ISMENE BROWN          

dance and arts journalism

An archive of 25 years of British dance

"What to some is splendid entertainment, to others is merely tedium and fidgets"



Adam Cooper, Sarah Wildor, Matz Skoog and Tory Dobrin talk with me in depth about their careers and lives - a series of hour-long filmed interviews for the Vyne Theatre and Dance Academy, Berkhamsted. YouTube @dancelegendsvynetheatre


     Pierre Lacotte

     Lynn Seymour

     Patricia Ruanne

     Bob Lockyer

     Ann Hutchinson Guest

     Clement Crisp

     Henry Danton


    Articles A – B

    Articles C – F

    Articles G – L

    Articles M – P

    Articles Q – Z


holds a selection of my published observations of the British and visiting international dance and ballet scene during my 30+ years as the dance critic of the Daily & Sunday Telegraph, The Arts Desk and The Spectator, and as the Telegraph's dance obituarist.

     You can find interviews with major performers and creators, features and commentaries on arts issues, reviews and previews of shows that seemed significant above the usual run (including premieres of some now-famous events), and a continuing tide of obituaries. Some reviews vanished in the shift to digital sites, and I have occasionally made up gaps with plain files.

     My reportage of the dance waterfront became loosely defined around the emergence and maturing of the ballet dancers Sylvie Guillem, Uliana Lopatkina, Irek Mukhamedov, Tamara Rojo, Johan Kobborg and Carlos Acosta, and the contemporary choreographers Akram Khan, Wayne McGregor, Russell Maliphant and Matthew Bourne, who added new distinctive presences to a landscape already richly characterised by the Ashton-MacMillan and London Contemporary Dance Theatre eras.

     In art-historical context, this was a conservative era, signposted by deaths of its giants - Fonteyn, MacMillan, Nureyev, de Valois, Cunningham, Bausch - and by the march of commercial globalism and co-production. Creative content was affected by an increasing insistence on box office performance, by socio-cultural and institutional politics, and by debates about dance heritage and the rationale of dance curation. Innovators who had diversified the landscape in the previous quarter-century were finding the road harder, and Britain's standing as a primary host for major foreign modernists was being shaken by economic winds.

     Still, even if many threads of performing history were stretching thin or snapping, the sheer volume and geographical spread of my coverage (of which only about a quarter is linked here) reflects the Telegraph's interest in including nationwide performing arts as part of its reader offering in that period. My cuttings indicate the blizzard of variety in dance-going up and down Britain – classical, neo-classical and contemporary ballet, modern dance, physical theatre, dance theatre, flamenco, hip hop, mime, folk dance, circus, jazz, cabaret, installation dance, video and digital work – with all their merging and mixing reflecting/prodding increasingly eclectic training systems, artistic experiments, cultural tastes and employment realities, all injecting fresh fire into the traditional rows about standards.

     Other opinions and eyeviews of different points in time have always been important in my own pleasure in dance, and it's in that spirit that I have assembled this archive. All views were mine at the time – I wonder what I would think now.

     I hope you find something to enjoy. If you want to republish or extract anything, or find a missing link, kindly email me.


  ABOUT ME      

I am an arts journalist and a Soviet Union historian. I was the Daily Telegraph's dance critic for 15 years (1993-2008), and their dance obituarist to this day, and The Spectator’s dance critic for two years (2014-16).     

     In 2009 I designed, launched and site-managed the award-winning critics’ site The Arts Desk (named Best Specialist Journalism Site in the 2012 Online Media Awards), spending three years as a founding director and its dance editor, and I write occasionally still.

     My broadcasting includes many years covering dance for BBC Radio 2's longrunning Friday night arts show and LBC's Big City, a Radio 4 documentary on Mona Inglesby's International Ballet, and interview films and presentations for English National Ballet, Sadler's Wells, the London Symphony Orchestra, The Place, and other arts companies.

     I trained as a pianist, singer and violist at the Royal College of Music, London, where I was inspired by visiting Russian musicians. Much later, after developing a wider interest in Soviet culture as a result of my ballet journalism, I taught myself Russian, and in 2014 I gained an MA in Russian Studies at University College, London.

     In 2021 I was awarded my doctorate at Oxford for my thesis on the Soviet politician and USSR Culture Minister Ekaterina Furtseva, on whom I continue to work.