Sadler’s Wells – only the best in dance and arts!
Sadler’s Wells has a history of over 300 years – six previous theatre buildings have all carried the name Sadler’s Wells and occupied the site since 1683. The name comes from the discovery of an ancient medicinal well in the grounds beneath the “musick house” as it was known back in the 17th century.
Mr Sadler, the then owner, was quick to promote those healing waters, and the popular spa was opened, attracting the masses. But “taking waters” fashion didn’t live long, and the building went back to it’s origins – entertainment. Jugglers, tumblers, rope dancers, balladeers, wrestlers, stage fighters, dancing dogs, and even a singing duck trod the boards there!
The surrounding area developed rapidly following the Great Fire of London and the music house thrived. By the 1840s, Sadler’s Wells was known for pantomime, light opera, and variety acts, largely because London’s three Royal Theatres had a legally enforced monopoly on ‘regular drama’. Next, fashion for Shakespeare productions followed.
At some point the theater was converted into a rollerskating rink and later, a prize fighting arena. In the closing years of the nineteenth century, Sadler’s Wells became a cinema, one of only three places in London where the new cinematography could be seen.
Now, Sadler’s Wells is the UK’s leading dance house, uniquely dedicated to bringing the very best international and UK dance to London audiences. From contemporary dance to tango, hip hop to flamenco, tap to kathak, choreographers are reinventing dance and undertaking bold collaborations with visual artists and musicians. I went there to see the SHOES musical – a song and dance spectacular that takes audiences on a journey from the lows of the croc via the agony and ecstasy of the stiletto to the highs of the platform boot. Written by Richard Thomas and choreographed by Stephen Mear, it also involved many top rank choreographers of today, including my favorite Kate Prince who did a marvelous “Into the Hoods” hip-hop musical a few years ago. Fresh and colorful, it was an eye candy for a lomographer. Pop culture at it’s best.
Sadler’s Wells Theatre & the Lilian Baylis Studio
London EC1R 4TN