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Cunningham on the big screen

Making dances is a mysterious process that’s difficult to describe. Recreating a dance’s essential character and original impact is still harder. The works Merce Cunningham left behind when he died in 2009 must now make their own way in the world, without his help but assisted by the dancers who know them and by the […]

In search of nourishment

You could call it a feast of narratives. The Royal Ballet has served up The Sleeping Beauty and Coppélia for Christmas and dances Onegin throughout February. Birmingham Royal Ballet brought The Nutcracker to Birmingham and the Royal Albert Hall; that company has just launched a long tour of Swan Lake. English National Ballet (ENB) followed […]

Nourishment for the imagination

Before current events hijack all our concentration, I want to tie up some loose ends from 2019. Engulfed in fairytales as that year wound down, I kept thinking about choreographers who write for adults. Their dances lodge in your thoughts, sometimes for years, nourishing the imagination and spreading their impact in all directions. Though illness […]

All that it seems?

A children’s riddle asks, When is a door not a door? The answer is, When it’s ajar, which made no sense to me until I learned the meaning of “ajar.” I remembered the question, though, when Akram Khan’s Giselle for English National Ballet (ENB) and Matthew Bourne’s new Romeo and Juliet appeared in quick succession […]

The Royal Ballet on stage and on the big screen

When Frederick Ashton retired as the artistic director of The Royal Ballet in 1970, the company arranged a gala in his honour featuring selections from 34 of his creations and his contributions to Swan Lake, The Sleeping Beauty and Giselle, presented to the excited public without a printed programme. The details were distributed as the […]

Alvin Ailey and Deborah Hay in London

In 1958, the choreographer Alvin Ailey combined seven black dancers and his urge to celebrate black culture in a new company called the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. Integrated with white and Asian performers in 1964, it drew its repertoire from an equally multiracial collection of choreographers, including José Limón, Donald McKayle, Anna Sokolow and […]

Budding stars

In 2013, French television broadcast a six-part series titled Graines d’Étoiles (Budding Stars), in which the director Françoise Marie documented a year’s activity inside the Paris Opéra Ballet School. Housed in gleaming premises in Nanterre, seven miles from Paris, the school numbers about 130 pupils aged eight to 18, nearly two-thirds of whom board full-time. […]

Inspiring artists

Isn’t it curious how much ballet dancers differ? By the time they can call themselves professional, they’ve been taught to respect the academic vocabulary and deliver it with precision. Most performers honour those twin obligations faithfully even if they lack imagination, but many go further. The Royal Ballet’s revival of A Month in the Country […]

Against the Stream and She Persisted

In the last few years, allegations of sexual impropriety have run rampant through the performing arts, assaulting film producers, opera and ballet directors, choreographers and performers as they pass. Dance has developed a powerful social conscience, and gender identity is such a hot topic that entire programmes are planned around it. For his second excursion […]

A Context to Pepperland

Call me old-fashioned, but when I go to see dancing, I want to see it. Regardless of the subject, if you can’t distinguish the bodies and their arrangement in space, why watch them? I also want the movement to hang together somehow. Improvisation has its uses, but apparently random activity often resembles incomplete ideas. If […]

Richard Alston; Yolande Yorke-Edgell; Internationaal Theater Amsterdam

The news of Richard Alston’s knighthood in the New Year Honours List followed the announcement, two months earlier, that his company will close in 2020. Having made dances for 50 of his 70 years and led his own troupe to its 25th anniversary, Sir Richard might be considered the backbone of contemporary dance in the […]

The American Clock

Arthur Miller’s masterpiece, Death of a Salesman, came to Broadway in 1949 and won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. The author was 34 years old. In 1980, toward the end of a long, illustrious career, he wrote The American Clock, basing its loosely connected vignettes on his own life and those recounted in Hard Times, […]

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