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20 for 20: new commissions mark Sadler’s Wells’ 20th anniversary

Posted on February 1, 2018

Sadlers Well theatre Philip Vile

Sadler’s Wells has announced 20 commissions to mark the 20th anniversary of its London theatre. Mark Morris, Natalia Osipova, William Forsythe, Akram Khan and Sharon Eyal are among the artists presenting new work in 2018, produced or co-produced by the venue. The current building, which opened in 1998, is the sixth on the Islington site since Richard Sadler established a theatre there in 1683.

Natalia Osipova. Photograph: Bill Cooper

Natalia Osipova’s Pure Dance, at Sadler’s Wells from September 12 to 16, 2018, will be the first of the 20th anniversary programmes. An evening of work produced by Sadler’s Wells, it stars Osipova in a programme including new works by Alexei Ratmansky and Iván Pérez, and featuring David Hallberg.

William Forsythe presents A Quiet Evening of Dance from October 4 to 6. This is his first full evening presentation since he closed the Forsythe Company in 2015, and includes two new pieces. Forsythe will also feature in a triple bill from Semperoper Ballett in June, and will create a new work for English National Ballet’s Voices of America programme in April.

Mark Morris’s Layla and Majnun, showing Howard Hodgkin’s design. Photograph: Beowulf Sheehan

In mid-November, the theatre will present the UK premiere of Layla and Majnun, a collaboration between Mark Morris, the painter Howard Hodgkin and cellist Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble. Layla and Majnun is the story of a pair of lovers in 7th-century Arabia, who – like Romeo and Juliet – were kept apart by parental disapproval. They have been the subject of many poems, paintings and other works.

Antony Gormley’s design for Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui’s Icon, with Goteborgs Operans Danskompani Eastman. Photograph: Mats Backer

It’s followed by Icon, a new work by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and Antony Gormley explores concepts of icon and iconoclasm, with a set made from three and a half tons of clay.

From November 26 to 28, the theatre presents Dystopian Dream, a theatrical realisation of Nitin Sawhney’s 2015 album, co-devised with Honji Wang and Sébastien Ramirez.

The anniversary week will be marked by Reckonings, with new work by Julie Cunningham, Alesandra Seutin and Botis Seva, running from October 12 to 14. In the same week, there will be a mixed bill by the theatre’s newly appointed Young Associate artists, Anthony Matsena, Wilhelmina Ojanen, Ruby Portas and Christopher Thomas. Jasmin Vardimon will also present a new work in October.

Akram Khan in XENOS. Photograph: Jean-Louis Fernandez

Some of the 20 projects have already been announced: Akram Khan’s XENOS, which runs from May 29 to June 9, tells the story of an Indian colonial soldier in World War I. Sharon Eyal will create Used to Be Blonde for the National Youth Dance Company, opening on April 7 and then touring. Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan’s Formosa, which runs from May 9 to 12, will be director Lin Hwai-min’s last full-length production before he retires in 2019.

Also in spring, the musicians of Jazz Refreshed will be part of a new dance commission for the hip hop festival Breakin’ Convention, which runs from May 5 to 7. As part of the theatre’s annual Family Weekend, BalletLORENT present Rumpelstiltskin and Melbourne-based company One Step At A Time Like This perform Upsidedowninsideout, which dives into secret Sadler’s Wells spaces that are not usually open to the public. The Company of Elders, the theatre’s resident over-60s performance group, will present new work by Holly Blakey, Adrienne Hart and Seeta Patel on July 6.

The anniversary year will also include Mavin Khoo’s From Man to Monk – Part 1, new wave associate Wilkie Branston’s film installation TOM and new works by Jefta van Dinther and Eva Recacha. In June, the Lilian Baylis Studio will present Portraits in Otherness, a new platform initiated by Akram Khan and his producer Farooq Chaudhry, promoting a new generation of talent. There will be solo work from Joy Alpuerto Ritter, Ching-Ying Chien, Dickson Mbi and Maya Dong.

For tickets and more information, visit


Pictured, top: Sadler’s Wells. Photograph: Philip Vile

Zoë was born in Edinburgh, and saw her first dance performances at the Festival there. She is the dance critic of The Independent, and has also written for The Independent on Sunday, The Scotsman and Dancing Times. In 2002, she received her doctorate from the University of York for a thesis on “Nationhood and epic romance: Ariosto, Sidney, Spenser”. She is the author of The Royal Ballet: 75 Years and The Ballet Lover’s Companion.

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