review: on juggling, dance and Wayne Rooney's hair transplant


January is something of a palate-cleanser for the year, as the London International Mime Festival flies in plane-loads of companies bearing gnomic names in a kind of dance-world Desperanto that’s equally incomprehensible in every language. Like cars or tourist T-shirt… Read more

Ivan Vasiliev (Siegfried) and Alina Cojocaru (Odette) in ENB's Swan Lake

ENB’s Swan Lake: the rights and wrongs of ballet thighs


There’s been heated disagreement over the past week about what’s right and wrong. Is the rocket-propelled ex-Bolshoi enfant terrible Ivan Vasiliev ‘right’ for Swan Lake? Is English National Ballet right to accept such huge thighs in this of all classics,… Read more

Better than Leslie Caron: Leanne Cope (Lise) and the company in ‘An American in Paris’

An American in Paris: a zingy new Wheeldon dance-musical that you won’t want to miss


A new year must start with hope and resolution, and if you’re very rich, with influence in the highest places, I’d urge you to resolve to dust off the private jet and get to Paris quick this weekend hoping to… Read more

Sensual but not thrilling: Carlos Acosta as Basilio

Royal Ballet’s Don Quixote: Carlos Acosta is too brainy with this no-brain ballet


One feels the pang of impending failure whenever the Royal Ballet ventures like a deluded Don Quixote into a periodic quest to stage that delightful old ballet named after him. Twice in recent years has it tilted at the windmill… Read more

Akram Khan and Sylvie Guillem in 'Sacred Monsters' Photo: Tristram Kenton

Sacred Monsters, Sadler’s Wells: Sylvie Guillem and Akram Kham’s captivating final boogie


I’m dashing between dance theatres at the moment and there’s just so much to tell you about. I could linger on Sacred Monsters, the captivating conversation-piece at Sadler’s Wells for Sylvie Guillem and Akram Khan — conversational being the word,… Read more

Thomas Ades and Crystal Pite's Polaris at Sadler's Wells. © Foteini Christofilopoulou.

Thomas Ades’s Polaris at Sadler’s Wells: the dance premiere of the year


This has been an extraordinarily exciting fortnight, on and off stage. Premieres in anything from ice-skating to classical ballet, charismatic soloists in flamenco and Indian kathak, the front-page news of Sylvie Guillem’s retirement, and, even more astonishingly, English National Ballet’s… Read more

All was beauteous with the Royal Ballet’s ‘Symphonic Variations’ on the first night

Birmingham Royal Ballet and the Royal Ballet battle for the heart of English dance


English ballet erupted out of the second world war in the hands of the rival choreographers Frederick Ashton and Robert Helpmann, colleagues but of different instincts, one for dance, the other for drama. The case is currently being made for… Read more

Turning feral: Lord of the Flies

Matthew Bourne’s Lord of the Flies: when boys turn feral


GCSE Eng Lit pupils are doing well from dance this season with two set books told in the medium of dance, Arthur Miller’s The Crucible and William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, and even Dylan Thomas gets a look in.… Read more

Christopher Saunders as Monsieur GM, Marianela Núñez as Manon and Ricardo Cervera as Lescaut in Kenneth MacMillan's 'Manon'. Image: Alice Pennefather ©ROH 2014

Does a tart like Manon have a place in the Royal Ballet repertoire?


What can the Royal Opera House be insinuating about its target audience? No sooner had Anna Nicole closed than Manon opened the new ballet season. Kenneth MacMillan’s gold-digger turns 40 this year but her promiscuous allure shows no signs of… Read more

Ivan Vasiliev and Natalia Osipova, Solo for Two

Ballet’s super couple should stick to the classical repertoire


Last week, the feast of long-awaited dance events on offer echoed bygone days when London life was dominated by the strategically engineered appearances of rival ballet stars at the same time in different venues. At the London Coliseum, Solo for… Read more

Romeo and Juliet

Romeo and Juliet: a Mariinsky masterclass


According to some textbooks, one thing the fathers of Soviet choreography hastened to remove from ballet was that awkward-looking language of gestures generally referred to as ‘ballet mime’. Which explains why most Russian versions of Swan Lake lack familiar mime… Read more

Nederlands Dans Theatre 1, Sadlers Wells

Perfect dancing but boringly beautiful


Aesthetically speaking, last week’s performance by the Nederlands Dans Theater 1 was one by the slickest of the season. Fashionably engineered juxtapositions of black and white, sets that stun on account of their elegant simplicity and mechanical complexity, chic costumes… Read more

Dada Masilo's Swan Lake Photo: John Hogg

A swan to die for at Sadler’s Wells


Swans, swans, more swans. If the lifespan of a dance critic were calculated by the number of performances of Swan Lake attended, I’d be a few centuries old. Obviously, the list includes many revisions and re-creations of this quintessential ballet,… Read more

Vortex Temporum

Dance games from Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker at Sadler’s Wells


Forget the pedantic classifications of genres, styles and schools. When it comes to dance performances, it all boils down to two kinds: those that make one think and those that entertain. Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker is a veteran of the… Read more

Krzysztof Pastor’s Romeo & Juliet  Photo: Christina Riley

Romeo, Juliet and Mussolini


George Balanchine’s Serenade, the manifesto of 20th-century neoclassical choreography, requires a deep understanding of both its complex stylistic nuances and its fascinatingly elusive visual metaphors. Many recent stagings have failed to meet such criteria,  but not the performance I saw… Read more

(Photo: Johan Persson)

Modern dance vs Shakespeare


In a dance world that has chosen to dispense with stylistic and semantic subtleties, ‘narrative ballet’ and ‘story ballet’ are often used as synonymous. Yet there are differences — and major ones at that. In a ‘narrative ballet’ it is… Read more

Tabac Rouge at Sadler's Wells Theatre Photo: Richard Haughton

European postmodern dance can be just as boring as American postmodern dance


What’s in a definition? As far as theatre dance is concerned, quite a lot. Labelling — and often labelling for the mere sake of it — is integral to our dance culture. Take, for instance, the various A-level dance syllabuses,… Read more

Roberto Bolle in ‘Le Jeune Hommeet la Mort’ at the Coliseum

Kings of Dance: a show to keep the Sun King happy


Louis XIV might have been a narcissistic and whimsical tyrant, but he did a lot for dance. An accomplished practitioner, he made ballet a noble art and turned it into a profession with the creation of the Académie Royale de… Read more


The dancers who said ‘no’ to postmodernism


It all started in 1971, when a group of physically and artistically talented youngsters decided to create a dance company and call it Pilobolus, after a fungus. Not unlike this barnyard micro-organism, which ‘propels its spores with extraordinary speed and… Read more

Steven McRae in Frederick Ashton’s ‘Rhapsody’

Bach is made for dancing


It appears that J.S. Bach’s music is to theatre-dance what whipped cream is to chocolate. Masterworks such as Trisha Brown’s MO, George Balanchine’s Concerto Barocco and a plethora of less-known, though equally acclaimed compositions owe a great deal to the… Read more

Dance_Fanfare LX_Anna Osadcenko, Evan McKie_7437(c) Stuttgart Ballet

Stuttgart Ballet - still John Cranko's company


Stuttgart Ballet’s rapid ascent to fame is at the core of one of the most interesting chapters of ballet history. Between 1961 and 1973, the year of his untimely death, the South African Royal Ballet-trained choreographer John Cranko turned what… Read more

Zenaida Yanowsky (Photo: ROH / Bill Cooper)

The Royal Ballet's triple bill was danced to perfection


There was a time when the term ‘world première’ was not as fashionable as it is these days. Great works simply ‘premièred’, and their artistic status was not diminished by the fact that the opening had not been advertised as… Read more

Hannah Shepherd (Picture: Gabriele Zucca)

Is there or isn't there a hanged man in 'Sun'?


Sun is one of those performances that confront reviewers with the eternal dilemma of whether or not it is appropriate to give things away. Yet a reference to what is a powerful coup de théâtre — namely a life-sized hanged… Read more

Junor Souza, Erina Takahashi, Alina Cojacaru and Vadim Muntagirov in Le Corsaire (Picture: English National Ballet)

A rich, colourful romp


Bold decisions are at the core of great artistic directorship. And Tamara Rojo, the ballet star leading English National Ballet, knows that well. Le Corsaire is not the usual ballet classic one craves to see. Yet it makes a splendid… Read more

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Carlos Acosta’s Don Quixote lacks the wow factor


Superstar Carlos Acosta makes little or no reference to Don Quixote’s established history in his programme note about the genesis of his new ballet. As a dancer hailing from Cuba, he is certainly familiar with the work’s performance tradition, but… Read more