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Dance and redevelopment at Southbank Centre

Posted on February 26, 2018

After restoration and redesign, the Southbank Centre is to reopen two of its venues, the Queen Elizabeth Hall and the Purcell Room. The London venue celebrates with the announcement of its 2018 to 2019 programme, and the appointment of two new associate companies, Shobana Jeyasingh Dance and Forced Entertainment, joining ZooNation Youth Company as associates.

Shobana Jeyasingh first performed at Southbank Centre in 1989, and has regularly premiered work at the Queen Elizabeth Hall (QEH). On April 28 and 29, her company will take part in a weekend of free performances and activities celebrating the reopening of the QEH and Purcell Room. This summer, the company will begin a research and development project in the Royal Festival Hall’s Plant Room space, joined by BBC Young Dancer of the Year 2015 finalist Vidya Patel. ZooNation Youth Company will also return to the QEH, with an open hip hop workshop followed by a freestyle jam. The company will again present a collective of young companies in their summer showcase in July 2018.

Performance ensemble Forced Entertainment will create a new version of The Night Follows Day, performed by a chorus of children aged between eight and 14, from December 11 to 15.

On April 13, choreographer Holly Blakey and composer Mica Levi create Cowpuncher, a new dance and music performance that plays with the structure, sounds and vistas of the Western movie genre. Indian classical dancer and choreographer Malavika Sarukkai presents the UK premiere of Thari – The Loom at the QEH on April 24. The production is inspired by the sari. On May 5, Akademi dance the new production The Troth, inspired by Chandradhar Sharma Guleri’s short story “Usne Kaha Tha”, a story of love and sacrifice against the backdrop of World War I. With choreography by Gary Clarke, the production has a commissioned score by Shri and features archive footage of Indian soldiers during World War I.

Jean Abreu: Solo for Two. Photograph: Ambra Vernuccio

Jean Abreu brings Solo for Two to the Purcell Room from May 23 to 24, featuring two dancers and a small robot called Macheba. On June 9, Kevin and Karen Clifton bring their show Kevin and Karen Dance to the Southbank Centre’s Royal Festival Hall (RFH), with a cast of supporting dancers and a 12-piece show band.

Australian circus company Gravity and Other Myths present the UK premiere of Backbone from August 14 to 19, 2019. It’s followed by the London premiere of Scottish Dance Theatre’s Velvet Petal, with a rare live performance from musician Abul Mogard, at the QEH from August 31 to September 1.

Play by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui. Photograph: Koen Broos

Dancer and choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and Indian Kuchipudi dancer Shantala Shivalingappa collaborate on Play, a cross-cultural dance piece exploring games and the role of playing in life, dance and love. It’s at the QEH on September 4. Beijing-based choreographer Wen Hui returns to the UK for her first performance in ten years, with the UK premiere of the dance docudrama Red, at the Purcell Room from October 4 to 5 as part of Dance Umbrella 2018.

Choreographer Rosie Kay and filmmaker Adam Curtis explore the rise of the Illuminati conspiracy theory in MK ULTRA, at the QEH on November 8.

Rockumentary of a Contemporary Saviour by Ultima Vez. Photograph: Danny Willems

For spring 2019, Ultima Vez and Wim Vandekeybus return to the Southbank Centre with the UK premiere of Mockumentary of a Contemporary Saviour, at the QEH from March 1 to 2.

Other highlights of the 2018 to 2019 season include performances by actress Isabella Rosselini and her dog Pan in Link Link Circus, Isabelle Huppert reading works by the Marquis de Sade, the National Changgeuk Company of Korea, multidisciplinary performance group Needcompany in the Blind Poet and more.

Rupert Thomson, senior programmer for performance and dance, said: “For performance and dance at Southbank Centre, getting the Queen Elizabeth Hall and Purcell Room back enables us to expand our programme further, offering even more for audiences and artists. It’s fantastic to be able to reveal our first programme in the newly renovated venues. We’ll be showcasing world class international and UK talent, from both established and breakthrough artists. We’re also thrilled to be working with Forced Entertainment and Shobana Jeyashingh Dance as our new associate companies. Both are creators of innovative work, and we look forward to further developing our relationship with these remarkable artists, and providing a home for the development and presentation of their work.”

For more information about the new season, visit


Pictured, top: Shobana Jeyasingh. Photograph JP Masclet

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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