London's Sadler's Wells plans new theatre as popularity of dance soars
Dancers performs during a rehearsal of Matthew Bourne's The Nutcracker at the Sadlers Wells Theatre in London
By Michael Roddy
LONDON (Reuters) - The London dance venue Sadler's Wells announced plans on Tuesday to build a new 500-seat theatre to respond to what it said was a surge of interest in dance and to host more visiting companies.
It also set out its "busiest season ever" of dance for 2014 with visits in February by Germany's Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch and the Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan.
Later, there will be productions by French dancer and choreographer Boris Charmatz and by his countrymen James Thierree and Olivier Dubois, plus new works by Sadler's Wells' associate artists, including Akram Khan.
"Dance is perfectly placed to live in this global world," Alistair Spalding, artistic director and chief executive of Sadler's Wells, told a news conference.
"We can take our productions anywhere in the world and people 'get' them right away - and, equally, we can bring productions from anywhere in the world."
Spalding said that, with attendance running at an average of 88 percent, Sadler's Wells' three theatres were not enough.
"All the statistics are going upwards and what's clear is that, when there's more on offer, the audiences get bigger," he said. "We really want to take advantage to make it the art form for now."
Spalding refused to give even a ballpark figure for the cost of a new venue but flatly rejected one journalist's suggestion that it could be as high as 100 million pounds ($160 million).
He said it should be completed by 2018 or 2019 and would be built with a mix of public and private funds.
"It's not going to be luxurious," he said. "It's going to be an absolutely contemporary-feeling space that young audiences can enjoy ...
"There are so many companies who don't come here who should," Spalding said. "It seems an absolutely logical step to do this."
Spalding said he had transformed Sadler's Wells in his nine years at its head into a institution devoted purely to dance that produced its own work with choreographers such as Khan and Sylvie Guillem.
Choreographer Matthew Bourne's "Sleeping Beauty" last year had the best attendance for a Christmas production in Sadler's Wells' history, with 96,000 visitors, a press release said.
(Editing by Kevin Liffey)