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The Brexit Effect by Barbara Newman

Are you worried about Brexit? You should be. Its impact on the arts in the UK could be greater than you might anticipate. In the February issue of Dancing Times, an excellent letter to the editor from Fiona Biddulph in Rutland raises important questions about the opportunities for British dancers that may be limited by […]

Barbara Newman offers some ideas for New Year’s Gifts

On New Year’s Eve, New York City Ballet used to slide tiny jokes into The Nutcracker – I don’t know if this tradition continues – to delight the cognoscenti and relieve the dancers’ exhaustion after weeks of performing the same ballet. If you’re also tired of fairytales and eager for a change of pace, you […]

Stars Experiment

Encouraged by their international acclaim, well-known dancers often abandon the ballets on which they’ve built their reputation to test themselves on the unknown. Well before she became a household name, Margot Fonteyn went off to dance with Roland Petit in Paris, and Maya Plisetskaya radically redefined herself in Albert Alonso’s Carmen Suite and Maurice Béjart’s […]

Shiny trinkets by Barbara Newman

Michael Somes once reported that in the early days of the Vic-Wells Ballet, Ninette de Valois would ask Frederick Ashton for “a romantic ballet at Christmas and then a 20-minute abstract ballet by Easter.” Years later she justified her demands: “There was no repertoire – there was a vacuum… The work had to be done.” […]

Requisite Passion by Barbara Newman

Kevin O’Hare’s brainwave of bringing the UK’s leading ballet companies together to celebrate Kenneth MacMillan’s work has paid off handsomely. Roaming over the choreographer’s exceptional range of dramatic subjects and musical inspiration, the season has filled the Royal Opera House and pleased the public. Comprising four troupes, the two performances I saw at Covent Garden […]

Stamping on Flamenco: Barbara Newman sees Rocío Molina

The most interesting thing about Rocío Molina is her dancing. You might expect that from any attraction in London’s Dance Umbrella, but Molina has decided to upend traditional flamenco and give it a new slant, the sort of decision that usually requires a lot of explaining and extensive programme notes. Unlike many contemporary choreographers, however, […]

A new chapter in Cuban dance

Fourteen dancers, five dances, two hours. That’s what it took for Acosta Danza to make its UK debut at Sadler’s Wells, packing the house as it nailed its colours to the mast for all to see. Founded in 2015 to develop Cuba’s dance talent, supported by the Cuban government and international assistance, and now with […]

Shakespeare’s Legacy by Barbara Newman

Ashton retold A Midsummer Night’s Dream in 70 minutes. Balanchine slipped the narrative into one act and filled the second with pure dancing. John Neumeier dressed the lovers in sleek silvery unitards and the mechanicals as circus clowns. The greatest artworks open themselves to infinite interpretations, which is why choreographers keep reinventing Shakespeare’s plays. No […]

Protest and Provocation by Barbara Newman

Take off most of your clothes, paint your body white, and move as if you’re drugged or hypnotised or a ghost or a dream. The art of butoh often involves all these things, along with extremely slow and highly controlled movement, playful and despairing moods, hands cramped into claws and grotesque positions. This indefinable dance-theatre […]

Music Notes by Barbara Newman

Pictured: les ballets C de la B in nicht schlafen. Photographs: Chris Van der Burght. 1. Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker/Rosas in Rain at Sadler’s Wells In Lucinda Childs’ Melody Excerpt, created in 1977 and seldom if ever revived now, the dancers’ feet in trainers supplied the only music. Grouped in varying combinations, the five performers […]

Something Old, Something New

A distinguished dance critic once declared she never wanted to see Swan Lake again. If the statement strikes you as extreme, don’t forget there are lots of fish in the sea, and it’s often more fun to reel in a fresh one than to catch what you expect. The spring season landed new winners, new […]

Barbara Newman on cultural identity

Suddenly, the most engaging dances around deal with cultural identity and immigration, the same topics that fill newspaper headlines. In 2015, Shobana Jeyasingh conceived Material Men to display two performers and their specialised talents – Shailesh Bahoran’s for hip hop, Sooraj Subramaniam’s for Bharata Natyam. Enlarging the original piece to absorb a slice of history, […]

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