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The UK’s most accessible ballet venues

28th June 2018

Ballet began during the Italian Renaissance and, interestingly, the term derives from the Italian ‘ballare’, meaning ‘to dance’. When noblewoman Catherine Medici of Italy married King Henry II of France, she introduced early ballet dance styles into court life in the country. Immediately, the extravagant costumes formed an important part of ballet. Ornate masks, pantaloons, headdresses and props featured in traditional ballet outfits. As the dance developed, ballets in France and Russia developed their own unique styles.


Today, some of the most iconic ballets, such as Swan Lake and The Nutcracker, are performed at venues across the UK and indeed, all over the world. However contemporary ballet productions are still being made, and the dance is ever-evolving. If you have a love for dance, it’s important not to let your limited mobility get in the way of your passion. Whether you need a stairlift or have a walk-in shower or bath at home, a day trip or weekend break away to enjoy a spectacular ballet performance can be extremely uplifting. For inspiration, read this list of the UK’s most accessible ballet venues.

Sadler’s Wells, London


In Islington, north London, Sadler’s Wells is an iconic performing arts venue. Specialising in all forms, from contemporary dance to ballet and flamenco, this is the place to go in the capital if you’re seeking an inspirational range of performances. The team at Sadler’s Wells discussed the history of the venue: “The current Sadler’s Wells building is the sixth to have stood on site since entrepreneur Richard Sadler first established the theatre in 1683. The venue has played an illustrious role in the history of theatre ever since, with The Royal Ballet, Birmingham Royal Ballet and English National Opera having all started at Sadler’s Wells.

“The current theatre building opened in 1988 and celebrates its 20th anniversary this October. Under the leadership of artistic director Alistair Spalding, Sadler’s Wells has become a world-leading creative organisation dedicated to dance in all its forms.

“With over three centuries of theatrical heritage and a year-round programme of performances and learning activities, it is the place where artists come together to create dance, and where people of all backgrounds come to experience it – to take part, learn experiment and be inspired.

“The programme of dance across its three stages – Sadler’s Wells with 1,500 seats, its next-door studio theatre the Lilian Baylis, which has 180 seats, and The Peacock in the West End with 900 seats – includes ballet, flamenco, Bollywood, tango, hip-hop and contemporary dance performances.”

According to the team, millions of people visit the three theatres every year, with many more attending touring productions at venues nationally and internationally. Sadler’s Wells commissions, produces and presents more dance work than any other theatre in the world.

When it comes to accessibility, the team at Sadler’s Wells are equally committed to ensuring everyone can enjoy their productions: “We are committed to ensuring that access to both our artistic programme and theatre spaces invites the widest audience possible to enjoy our performances. Access at Sadler’s Wells can be divided into three areas: access for the building, accessible information about performances and assisted performances of visiting companies. These three factors ensure that provision for people with disabilities is integral to the work of the whole organisation.

“Disability access has always been a top priority, and Sadler’s Wells maintains a tradition of providing accessible facilities to the widest possible audience.

“Our facilities across all venues are fully accessible and are equipped with lifts to all levels, induction loop facilities, wheelchair spaces, braille signage, adapted toilet facilities, handrails in auditoriums and cafés. The Sadler’s Wells Theatre has a small car park that can be pre-booked for patrons with access needs. Our Front of House staff have regular training on disability awareness and are always available to provide extra assistance to patrons who require it. We welcome guide dogs and they are able to accompany patrons inside the auditorium (although the ticket office are always very happy to look after them during the performance too!)”

The Lowry, Manchester


The Lowry is a registered charity dedicated to using visual and performing arts to ‘enrich people’s lives’. With an impressive programme of dance, music, opera, comedy and music, as well as numerous exhibitions throughout the year, The Lowry is undoubtedly a hub for culture in Manchester. Whether you’re seeking traditional ballet performances or a flavour of contemporary dance, you’ll find it here.

Accessibility was carefully considered during the construction of The Lowry. There is step-free access to the box office, toilets and performance and gallery spaces, a passenger drop-off point, automatic doors, lifts to all floors, wide access routes for wheelchair or mobility scooter users, accessible toilets on all floors, moveable tables and chairs in the restaurant, café and bar, and wheelchairs available to hire free of charge.

Take a look at the venue’s events calendar to browse what’s coming up in 2018 and 2019 and keep an eye out for performances by Northern Ballet.

Theatre Royal Windsor

In the shadow of Windsor Castle, few theatres can meet the high standard of this theatre’s location. Theatre Royal Windsor hosts classic pantomime performances, to new works due to appear on the West End, as well as spectacular ballet performances. Just 25 miles west of London, the theatre is easy to get to if you have limited mobility, and as well as its stellar line-up, the theatre’s prime location lends itself well to a short break. The Theatre Royal Windsor prides itself on being accessible to everyone, with wheelchair spaces, adapted toilet facilities and ramped access. To get into the Christmas spirit, look out for the Vienna Festival Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker, which will arrive at Theatre Royal Windsor on November 5th 2018.

Mayflower Theatre, Southampton


The Mayflower Theatre is the largest theatre on the south coast, with 2,270 seats in its grand auditorium. Bringing a diverse range of performances to Southampton, Mayflower Theatre presents numerous ballet performances, opera, comedy and dance. We spoke to the team to find out more: “We host ballet performances at least four times a year with four different companies in attendance. This is usually English National Ballet, Northern Ballet, Birmingham Royal Ballet and Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures. We then often have more niche ballets as well, for example this year we have Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo.

“Our aim at Mayflower Theatre is to provide first-class entertainment that can be enjoyed by the largest audience possible and we are continually striving to achieve this goal. In 2016 we achieved the Beautiful South Access For All Gold Award for Access, in recognition of our effort to provide accessibility for all within the confines of a 1928 building. We also offer an exceptional Access Membership Scheme for visitors that need to bring a companion. We also have an accessible entrance for users with mobility issues. We are refurbishing this summer and will be installing a changing places toilet as well.”

Theatre Royal Plymouth


As a leading promoter of theatre in the South West, Theatre Royal Plymouth is an excellent choice for anyone wishing to enjoy contemporary dance, ballet, opera and musicals. Producing and presenting in three distinctive performance spaces – The Lyric, The Drum and The Lab – Theatre Royal Plymouth has an exciting calendar of events all-year-round.

“We specialise in the production of new plays and have built a national reputation for the quality and innovation of our programme,” said the team at Theatre Royal Plymouth. “Our work with young people and communities is extensive and radical, taking place across all our venues and beyond. Our award-winning waterfront Production and Learning Centre, TR2, is a unique building with unrivalled set, costume, prop-making and rehearsal facilities.

“We have regular visits from Birmingham Royal Ballet, who usually visit twice a year (spring and autumn). For example this year, they brought their production of The Sleeping Beauty to Plymouth in the spring and they will be returning in October with La Fille mal gardee and Fire & Fury. We also have other dance companies visit us, though, of course, this depends on which productions are actually touring. We have New Adventures bringing Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake to Theatre Royal Plymouth in September, and there is a new full-length ballet from Rambert in November called Life is a Dream.

Theatre Royal Plymouth is fully wheelchair accessible, with accessible toilets and a lift to each floor, a low desk at the box office, a spacious restaurant and bar, and dedicated wheelchair spaces in all three venues. Hannah Gow, house manager, said: “If you aren’t coming along with an enabler and think you might want help moving around, you can request a volunteer companion who can meet you outside and assist as you need it. Otherwise, our staff are more than happy to help in any way that they can.”

Image credit: Theatre Royal Plymouth, Mayflower Theatre, The Lowry, Sadler’s Wells

This news article is from Handicare UK. Articles that appear on this website are for information purposes only.