26 Dance Shows To See In London This Autumn From Just £3

26 Dance Shows To See In London This Autumn From Just £3
Choreographer Matthew Bourne's Cinderella enjoys a premium slot at Sadler's Wells

Dreading the prospect of a cold, dark autumn? Fear not, the excitement of London’s expansive array of dance offerings is just beginning, with something to suit everyone’s taste, and tickets starting from just £3. From the unmissable shows to the hidden gems, here are just some of the dance highlights you can look forward to.

The Royal Ballet

The Cheshire Cat in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland © Johan Persson

Christopher Wheeldon’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland has already enjoyed several revivals. Accompanied by Joby Talbot's excellent score, follow the White Rabbit down the hole and witness Lewis Carroll's wonderful imaginings, including Alice growing as small as a mouse and as large as a giant. Ballet doesn’t come more innovative than depicting animals engaged in a Caucus-Race. SS

25 years after his death, legendary choreographer and former artistic director of the Royal Ballet Kenneth MacMillan is honoured with a series of double and triple bills. They include Song of the Earth, a poignant exploration of love, loss and renewal, and The Judas Tree, a controversial work on guilt and betrayal in a compromised time. SS

Also as a part of the MacMillan celebration, Birmingham Royal Ballet dances Concerto, Scottish Ballet performs Le Baiser de la fée and Northern Ballet takes on Gloria. SS

Away from the Royal Opera House in The Printworks is The Dreamers Ever Leave You © Karolina Kuras

Away from the Royal Opera House, at Printworks in Docklands, Robert Binet’s The Dreamers Ever Leave You lets audiences move among the dancers (from the Royal Ballet and National Ballet of Canada) so they can witness the expressive power of the human form up close. SS

Arguably the most innovative mixed bill of the season is the one that commences on 6 November. All pieces are less than a couple of years old and two of them are world premieres, so we don't know exactly what will happen, but the works (The Illustrated Farewell, The Wind and Untouchable) are choreographed by Twyla Tharp, Hofesh Shechter and Arthur Pita respectively, so expect the unexpected. SS

Frederick Ashton's Sylvia © Tristram Kenton

Based on a mythological tale, Frederick Ashton’s Sylvia (1952) might seem like a good ‘old-fashioned’ ballet where huge gestures and dramatic leaps take precedence over deep characterisation. There is, however, much detail and subtlety too, and if ballet is about providing visual stimulation, Sylvia is up there with the best of them. SS

Christmas classic The Nutcracker, choreographed by Sir Peter Wright in 1984, returns to the Royal Ballet in December. Some performances are already sold out, so we advise booking up right now. Another Nutcracker can be found at the Royal Albert Hall in the days after Christmas. Presented by Birmingham Royal Ballet, it has been created especially to suit the ‘in-the-round’ set-up of the hall, and so could make for quite a magical evening. SS

English National Ballet

Wayne Eagling's version of The Nutcracker for English National Ballet

Akram Khan’s recent take on Giselle returns to Sadler’s Wells, and seemingly set in a mechanistic Russian factory (designs are by Tim Yip who was responsible for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) it is thrillingly, dramatically different from English National Ballet’s other 1977 production. It may not be for those who favour a traditional telling of the story (for whom the Royal Ballet version which returns in January may be better), but it should be the ultimate treat for fans of innovative dance. SS

English National Ballet also presents The Nutcracker at the Coliseum, in a version that achieves a good balance between tradition and innovation. Early booking is advisable for this one, and for the double bill Song of the Earth / La Sylphide, which appears in the New Year. SS

  • Akram Khan’s Giselle (English National Ballet): Sadler’s Wells, 20 – 23 September. Tickets: £12-55.
  • The Nutcracker (English National Ballet): London Coliseum, 14 December – 4 January. Tickets: £14-79.  
  • Song of the Earth / La Sylphide (English National Ballet): London Coliseum, 9 – 13 January. Tickets: £12-65.
  • Giselle (Royal Ballet): Royal Opera House, 19 January – 9 March. Tickets: £5-125.

Sadler’s Wells

A roster of A-list talent once again takes the helm at Sadler’s Wells. Ballet-great Carlos Acosta debuts his new Havana-based company Acosta Danza with a host of Cuban dancers. Acosta himself performs works from choreographers including Marianela Boán, Jorge Crecis and Goyo Montero and New York City Ballet resident choreographer Justin Peck. TP

Contemporary dance darling Wayne McGregor makes his seasonal appearance with his Sadler’s Wells Resident Company, Company Wayne McGregor, where he questions his life existence by way of memoir, and documentary via (we imagine) his revered visionary dance spectacles. TP

Matthew Bourne is back with his 2010 creation Cinderella, following last year’s hit The Red Shoes. In typical Bourne-style, he reformats a classic, transforming it into something perhaps even more beloved (in this case setting it in London during the Blitz). We expect this will be as wonderful as the first time around; book sooner rather than later. TP

Matthew Bourne's Cinderella returns to Sadler's Wells at Christmas

Two highly innovative takes on classic ballets also arrive. La Bayadère is normally a ‘traditional’ ballet involving a Nirvana-like place called the Kingdom of Shades, with the temple dancer of the title appearing very little. In Bayadère – The Ninth Life, however, Shobana Jeyasingh presents a radical reimagining, seamlessly weaving fact and fantasy to search for the origins of the mysterious temple dancer. SS

After sell-out success and five star reviews last year, Michael Keegan-Dolan’s adaptation of Swan Lake returns. Rooted in Ireland where ancient mythology and the modern world collide, it is interwoven with storytelling, song and live music. Dublin band Slow Moving Cloud’s score combines Nordic and Irish traditional music with minimalist and experimental influences. SS

Another Sadler’s Wells regular, Rambert, returns with a three piece set that includes A Linha Curve, a Brazilian extravaganza recreated by choreographer Itzik Galili; Symbiosis from Andonis Foniadakis that includes a new score by BAFTA and Ivor Novello Award-nominated composer Ilan Eshkeri, and Goat, inspired by the songs and spirit of Nina Simone. TP

Footloose scaling the heights

On the lighter side, look out for Jasmin Vardimon’s imaginative take on Pinocchio, as well as a fun rock-n-dance take on the 1980s film Footloose. It’s from the producers of Avenue Q and Little Shop of Horrors, so an emphasis on the musical hits is no doubt on the cards. TP

Montreal’s Cirque Eloize is garnering buzz for its daring version of a western romp that takes place in a saloon. ‘Never before has a stranger kicked up so much dust’ is one description of the event, but perhaps more accurate is a spectacular circus that pairs colourful characters with high-flying acrobatics to the crooning tunes of Patsy Cline and Johnny Cash.  Another famed stunt troupe, BalletBoyz, has teamed up four of its choreographers with four composers for a show with a focus on balance and imbalance. TP

The Snowman: Shows don't come much more Christmassy than this.

Venturing into the Christmas season, Birmingham Repertory Theatre brings The Snowman to life, while celebrated director and choreographer Arthur Pita resumes his run of Hans Christian Andersen’s tender tale The Little Match Girl for its fourth consecutive run at the Lilian Baylis Studio. TP

Other Venues

Adrenaline-pumping Michael Clark Company brings an extended version of last year’s Olivier Award-nominated ‘to a simple rock n roll… song’ to the Barbican. Expect to see the brightly clad ensemble in highly energetic sequences to pulsating (and, at times, near-deafening) tracks from the likes of Patti Smith and David Bowie. TP

Eun-Me-Ahn's Let Me Change Your Name will be at modern dance centre The Place

Alternative dance works turn up in unusual locations for Dance Umbrella’s annual festival (11 -28 October).

Origami showcases a dancer performing gravity defying acts on a shipping container in five different shows along The Thames. We’re also keen to see Charlotte Spencer Projects’ Is This a Wasteland?, set on a vacant piece of land between an historic flour mill and London City Airport, for which the audience wears headphones. Dance companies and bands from Africa, Asia, Europe and South America will combine at Rich Mix for a “new kind of house party”, while Korean dance-maker Eun-Me-Ahn's Let Me Change Your Name invites audiences to let go of their identities and journey into a world of surreal, psychedelic abandon at The Place. Shoreditch Town Hall also gets a take-over with dance, poetry, film and DJs, including a piece from award-winning dancer turned choreographer Julie Cunningham. TP

By Sam Smith and Tiffany Pritchard

Last Updated 17 September 2017