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Sadler's Wells

  • Theatre
  • Clerkenwell
  • Recommended
Sadlers Wells_CREDIT_CREDIT_Morley von Sternberg (1).jpg
© Morley von Sternberg

Time Out says

This Islington venue is synonymous with cutting edge dance of every flavour

Tucked away on the streets behind Angel station, Sadler's Wells is a sizeable purpose-built 1998 studio complex built on the site of the original seventeenth-century theatre of the same name. And it's the place to go for dance fans, drawing an impressive line-up of local and international talent.

Artistic director Alastair Spalding presides over a varied line-up of in house and touring shows, which take in modern and experimental dance, tango, flamenco (watch out for the annual Flamenco Festival), hip hop, classical and contemporary ballet as well as Matthew Bourne's crowd-pleasing brand of witty dance theatre. There's typically a family-friendly ballet classic at Christmas, as well as annual festivals like Breakin' Convention, a massive celebration of hip hop dance. Main house shows take place in the comfortable, 1,500 seater auditorium, while the smaller Lilian Baylis Studio houses smaller-scale new works and works in progress. And the Peacock Theatre (on Portugal Street in Holborn) operates as a satellite venue for big commercial dance spectacles.

Sadler's Wells is the sixth theatre to stand on its Islington site, and famous producer Lilian Baylis and dancer Ninette de Valois were both instrumental in its multi-stage 20th century transition from crumbling music hall to state-of-the-art dance venue. Its name dates back to the 1680s, when the theatre discovered a medicinal well whose water was said to have health-giving properties. You can still look down the well today, though the days of taking a quick dip before a show are long gone. 


Rosebery Avenue
Tube: Angel
Prices vary
Opening hours:
10am-8pm Mon-Sat
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What’s on

‘how did we get here?’ review

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Contemporary and experimental

How do you pack a massive theatre for a resolutely niche contemporary dance piece? Try adding an icon of British pop music. Melanie Chisholm, aka Mec C, aka Sporty Spice, is the undoubted draw of ‘how did we get here?’. Always the Spice Girls’ strongest singer, she has already proved she has plenty more strings to her bow, publishing a bestselling autobiography and dabbling with musical theatre. Now, at the age of 49, she has returned to her dance roots, collaborating with fellow Merseysider Jules Cunningham, a veteran of the contemporary dance scene and a Sadler’s Wells New Wave associate. There is nowhere to hide in ‘how did we get here?’: the audience sits on three sides of the stage and in the front stalls for an in-the-round experience (be warned: you have to queue for the undesignated seats on a first-come, first-served basis). And the costumes, designed by Stevie Stewart, are basically sleeveless body stockings that look as though they have been sprayed on to Chisholm, Cunningham and third performer Harry Alexander. But, clearly relishing the challenge, Chisholm holds her own with these two talented and experienced dancers; she can hit a lovely ballet line, has impressive stamina and is an immensely watchable stage presence.  Vague, rather angsty programme notes don’t really help you to mine any meaning from this hour-long piece. The movement at first is tentative, pensive and heavy with melancholy, set to Nina Simone as a glitterball casts fractured light across the t

Dance Me

  • Contemporary and experimental

Hallelujah! The work of the late, great Leonard Cohen have inspired 'Dance Me', a project approved my the man himself before his death. Three internationally reknowned choreogrpahers are involved - Andonis Foniadakis, Annabelle Lopez Ochoa and Ihsan Rustem - and the homage to Cohen and his music and poetry is performed by Ballets Jazz Montreal. Expect to hear songs from across his career, from 'So Long, Marianne' to 'First We Take Manhattan' to 'Dance Me to the End of Love'. 

The Sacrifice

  • Contemporary and experimental

South African choreographer Dada Masilo reimagines The Rite of Spring using the movement of Tswana, the traditional dance of Botswana This is the London premiere of South African choreographer Dada Masilo’s new piece, inspired by the story of Stravinsky’s ‘The Rite of Spring’: a young girl, chosen as a sacrifice, must dance herself to death. Masilo’s company of dancers use the rhythmic and expressive movements of Tswana – the traditional dance of Botswana – to tell this story in an exciting new way, alongside a brand-new original score. The company wowed audiences with the reinvention of ‘Giselle’ in 2019, and ‘The Sacrifice’ promises to be an equally bold.

42nd Street

  • Musicals

‘42nd Street’ the stage musical is something of a distant descendant of ‘42nd Street’ the classic movie: the latter is from 1933 and only actually features five songs; the former is from 1980 and features an entire songbook of tunes, bolstering originals like ‘Shuffle Off Buffalo’ and ‘You’re Getting to be a Habit with Me’ with contemporary ’30s showtunes like ‘We’re in the Money’ and ‘About a Quarter to Nine’. They’re also written by completely different people. However, they’re both classics that adapt Bradford Ropes’s novel about the struggles of a Broadway theatre company at the height of the Great Depression. This Jonathan Church-directed revival calls in a Sadler’s Wells for a couple of weeks in June, a little earlier than Sadler’s traditional theatre slot, and a bit of a spring treat for musical lovers. 

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