While the spring season may seem less razzle-dazzle compared to last winter's big hitters (a la Matthew Bourne’s The Red Shoes or Akram Khan’s Giselle), don’t be April-fooled. There's still a wealth of gems up the city's dance sleeves. In this case: a few seasoned favourites, along with a host of inventive (and topical) premieres. Here's a few of our top picks.
Ballet on a bigger scale
Look out for Kenneth Macmillan’s devastatingly dark Mayerling at the ROH, based on the true story of the mysterious double death of Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria-Hungary and the 17 year-old Mary Vetsera in 1889. The genius of Macmillan's choreography lies in its ability to convincingly present lead character Rudolf with apprehension and discomfort. Listen out for music by prolific Hungarian composer Franz Liszt (Years of Pilgrimage). SS
Publicised as the first ever abstract three-act ballet, George Balanchine’s 1967 creation Jewels also returns to ROH. Emeralds features art nouveau lampshades set to music by Gabriel Fauré; while Rubies utilises a jazzy Stravinsky score and a rich set. Diamonds dresses the dancers in white, and employs Tchaikovsky's Polish Symphony No. 3. SS
The English National Ballet School heads to the Peacock Theatre for its sixth year with My First Ballet: Cinderella, enabling children as young as three to experience a classic ballet production. This reimagining of the popular fairy tale promises all the delicate steps and ravishing costumes of the traditional ballet, with the addition of a narrator and an adapted musical score allowing little ones to follow the proceedings. PE
Jewels (Royal Ballet): Royal Opera House, 1-21 April 2017. Tickets: £4-£100
My First Ballet: Cinderella (English National Ballet and English National Ballet School), The Peacock, 11-22 April, Tickets £10-£25
Mayerling (Royal Ballet): Royal Opera House, 28 April-13 May 2017. Tickets: £4-£100.
Not seen in the UK since 2008, Pina Bausch's iconic Rite of Spring (Le Sacre Du Printemps) is performed with a live Stravinsky accompaniment by the English National Ballet Philharmonic. William Forsythe and Hans van Manen also add to this hotly-anticipated triple bill, putting a spotlight on Tamara Rojo's English National Ballet this season. LS
Considered by some as "the world's most popular living dance maker", Matthew Bourne takes audiences on a set of entertaining New Adventures this April at Sadler's Wells in celebration of his company's 30th anniversary. From a tour of Gay Paree in The Infernal Gallop to post-war vignettes featuring pas de deuxs and pastoral clog-dances in Town and Country, Bourne gives audiences a taster of his earlier works, and a clear reminder of his raw talent.
The ROH showcases two new mixed bills that are not to be overlooked. One contains the first revival of David Dawson's The Human Seasons, Christopher Wheeldon's After the Rain of 2005 and a piece by Crystal Pite that is so new it doesn’t even have a name yet. SS
The other features the first revival of Christopher Wheeldon's Strapless; The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude, a classic work by modern master William Forsythe (that has not been seen at the Royal Ballet for nearly 15 years); George Balanchine’s Tarantella and a new work by Liam Scarlett set to Sergei Rachmaninov's brilliant Symphonic Dances. SS
Ballet Black's Triple Bill — first presented at Barbican in spring 2016 — delighted a new generation of dance fans with an uncharted bold style of choreography. Artistic director Cassa Pancho commissions the triple bill once more, blending international dancers of black and Asian descent with edgy pieces from the likes of celebrated British choreographer Michael Corder and South Bank Award winner Annabelle Lopez Ochoa (who gives Red Riding Hood a surprising twist).
Barbican also brings Julie Cunningham — whose performances with Michael Clark Company have won her a Critics' Circle Award — back for a double bill that utilises dance and spoken word to explore gender and identity. Expect a hip hop-influenced reworking of an ancient Greek myth and tracks by Anohni (Antony and the Johnsons) offering a contrast in the artist's dynamic approach.
Ballet Black Triple Bill (Cassa Pancho): Barbican, 2-4 March, Tickets: £16-£30
Julie Cunningham and Company - Double Bill (Julie Cunningham Company): Barbican, 8-11 March, Tickets: £18
The Human Seasons / After the Rain / New Crystal Pite (Royal Ballet): Royal Opera House, 16 – 24 March 2017. Tickets: £3-£50.
Pina Bausch/ William Forsythe / Hans van Manen (English National Ballet): Sadler's Wells, 23 March-1 April 2017. Tickets: £12-£55.
New Adventures (Matthew Bourne) Sadler's Wells, 3 April-8 April 2017. Tickets: £12-£45.
The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude / Tarantella / Strapless / Symphonic Dances (Royal Ballet): Royal Opera House, 18-31 May. Tickets: £3-£100.
Dance with a twist
Inspired by Jonathan Safran Foer's book of the same name, Sadler's Wells associate artist Wayne McGregor's Tree of Codes comes to London following critical acclaim at last year's Manchester International Festival. The cast includes soloists and dancers from The Paris Opera Ballet and Company Wayne McGregor, with sets by Olafur Eliasson (think back to "that sun" at Tate Modern in 2003), and a score by Mercury Prize-winning Jamie xx.
Ex-Royal Ballet prodigy Sergei Polunin brings Project Polunin to Sadler's Wells, where he aims to create new dance works through the collaboration of artists, musicians and choreographers for both stage and film. This triple bill includes the world premiere of Narcissus and Echo, a piece co-created by Polunin in collaboration with composer Ilan Eshkeri, who wrote the music for Polunin's biographical film Dancer, and photographer and artist David LaChapelle.
A re-enactment of Casanova is brought to the stage by Northern Ballet — who in February won Best Classical Choreography at the National Dance Awards for their version of 1984. Don't miss a sultry, custom score from film composer Kerry Muzzey, played live by Northern Ballet Sinfonia, and designs from the Tony and Olivier award-winning Christopher Oram. Prepare yourselves for a fresh take on 18th century seduction.
It wouldn't be a dance season without Akram Khan. In a much anticipated return to Sadler's Wells, the artist performs in his tale of home and heritage — Desh — which first opened in 2011 to great praise. Stories spanning both Britain and Bangladesh (the homeplace of his parents) are brought to life by Oscar-winning visual artist Tim Yip, Olivier Award-winning composer Jocelyn Pook, writer and poet Karthika Naïr and slam poet PolarBear.
Tree of Codes (The Paris Opera Ballet, Company Wayne McGregor): Sadler’s Wells, 4-11 March, Tickets: £12-£45 (look out for dates, most shows sold out).
Project Polunin: Sadler's Wells, 14-18 March, Tickets: £12-£60 (look out for dates, most shows sold out).
Casanova (Northern Ballet): Sadler's Wells, 9-13 May, Tickets: £12-£45
Desh (Akram Khan): Sadler’s Wells, 31 May - 3 June, Tickets: £12-£45
Making a statement
Avant-garde artist Boris Charmatz allures audiences with an after-dark, off-site dance experience — danse de nuit — whereby six dancers move by "a palpable sense of urgency", taking into consideration events such as the 2015 Paris terrorist attacks, where people operate within a probable sense of danger.
Stirring duo Project O revisit how dance can explore, heal and challenge the violence and oppression that haunts our society in Voodoo (presented at Sadler's Wells as a two hour spectacle with four back-to-back showings). Experience two women's attempt at tapping into their individual and collective power, and communicating with the past, present and future.
Barbican gets eclectic, or perhaps electric, with Darren Johnston's Zero Point that fuses digital imagery with meditative choreography. Hypnotic light and video projections promise to fill the stage-space, along with an ensemble of Japanese dancers. Canadian composer and pioneer of experimental electronic music Tim Hecker provides an additional energy to power the piece.
The Place takes on Rosalind in a collaboration with Korean dancers and artists. Spearheaded by James Cousins, who in 2012 won the New Adventures Choreographer Award selected by Matthew Bourne, the show (as part of The Place's explosive dance season) tells the story of one woman's pursuit of enlightenment via the wondrous nights of a big city. Cousins prods audiences with the question, "Do women still need to take on stereotypical masculinity in order to find equality in our modern world’?
Rosalind (James Cousins Company): The Place, 15-18 March, Tickets: £12-£18
Voodoo (Project O): Sadler's Wells Lilian Baylis Studio, 12 May, Tickets: £17
danse de nuit (Boris Charmatz): Sadler's Wells off-site location, 17-20 May, Tickets: £20 (£15 concessions)
Zero Point (Darren Johnston): Barbican, 25-27 May, Tickets: £16-£30
Additional writing contributions from Sam Smith (SS), Lise Smith (LS) and Phillipa Ellis (PE).