It’s perhaps a curious fact that there have been over 500 dance events at the Royal Albert Hall over the last century or so of its history. The venue most famous for music concerts, covering everything from classical to rock and pop, has also played host to performances by the legendary talents of Margot Fonteyn, Darcey Bussell, Carlos Acosta, Joaquin Cortes, Anna Pavlova and Alicia Markova.
But it’s not just ballet – the Royal Albert hall has seen performances in just about every dance genre, and from all over the world. Here are just a few of the landmark performances at the iconic venue:
June 1923 saw the first actual ballet event at the venue, featuring the world-famous Princess Astafieva who went on to tutor many of Britain’s greatest ballet dancers. The evening also featured ‘Little Alicia – The Miniature Pavlova’, a very young Alicia Markova. Little Alicia would later go on to become a founder dancer with the Rambert Dance Company, The Royal Ballet and American Ballet Theatre, and would become the first British Prima Ballerina Assoluta.
1926, and Noel Coward and Ivor Novello were guest at a Charleston Ball and Competition which began at 9pm and finished at 5am the next morning. Among the famous names in attendance were Lew Grade (later Lord Grade) who became the World Charleston Champion, and Hollywood legend Fred Astaire, who was one of the judges.
From 1927 to 1982, the National Folk Dancing Festivals were held at the Albert Hall. Originally run by the English Folk Dance Society, these saw the Hall filled with Morris dancers, concertina players and sword dancers. For the first ten years, the famed composer Ralph Vaughan Williams often took to the conductor’s podium.
April 1954 saw the grand final Performance of Alicia Markova, widely held to be one of the greatest English ballerinas of the 20th century.
Since 1953 the International Ballroom Dancing Championships have been held at the Albert Hall. It returns for the 65th championships on 12 October 2017.
1993 saw The Bolshoi Ballet Gala Season – billed as ‘The Dance Event of the Century’. For a five-week season, the Bolshoi performed in an auditorium that was transformed to feature a proscenium arch, along with the Tsar’s Imperial Box, to represent the interior of the Bolshoi Theatre. At the time, the dance stage was the largest in Europe.
In 1997 the English National Ballet’s Swan Lake was performed in-the-round before their patron, Diana, Princess of Wales. This was to be her last visit to the Royal Albert Hall.
Underlining the breadth of dance performed at the Albert Hall, 2002 saw visit of The Istanbul Historical Turkish Music Ensemble. Presenting the ancient spiritual dance ceremony of The Whirling Dervishes, this was a spectacular illustration of the famous religious ritual dating back to the 13th Century.
2011 saw the inaugural Dance Proms, a celebration of all forms of dance, from ballet to jazz, tap to ballroom. Each subsequent year has seen hundreds of talented young dancers from the UK and around the world perform (with special guest acts) in this exciting showcase event.
Since 2016, the Royal Albert Hall has hosted a regular Tea Dance in its auditorium. Those with a fondness for the ballroom classics can dance to the quickstep, foxtrot, waltz and various Latin numbers performed by ‘Albert’s Big Band’. This is all accompanied by the sounds of Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington, and Count Basie.
October 2016 saw the farewell performances of Cuban ballet superstar, Carlos Acosta. After an unparalleled career as one of the world’s leading classical ballet dancers, Carlos chose the Royal Albert Hall for a spectacular goodbye to adoring fans.
July 2016 saw the BBC Sir Henry Wood Promenade Concerts include Strictly Prom featuring, professionals from Strictly Come Dancing, performing styles from Vienna to Latin America with BBC Concert Orchestra and directed by English National Ballet Music Director Gavin Sutherland.
With preparation under way for the 2017 Dance Proms in November, and Birmingham Royal Ballet performing The Nutcracker over Christmas, the dance goes on at the Royal Albert Hall.