Sadler’s Wells is a world-leading dancehouse, presenting a year-round programme of dance of every kind to audiences of over 500.000 in London each year. It also commissions and produces original work and tours it to arts venues in the UK and overseas to annual audiences of over 120.000. Since 2005, it has helped to bring over 100 new dance works to the stage. Sadler’s Wells supports 16 Associate Artists, 3 Resident Companies, 1 Associate Company and 2 International Associate Companies. It also nurtures the next generation of talent through its New Wave Associates.
Its goal is to grow the public’s enjoyment and understanding of dance by making dance relevant, meaningful and enriching. At the same time it seeks to develop the art form by supporting artists and the creation of exciting new work.
Sadler’s Wells was not born of an artistic impulse but the discovery of a mineral spring in 1683. Richard Sadler built a music house around the spring to rival the fashionable Tunbridge and Epsom wells. Visitors to Sadler’s Wells could see entertainments that included jugglers, tumblers, ropedancers, ballad singers, wrestlers, fighters, dancing dogs and even a singing duck. In 1765 Thomas Rosman had the theatre rebuilt to mount high-calibre opera productions. However the theatre sank into the doldrums and closed its doors in 1915. In 1925, Lilian Baylis began fundraising to rebuild Sadler’s Wells so that the people of north London could enjoy the same opportunities as those in the south. With the help of Ninette de Valois, she dedicated Sadler’s Wells to opera and ballet. Ian Albery took over as chief executive in 1994 and led a 2-year rebuild campaign.
The theatre reopened in October 1998 with a design that still incorporates the skeleton of Frank Matcham’s 1931 theatre, which in turn contained bricks from the Victorian playhouse. However, the theatre once again struggled to find its voice and its audience. Alistair Spalding took up the challenge in 2004 and increased the number of Associate Artists. Today Sadler’s Wells not only promotes but also commissions and produces outstanding dance.
Building and facilities
The main theatre in Islington opened in 1998, after a major fundraising programme, supported by Lottery funding. Sadler’s Wells presents large-scale work by national and international companies in this 1.500-seat theatre.
The Lilian Baylis Studio, part of the Rosebery Avenue site, seats 180 and presents a programme of small-scale, studio work by established artists, experimental, conceptual work, high quality productions for young audiences and work by young artists and emerging choreographers.
The Peacock Theatre in Holborn is the West End home where popular dance styles from cultures around the globe are presented, including tango, salsa, samba, flamenco and hip hop as well as related forms such as circus and physical theatre.