Sadler's Wells 20th Anniversary

Posted on 1 February 2018


Sadler’s Wells today announced 20 landmark commissions to mark the 20th anniversary of its iconic London theatre. Natalia Osipova, Mark Morris, William ForsytheSharon 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.

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 at 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.

The 20 works to mark the anniversary year are:

  • Pure Dance, a programme of work produced by Sadler’s Wells for ballet 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 Theatre Principal dancer David Hallberg.
  • World renowned American choreographer William Forsythe presents A Quite 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 MorrisHoward 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 XENOSAkram 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 15thanniversary 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 Portus 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 

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.”

Other highlights in the 2018 season

As well as the new commission to mark the anniversary year, William Forsythe is the subject of a triple bill by Dresden-based Semperoper Ballett in June. Forsythe’s choreography also features in Sadler’s Wells Associate Company English National Ballet’s Voices of America in April, for which he has created his first new ballet for a British Company in 20 years.

Also in June, the Lilian Baylis Studio presents Portraits in Otherness, a new platform initiated by Akram Khan and his producer Farooq Chaudhry, seeking to transfer the values and philosophy of Akram Khan Company to a new generation of talents. They invite four distinctive dance artists to present solo work: Joy Alpuerto Ritter, Ching-Ying Chien, Dickson Mbi and Maya Dong.

The 2018 season at Sadler’s Wells features the UK premiere of Carmen La Cubana in August, a new musical mixing Bizet’s classic score with Cuban styles, set against the turmoil of the Cuban Revolution, 1958. Inspired by Oscar Hammerstein II’s Broadway hit Carmen Jones, Christopher Renshaw (The King and I) directs the production, with new orchestrations by Tony Award winner Alex Lacamoire (Hamilton), mixing opera with salsa, mambo, rumba and cha-cha-cha.

Sadler’s Wells’ West End venue The Peacock offers audiences two opportunities to experience the best of tap, with The Tap Pack in June - bringing a new, exhilarating energy to a timeless style, inspired by the kings of swing: Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jnr. In the autumn Dein Perry's multi award-winning Tap Dogs returns to the London stage, showcasing high voltage, rugged, raw talent.

The year ends with Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake at Christmas, returning with a fresh look for the 21st century. Retaining the iconic elements of the original, Sadler’s Wells Associate Artist Matthew Bourne and award-winning designers Lez Brotherston (set and costumes) and Paule Constable (lighting) will create a re-imagining of the classic production, that has collected over 30 international accolades including an Olivier and three Tony Awards.

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 YanowskyDickson MbiCarlos 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).

Plans for Sadler’s Wells’ new venue in east london are moving ahead

Sadler’s Wells’ is moving forward with its exciting plans for a new venue in east London’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, together with other world-leading institutions including the V&A, University College London and UAL’s London College of Fashion.

The Cultural and Education District will create a new powerhouse for innovation and creativity through a unique collaboration between the universities and arts organisations, opening up opportunities for all who visit, live and work in east London.

The new Sadler’s Wells venue, designed by RIBA Gold Medal winners O’Donnell and Tuomey, will feature a theatre building set over 85,000 sq ft, comprising a 550-seat auditorium, five studios, a large rehearsal room and support facilities to be used for artist development and training, and for work at any stage in its development.

The new space will enable Sadler’s Wells to present mid-scale work, and is part of the theatre’s ongoing work to support the talent pipeline for the whole sector. It will enable the dance house to support regional companies coming to London that would benefit from showing their work in a mid-scale venue, and to produce new work that could tour outside the capital.

Sadler’s Wells is developing joint programmes with its partners in the Park, and building relationships with local community and cultural organisations in the area. Ongoing partner projects include: a major new dance programme for young people run by East London Dance commissioned by Headstart Newham, and a pilot project with the new Mossbourne Riverside Academy, for which Sadler’s Wells is leading weekly dance activities throughout this academic year, enabling every child in the school to access dance.

Alistair Spalding said:

“By working with our Cultural and Education District partners in the Park and other arts and educational organisations in east London, we’re creating a larger, vibrant cultural hub that is responsive to its surroundings and communities. The alliances we’re building with colleagues and partners in Stratford mean we can offer even more opportunities and experiences to the audiences we all serve.”

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For press enquiries contact

Sadler’s Wells’ Head of Media Relations, Abigail Desch: / 020 7863 8119

Sadler’s Wells’ Senior Press Manager, Caroline Ansdell: / 020 7863 8125


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