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New dance space for Sadler’s Wells

Posted on November 5, 2013

alistair spaldingchugoglendinning

alistair-spaldingchugoglendinningAlistair Spalding (pictured), artistic director and chief executive of London dance venue Sadler’s Wells, today announced plans for a new performance space. His ten-year plan for the expansion of Sadler’s Wells is backed by a commitment to invest £5 million in commissioning new dance works.

The planned new space will be a 500-seat London venue, specifically designed to present new, mid-scale contemporary work. It will be the fourth Sadler’s Wells space, alongside the main stage, the Lilian Baylis Studio and the venue’s West End base, the Peacock Theatre.

David Bell, chair of Sadler’s Wells, said: “Sadler’s Wells has established itself as a powerhouse for dance. The demand for dance continues to grow, and yet London lacks a mid-scale space for contemporary work. This new venue will fill the gap between the main house and our studio space.”

Spalding said: “The public appetite for dance has never been greater. We want to respond to this, and give the creative talent in this country a proper chance to develop for the future growth of the art form. To achieve this, we need to be able to expand beyond our current base – without losing the unique quality and atmosphere that is associated with Sadler’s Wells.” He said that he wanted to make London the world’s greatest centre for dance.

The idea of the 500-seat venue has been gestating for several years, Spalding said: “Dance deserves proper spaces.” Plans are still being developed, but Sadler’s Wells is considering locations near the main theatre in Islington, but also looking in other boroughs. Both newly-built and refurbished spaces are being looked at; Sadler’s Wells will consider an existing site that could be developed. The new venue would have flexible staging and seating, creating a contemporary space fit for contemporary dance.

Sadler’s Wells argues that a new venue would work in London alongside its three existing performance spaces. At present, Sadler’s Wells can’t programme mid-scale works, as it has no suitable venue. Maguy Marin was given as one example of an international choreographer whose work is hard to fit into the existing system. The new space would also benefit smaller UK companies, who could perform longer runs.

Spalding admitted that a 500-seater theatre can’t depend on box office alone, so some realignment of Sadler’s Wells’ public subsidy will be needed. He aims to keep this to a minimum. He would not be drawn on the probable cost of the new building.

The theatre’s annual report, put online today, shows increased demand for dance, with statistics going up. More choice, Sadler’s Wells argues, means more audiences: it has already motivated audiences to come to dance. 


Photograph © Hugo Glendinning 


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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