Where To Watch Dance in London

By Ellie Smith

2 years ago

Shimmy down to these dance-focused theatres

Strictly superfan? Big on ballet? Whatever type of dance you’re into, London has a lot to offer when it comes to the performing arts. Read on for the best places to watch dance in London, from long-standing institutions to younger newbies.

Where To Watch Dance in London

Sadler’s Wells

Sadler's Wells, Overflow

Johan Persson

Clerkenwell theatre Sadler’s Wells dates back to the 17th century, when Richard Sadler discovered a mineral spring in the grounds of his music house – hence the name. Audiences came to enjoy the water – which Sadler claimed had healing properties – but also for the entertainment. Shakespeare, vaudeville and opera drew in the crowds there for hundreds of years, but it wasn’t until Lilian Baylis took over in the 1920s that dance became a regular part of the programme. Her belief was that ‘great art should belong to everybody’, and this sentiment remains at the core of Sadler’s Wells today. It now stands as London’s centre of contemporary dance, showcasing everything from ballroom to hip hop across its three theatres.

What to book: Rising stars and Flamenco veterans alike are being celebrated in this year’s Flamenco Festival, starring Spanish flamenco singer Estrella Morente, Latin guitarist Tomatito and more. 21 June – 2 July 2022. sadlerswells.com

Royal Opera House

The Royal Opera House interior

The Royal Opera House (c) Gabriel Varajay, Unsplash

With its palatial exterior and velvet-clad inside, the Royal Opera House is arguably the most glamorous theatre in the city. It’s famed not only for extraordinary operatics, but also for dance, being home to one of the most reputable ballet institutions in the world, The Royal Ballet. That means year-round ballet performances under the helm of director Kevin O’Hare: both traditional classics like Romeo and Juliet and Sleeping Beauty, and more contemporary works from resident choreographer Wayne McGregor. Be sure to have a glass of fizz at the glitzy champagne bar.

What to book: Christopher Wheeldon’s new full-length ballet is an interpretation of Mexican novel Like Water for Chocolate. 2 – 17 June 2022. roh.org.uk

Southbank Centre

Southbank Centre London Literary Festival

There’s always plenty to do and see at London’s bustling riverside arts centre, including an eclectic programme of dance. Expect everything from ballet to street dance, plus ‘works that defy categorisation’, with the venue’s international focus bringing together dancers from all over the world.

What to book: Akram Khan Company returns to the Southbank Centre after 20 years with Kaash (Revival), a dance production inspired by Hindu gods, black holes and Indian time cycles. 20 – 23 April 2022. southbankcentre.co.uk

Royal Albert Hall

Royal Albert Hall

Another London stalwart, the Royal Albert Hall celebrated its 150th anniversary last year, having been opened in 1871 by Queen Victoria in memory of her husband Prince Albert. It’s a world-renowned place to watch ballet, and is particularly special around Christmas time when The Nutcracker is brought to life amid the dazzling surroundings. But other types of dance are big here too: later this year, the Royal Albert Hall will host the International Ballroom Dancing Championships, for instance. The auditorium also puts on dance events where audiences are invited to get involved, with Albert’s Big Band providing the music.

What to book: As part of the Royal Albert Hall’s 150th anniversary programme, Matthew Bourne’s The Car Man is being reimagined with 65 dancers and musicians and a live orchestra. 9 – 19 June 2022. royalalberthall.com

The Place

Home to London Contemporary Dance School, The Place offers training in all types of dance – but it also presents over 200 performances a year. It’s a hotspot for discovering up-and-coming dancers, having nurtured many of the UK’s leading choreographers before they became well-known – plus it hosts the Resolution Festival, which is all about emerging artists. There’s a strong international focus, with upcoming performances including solo dance stories and acrobatic shows as part of the London International Mime Festival.

What to book: London’s celebration of the Korean dance scene returns this June for a fifth year, with works from four female choreographers, Jinyeob Cha, Bora Kim, Soo Hyun Hwang and Yun Jung Lee. 17 – 25 June 2022. theplace.org.uk

The London Coliseum

London Coliseum

The London Coliseum street view. Courtesy of the ENO

The city’s largest theatre, the London Coliseum was originally designed by architect Frank Matcham, who aimed to create the finest ‘people’s palace of entertainment’ of the age. It has since served many purposes, standing in as a canteen for Air Raid Precaution wardens during the Second World War and becoming a cinema for a few years. Nowadays it’s home to the English National Opera, plus visiting ballet companies throughout the year, with other types of dance on offer too. Shows here are guaranteed to be a feast for the eyes: the building is beautifully designed, and performances are staged with elaborate sets and costumes.

What to book: Strictly Come Dancing’s Oti Mabuse is joined by some of the world’s greatest dancers in a performance this July, featuring everything from jives to samba. 10 July 2022. londoncoliseum.org

Main image: Overflow at Sadler’s Wells


Where To Watch Ballet in the UK / Best Plays To Book Now