Sadler’s Wells announces 20 landmark commissions to mark 20th anniversary

Sadler’s Wells today announced 20 landmark commissions to mark the 20th anniversary of its iconic London theatre. Natalia Osipova, Mark Morris, William Forsythe, Sharon Eyal and Akram Khan are among the internationally acclaimed artists presenting new work, which will be produced or co-produced by Sadler’s Wells in 2018.

Antony Gormley design for Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui's Icon; GoteborgsOperans Danskompani & Eastman 2 (c) Mats Backer
Antony Gormley design for Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui’s Icon; GoteborgsOperans Danskompani & Eastman 2 (c) Mats Backer
Sadler’s Wells’ current theatre is the sixth building to have stood on the Islington site since Richard Sadler first established a theatre there in 1683. The venue has played a vital role in the history of theatre ever since, with The Royal Ballet, Birmingham Royal Ballet and English National Opera having all begun life there. Since 2005 Sadler’s Wells has brought more than 150 new works to the stage, and its productions have been seen by over 1.7 million people.

Sadler’s Wells Artistic Director and Chief Executive Alistair Spalding said:

‘At Sadler’s Wells we don’t just present dance performances, we make dance happen. We embrace all forms of dance here, reflecting the dance traditions of the world at the same time as reflecting the way the world is today. It’s a tradition of the new, whether that be ideas, ways of making dance, discovering dance, or creating new collaborations. So it’s absolutely right that we celebrate our anniversary with “20 for 20”: 20 commissions representing the finest talent from all over the world and artists at every stage of their career.’

The 20 works to mark the anniversary year are:

Pure Dance, a programme of work produced by Sadler’s Wells for superstar ballerina Natalia Osipova (12 – 16 September), including two new works commissioned for her by Alexei Ratmansky and Iván Pérez, and featuring special guest American Ballet Theater Principal dancer David Hallberg.

World renowned American choreographer William Forsythe presents A Quiet Evening of Dance (4 – 6 October). Produced by Sadler’s Wells, this is his first full evening presentation since he closed the Forsythe Company in 2015, and includes two new works.

The UK premiere of Layla and Majnun, a collaboration between Mark Morris, Howard Hodgkin and Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble which tells the story of the Middle Eastern Romeo and Juliet (mid-November).

Icon, a new work by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui with Antony Gormley that explores concepts of icon and iconoclasm, with a set made from 3.5 tonnes of clay (late November)

Dystopian Dream, a theatrical realisation of Nitin Sawhney’s acclaimed 2015 album of the same name, co-devised with Honji Wang and Sébastien Ramirez (26 – 28 November)

For XENOS, Akram Khan gives his final ever solo performances in a full-length work, telling the tale of an Indian colonial soldier in the First World War (29 May – 9 June),

Used To Be Blonde, is the world premiere of a new commission by newly appointed Sadler’s Wells Associate Artist Sharon Eyal for the National Youth Dance Company (7 April at Sadler’s Wells, then touring)

Renowned Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan presents Lin Hwai-min’s new work Formosa (9 -12 May), the last full-length production by Hwai-min before he retires in 2019.

Jazz Refreshed musicians will be part of a new dance commission for the theatre’s annual international hip hop dance theatre festival Breakin’ Convention, marking its 15th anniversary in 2018 (5 – 7 May)
Reckonings features new work by Julie Cunningham, Alesandra Seutin and Botis Seva, and marks the anniversary week itself (12-14 October)

Also in the anniversary week, a mixed bill by Sadler’s Wells’ newly appointed Young Associate artists Anthony Matsena, Wilhelmina Ojanen, Ruby Portas and Christopher Thomas (9-10 October) for the Lilian Baylis Studio

Associate Artist Jasmin Vardimon presents a new work in October
Company of Elders, Sadler’s Wells’ resident over 60s performance group, presents new work by Holly Blakey, Adrienne Hart and Seeta Patel (6 July)

balletLORENT presents Liv Lorent’s Rumpelstiltskin, retold by Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy, as part of Sadler’s Wells’ annual Family Weekend (30 & 31 March)

Also during Family Weekend, upsidedowninsideout, by Melbourne-based company One Step At A Time Like This, will see families dive into secret spaces in Sadler’s Wells not usually accessible to the public

Rambert2 presents a mixed bill in November, including Sharon Eyal’s Killer Pig

In the Lilian Baylis Studio Mavin Khoo presents From Man to Monk- Part 1

New Wave Associate Wilkie Branson presents the film installation TOM

Jefta van Dinther presents a new work

Eva Recacha presents a new work, a duet for two women

In 2018 Sadler’s Wells will continue to extend the reach of its programme beyond the venue, reaching the widest possible audience, through touring, broadcast and digital projects.

This year, it will tour nine Sadler’s Wells productions or co-productions to more than 35 different venues in the UK and abroad including Dystopian Dream, Acosta Danza’s Debut, Michael Keegan Dolan’s Swan Lake and Sutra.

In a unique partnership with the BBC, Sadler’s Wells curates and creates four 30-minute artist-led films for broadcast on BBC Four this April as part of the channel’s dance season. Each film introduces audiences to a different dance artist from diverse backgrounds and styles, taking us behind the scenes to observe them at different points in their career as they create new work or prepare for a new performance. Featuring Zenaida Yanowsky, Dickson Mbi, Carlos Pons Guerra and Shobana Jeyasingh and including extended sequences of performance, each film offers viewers a unique insight into the world of dance in Britain today.

Sadler’s Wells is also partnering with Channel 4’s Random Acts to commission three original films from Julie Cunningham, Alesandra Seutin and Botis Seva for broadcast later in the year. Linked to the new works the artists are creating for Reckonings in the 20th Anniversary week, the films will be creative entities in their own right, offering the three distinctive younger artists an opportunity to tell their stories in a different medium to a wider audience.

Celestial Bodies is a new virtual reality experience adapted from Alexander Whitley’s production 8 Minutes, which premiered at the theatre in June 2017 and was commissioned as part of the New Wave Associates programme. This is the first arts-inspired experience made by the Guardian’s award-winning VR team, with the Alexander Whitley Dance Company in association with Sadler’s Wells. It uses the latest 360 and motion capture technology to explore the human relationship with the Sun, enabling viewers to get closer to the dancers. Audiences can preview it at the theatre’s Sampled festival on 2 & 3 February 2018 and it will be available soon on VR platforms (Daydream, Cardboard, YouTube 360, HTC Vive).

About Mark Westall

Mark Westall is the Founder and Editor of FAD magazine, ' A curation of the world’s most interesting culture' [PLUS] Art of Conversation: A tri-annual 'no news paper'