Sadlerís Wells is Londonís premier dance venue. From flamenco to ballet, tango to crunk, tap to bhangra and more, all genres of dancing are covered at this theatre, which is over 300 years old. It hasnít always occupied the same site however, as it opened in its present building in 1998, and its history is as varied as its programming, with previous incarnations as a music hall, skating rink and prize fighting arena. In the 1920s Lilian Bayliss intervened as the venue had fallen into decline, and Sadlerís Wells began staging operatic performances such as Madam Butterfly and The Flying Dutchman. It gained a reputation for dance in the second half of the 20th century, and stars like Merce Cunningham and Marcel Marceau would appear. Recent successes include In The Spirit of Diaghilev and the two-week festival of Indian dance curated by Nitin Sawhney. The auditorium has an approximate capacity of 1,500 over three levels and prices vary according to seats. The theatreís income relies heavily on box office sales as well as funding from the Arts Council, and revenue goes towards commissioning new works Ė the commission Mambo 3XXI and Matthew Bourneís Cinderella earned Olivier Award Dance nominations.
The walls of Sadlerís Wells are lined with drawings illustrating the theatreís past, and itís certainly been a colourful one, from 1680 to the present day. Since Dick Sadler opened the venue, it has been a spa (thanks to the discovery of a medicinal well on the site, hence the name Sadlerís Wells), a wrestling ring, music hall, cinema, operatic theatre, fighting arena and roller-skating rink. Despite its many incarnations it eventually fell into demise, and closed down in 1915.
The role of rescuing the venue fell to Lilian Baylis, manager of the Old Vic. Under her management Sadlerís Wells ran a programme that mainly encompassed opera, drama and ballet. Today, Sadlerís Wells is synonymous with dance of all genres: whether itís flamenco, hip hop, manga-inspired contemporary dance or classical tango. Not only that, but it is in fact Londonís premier dance venue, with top choreographers like Pina Bausch and Merce Cunningham having premiered works here, and youíre just as likely to see a performance of The Nutcracker as the musical West Side Story.
The main building encompasses the main auditorium as well as the Lilian Baylis Studio, both of which have been creatively designed to ensure you can always see the performerís feet, no matter where you are sitting. In addition the Peacock Theatre is also owned by Sadlerís Wells, however this is located just off Kingsway, near Holborn.
There are refreshments provided at the bar and snacks at the outdoor cafť, but best of all is the restaurant, which has a small yet perfectly formed selection of dishes to appease most palates, from corn fed chicken to comforting fruit crumble, all prepared freshly on the premises.