Kathryn Conway pays tribute to the creative organisation that celebrates the power of dance in all its forms
When Mr Sadler (he may have been called Richard, Thomas or Edward, no one seems to have the definitive answer) discovered a chalybeate spring in 1683 in the garden of his recently opened ‘musick house’, Sadler’s Wells was born.
While the popularity of ‘the taking of waters’ might have long since evaporated from the area, its theatrical legacy lives on. Indeed, six theatres bearing the Sadler’s Wells’ name have since stood on the site, enjoying an illustrious history that can lay claim to giving the country the Royal Ballet, the Birmingham Royal Ballet and the English National Opera, as well as launching the careers of a number of world-renowned artists.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the current building, a milestone that the performing arts venue has chosen to celebrate by commissioning 20 works that “represent the nest talent from all over the world and artists at every stage of their career,” says Alistair Spalding, the organisation’s artistic director and chief executive. And, because the anniversary week falls in October, many of the pieces are being performed during the autumn/winter season.
While highlights are sure to include the programme danced by acclaimed Russian ballerina Natalia Osipova (Pure Dance, September 12-16), as well as a new work by dancer and choreograper Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and sculptor Antony Gormley that will witness dancers manipulating three-and-a-half tonnes of clay (Icon, November 30), Sadler’s Wells is also giving a platform to the next generation of talented performers.
Reckonings (October 11-13) sees three UK-based choreographers – Julie Cunningham, Alesandra Seutin and Botis Seva – explore race, gender, identity and religion through the medium of post-modern dance, traditional African dance with an urban edge and hip-hop blended with experimental theatre.
Sadler’s Wells Theatre, Rosebery Avenue, EC1R 4TN. sadlerswells.com
Pictures: Icon, choreographed by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, set design by Anthony Gormley. Photography by Mats Backer.