Get a taste of the best dance in town at Sadler’s Wells Sampled

Outlier, Company Wayne McGregor. Picture: Andrew Lang

Outlier, Company Wayne McGregor. Picture: Andrew Lang - Credit: Archant

Sadler’s Wells Sampled returns for another year, offering newcomers cheap tickets to highlights from their upcoming season, finds Alex Bellotti.

Nothing signals the start of a new year at Sadler’s Wells better than the return of its flagship Sampled festival, which since 2007 has given audiences a tantalising taste of their upcoming season.

Whether you’re a connoisseur of contemporary dance or someone who shirks at the very thought of sitting through an hour of classical ballet, there’s plenty at this year’s event to discover.

As Anneliese Graham, head of programme at Sadler’s Wells, explains, the ethos of the festival particularly encourages those who might not visit the venue otherwise to come down and explore what’s on offer, through affordable pricing, bite size shows and specialist workshops.

“I don’t know whether we’re targeting a particular demographic, it’s more just anybody who might not have been to Sadler’s Wells before who perhaps doesn’t think dance is for them,” she says.

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“That could be people who are younger, people who are older; the idea is to make it an evening that hopefully as many people as possible can enjoy, and you’ll see also that the pricing is very low. That’s not always the biggest barrier to getting people through the door, but we know it’s one of them, so hopefully this attracts a wider range of people.”

Ranging from classical ballet to break dancing, hip hop and flamenco, highlights of this January’s offering include Company Wayne Macgregor, World Champion b-boy crew The Ruggeds, the return of BBC Young Dancer winner Connor Scott and finalist Vidya Patel, and Northern Ballet performing an extract from their upcoming production of 1984.

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Since taking over the festival, Graham says she has been keen to broaden its initially contemporary-heavy slant to acknowledge the venue’s worldwide influences.

“When I think about the programme, I’m thinking about wanting to represent some of what’s happening here in the UK, obviously with Company Wayne McGregor and also with the BBC Young Dancers, but then also to have the internationalism in there.

“If you look through our programme over the year, you’ll see that there are a lot of international companies on our stages, so I want to find a balance that reflects what we’re about.”

Even for loyal fans of the theatre, however, there’s still much to discover. Aside from the shows themselves, the foyer will be taken over by groups like Breakin’ Convention, who stage an international hip hop festival at Sadler’s Wells each spring.

Workshops meanwhile will give audiences a chance to explore the studios and talk to some of the performers, with events including an Argentine tango workshop led by Julia Hiriart Urruty and Claudio González; contemporary with New Adventures & Re:Bourne, exploring some of Sadler’s Wells Associate Artist Matthew Bourne’s creative techniques; classical Indian with Seeta Patel; and ballet with English National Ballet’s Youth Company.

“I think all kinds of different people are into different types of dance. It’s very difficult to say there’s a certain type of person who’s into ballet or hip hop; the lines are starting to blur and cross over,” says Graham.

“Someone may be attracted to [Sampled] because they’ve seen the Northern Ballet are on the programme doing 1984, which is coming later in the season. But then they may never have seen some hip hop, and then they get to see the world champion b-boys The Ruggeds as part of it and suddenly they’re thinking, ‘Oh hang on, I hadn’t even considered coming to see something like that as well’.

“That’s the great thing about this; there might be one artist who hooks someone in, but they’re going to see the real range of what we offer.”

Sadler’s Wells Sampled runs on Friday January 29 and Saturday 30. Tickets: Friday and Sat £15, £8 standing, Friday Schools matinee £10, £5 standing. Visit

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