This Northern Irish dancer starts the year nominated for two Critics Circle dance awards for her work with choreographers Tom Dale and James Cousins. She’s a compelling performer who brings gravity, sensitivity and soul to the stage in contemporary and hip-hop-influenced work. The 23-year-old started her career with Joss Arnott Dance and then took the Oliver role in Avant Garde Dance’s Dickens rewrite, Fagin’s Twist, in which, said Guardian critic Sanjoy Roy, she was “a compact dynamo”.
This year she will be touring Dale’s solo I-Infinite again (see her at Spilsby Light Night in Lincoln in March), and working on an outdoor performance in a shipping container with the boundary-pushing duo Requardt & Rosenberg (Greenwich and Docklands international festival and UK tour). Not only a superlative dancer, Brown writes her own music and has ambitions to merge the two in a “visual album/dance film”. She plans to release a track and video from her first album in the coming months.
When Carlos Acosta picked her out from the Royal Ballet’s corps de ballet to perform in his farewell shows in 2015, we knew Anna Rose O’Sullivan was one to watch. In the intervening years, she has become a first soloist, and a dancer of delicate, fine-tuned footwork, effortless speed and bright joy.
Unfazed by technical demands, according to Royal Ballet director Kevin O’Hare, O’Sullivan is getting more and more chances to demonstrate that fact, her recent debut in the formidable role of Princess Aurora in Sleeping Beauty being a case in point. She’s played a lot of light, sweet parts, but last year’s debut as Juliet proved she can do tragedy, too, bringing a fresh, instinctive intelligence to the role in an exciting partnership with her longtime friend, Marcelino Sambé, as Romeo. See her this year as Olga in John Cranko’s Onegin, in Wayne McGregor’s new Dante Project, and in ballets by Christopher Wheeldon and Jerome Robbins.
The winner of 2017’s BBC Young Dancer competition, Nafisah Baba impressed the judging panel with her strength, athleticism, precision and focused presence. The win was a confidence boost for the admittedly shy Baba, although there’s nothing tentative about her performance on stage, as a dancer whose long limbs launch straight into the air, who can switch from a flying leap to a moment of stillness then flowing grace. She started ballet at the age of three, and it shows.
Since her Young Dancer win, the 23-year-old Tring Park graduate has performed the Afro-contemporary stylings of Alesandra Seutin, in Phoenix Dance Theatre’s Windrush: Movement of the People, and alongside the Soweto Gospel Choir in Inala. She next takes the role of Roxanne – she of the red dress fame – in Kate Prince’s Message in a Bottle, based on the songs of Sting, which premieres at Sadler’s Wells in February.
Not only a dancer but a choreographer, too, Kwame Asafo-Adjei won 2018’s Danse Elargie choreography competition and 2019’s Rotterdam International Duet Choreography Competition (with a €100,000 prize) with the work Family Honour. It is a taut piece of hip-hop theatre describing the pressures of family and religion on one young woman through a complex weave of meticulous gestures in place of words.
With a background in funk styles, house, jazz and contemporary dance, both formally trained and self-taught, Asafo-Adjei performs with intensity and articulacy, but more importantly he is an artist with something to say, drawing on his Ghanaian roots and everyday social realities. He’s the founder of the company Spoken Movement and has been mentored by performer/choreographer Jonzi D, who says: “Kwame’s work has developed into something potent and unflinching. Every gesture is filled with an intense intention, stillness and silences haunt the space and movements burst from suspense.” Asafo-Adjei will be performing Family Honour as part of Breakin’ Convention’s UK tour, beginning in May.
When Rambert launched its junior company, Rambert2, in 2018, the young crew, chosen from 800 auditions, was full of standout dancers, but it was impossible not to notice Salomé Pressac. Partly because of her bleach-blond crop, mostly because of her fierce attack, lushly melting limbs, powerful speed and all-round effortless cool – a combination that’s also seen her cast in music videos for Freya Roy, Nykki and Goldfrapp, as well as a Reebok ad campaign.
Trained at the Rambert School, Pressac has now been promoted into the main Rambert company where she can be seen touring the UK in Wayne McGregor’s PreSentient – she performs a fine opening solo – and in new dance/film production Aisha and Abhaya, at the Royal Opera House’s Linbury theatre this month. She’s also nominated for the emerging artist prize at the Critics Circle National Dance awards, alongside Jemima Brown. It’s the beginning of a stellar career, no doubt.