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Dance, reviews and dance reviews

Dance Review: Ultima Vez, What The Body Does Not Remember, Sadler’s Wells  

It’s fair to say that 28 years ago, the debut production by Wim Vandekeybus and his company Ultima Vez changed the face of European dance theatre. In a landscape dominated by neoclassical lines set to contemporary classical scores, Ultima Vez quite literally crashed onto the scene with a vocabulary built on combat rolls, whole-body assaults on the floor and some pretty dangerous-looking brick hurling. That the work still looks fresh and modern is testimony to how truly groundbreaking it was in 1987.

The opening section of the piece (sometimes excerpted as “Hands”) still thrills with its intensely rhythmic interplay between a lone percussionist at the back of the stage playing an amplified table-top, and the two floorbound dancers answering each musical phrase in movement. There’s almost something of a South Asian classical structure to this sequence – rhythms pounded out on a table (rather than a tabla) and repeated in percussive body movement – but with a hyper-physical twist that finds the dancers flipping upside down and landing in the plank position in ever-quicker, ever more impossible unison.

Critics dubbed the style “Eurocrash” (although the name has been fondly adopted since by fans) and it’s probably the second section that finds Vandekeybus’s choreography at its most aggressive. Dancers circle the stage with wild (but perfectly-timed) sprints and leaps, and lob plaster blocks across the stage with apparent disregard for the safety of their colleagues. The eye is repeatedly drawn across the stage by arcs of flying plaster, then surprised by action erupting on the other side of the stage. It’s a carefully-controlled form of anarchy, born of clever stucture and split-second timing with the constant danger of descending into chaos.

In fact, if there’s one criticism to be had about this revival it’s that the performers are a little too slick with the material. There’s certainly one kind of delight to be had from watching the absolute trust that springs from knowing with absolute certainty that a brick or a body will be flying to a certain place onstage at a given time. Veterans in the audience may miss the rougher edge of earlier stagings, however, in which the cast often appeared to be in genuinely imminent danger.

Later sections are more playful – a sequence with the cast parading across the diagonal in a succession of rapidly changing beach towels has something of Pina’s processions about it, with an additional lick of towel-based humour. Attempts to take a group photograph go absurdly wrong when one member of the cast seems unsure which way is up.

Vandekeybus doesn’t let us stay comfortable for too long, however – a lengthy central sequence sees three women engaged in an extended game of non-consensual frisking with three male partners. If it’s uncomfortable to watch when the men’s advances are clearly unwelcome, it becomes even more so when some of the women seem to enjoy the brutal attention.

The performance is accompanied by robust live music from the Ictus ensemble, some of it ear-grating polyphonia, some of it uptempo jungle ryhthms. Whether you enjoy the music – and the production – probably depends on how bruising you like your scores and your movement. If your answer, like mine, is “very”, there’s probably no more enjoyable show in town this season.

Touring until 20th March –

Originally published at


February 13, 2015 Posted by | Dance, Reviews | Leave a comment

Fiery Footwork, Flashy Fingers: Akram Khan And Israel Galván  

The always-watchable Akram Khan has been delighting audiences with his innovative combinations of kathak and contemporary dance for over a decade. No stranger to collaboration, this period has seen him work with artists as diverse as Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, Sylvie Guillem and Juliette Binoche. This latest duet pairs the British choreographer-performer with flamenco superstar Israel Galván in a performance that puts the shared roots of kathak and flamenco through a blender to create a new and sometimes dazzling form.

The silence in which TOROBAKA begins brings new meaning to the phrase “hushed expectation”. UK audiences are expecting something spectacular from the superbly inventive Khan and the number of Spanish voices overheard in the foyer suggests the pull Galván has on his home audience. The performance begins with a clapping of hands and a slapping of bare feet on the floor, rhythmic kathak cycles broken up with intricate flicks and taps drawn from flamenco. Rapid whirling spins from Khan’s vocabulary are broken apart with syncopated body percussion from Galván’s, the two swooping into bull-like charges and matador swishes.

The opening duet reveals interesting contrasts between the two master performers; while Galván’s fleet footwork matches Khan’s step for step, his upper body is wilder, looser and less precise than the serene Khan’s. It’s only when the Spaniard steps to the side for an eccentric solo of hip-snapping, ferocious foot-stamping and incredibly rapid finger-clicking that his flame comes fully alive. Galván is an electrifyingly sensual performer when given the opportunity to own the stage. It’s an opportunity Khan gives generously, allowing Galván the lion’s share of the stage time — a decision that will perhaps disappoint fans who have primarily come to see the British artist perform.

An international troupe of musicians provides a soundtrack melding Carnatic ragas with Hispanic harmonies, and quickfire mnemonic syllables with lusty Spanish counting. There’s a great sense of camaraderie onstage, and the work feels like a passionate exchange of ideas — intermittently brilliant, rough around the edges and sometimes lacking in substance.

None of which seemed to bother the ecstatic crowd at Monday night’s premiere. TOROBAKA doesn’t quite offer the sublime alchemy of Zero Degrees or Sacred Monsters, but it does offer a rare chance to see two compelling performers pushing the boundaries of their respective forms.
Originally published at

November 5, 2014 Posted by | Dance, Reviews | , | Leave a comment

Le Patin Libre – Vertical Influences, Alexandra Palace

Le Patin Libre in Vertical Influences

When Le Patin Libre first skated their way into London last year with The Rule Of 3 they brought a contemporary, spangle-free vibe to an artform more often associated with cheesy grins and tiny slithers of sequinned chiffon. With their deliberately pedestrian vocabulary, deceptively effortless unison and high-speed gliding, the Canadian troupe made skating as cool as the ice on which it’s performed.

Vertical Influences, a special commission for Dance Umbrella, returns the group to London as a quintet. The work is more studiedly abstract than their previous outing; instead of Rule Of 3’s character-driven narrative we have a series of formal vignettes with the focus firmly on the body in gliding motion.

There’s a loose theme of tribalism versus individuality; the five begin skating in almost martial formation to a heavy drumbeat that demands synchronicity. One by one, figures from the group break away into solo excursions that are almost always reabsorbed by the group again; the remaining four either fall into unison behind the breakaway soloist, or physically drag him or her back into the group. By the end of the show, the ensemble sections have lost their brutally syndicalist overtones and become a gentler, more graceful union.

Anyone expecting death spirals and triple salchows is likely to be disappointed; Vertical Influences is much more about gliding in elegant interleaving formations, speed-skating in slow motion, and clever footwork in thrillingly precise unison. There are occasional jumps and pirouettes woven into the movement material, and which greatly excited the gentleman seated next to me in the first half, but these are by far the least interesting thing about the performance.

Perhaps the most exciting moments come in the second half; with the audience seated at one end of the ice rink itself, the skaters hurtle towards us out of the blackness at electrifying speed, swerving away at the very last moment. The skaters glide like a well-oiled machine, unblinking as they advance on us, unflinching as they swerve away. It’s a gripping moment that only gains power in repetition.

Long-time company member Pascale Joidin brings an expressive athleticism to her UK debut. Bambi-legged Samory Ba is still the longest-limbed man on ice, a physical attribute used to both daring and comic effect in a second half solo that sees him flinging himself around his own legs and scampering across the rink on all fours. Choreographer Alexandre Hamel suffers from a few Wednesday-night wobbles in the first half, but in the beautifully-polished second half all is well.

With clear movement influences from hip-hop and b-boying as well as circus and dance theatre, Vertical Influences is a fresh, ice-cool take on contemporary figure skating. It’s great to see the troupe back in London, and it’s great to see Dance Umbrella branch out into new venues and new artforms in the name of introducing contemporary choreography to broader audiences. Keep your scorecards at home; this is best enjoyed as a piece of dance theatre that happens to be performed on ice, rather than an ice dance show.

Continues at Alexandra Palace until Friday 31 October (6.30pm & 8.30pm)

Originally published at

October 30, 2014 Posted by | Dance, Reviews | , | Leave a comment

Margrét Sara Guðjónsdóttir – Variations on Closer

Variations on Closer Image: John Ross Photography

Performer and choreographer Margrét Sara Guðjónsdóttir is a new face in London, but not in her native Iceland where she has made work for theatre and outdoor spaces since 2004. Since 2007 her work has toured internationally, and this year her work Step right to it is supported by the Aerowaves touring initiative. Earlier this year, Guðjónsdóttir was commissioned by Sweden’s prestigious Culberg Ballet. All this makes the third presentation in Sadler’s Northern Light season a rather frustrating evening, then, because none of the above explains howVariations on Closer comes to be such a naïve, sophomoric and at times frankly dull piece of work.

The concept is simple: three dancers enter the stage in turn and perform sequences of minimal movement, stepping or crawling across the stage in slow motion. Laura Siegmund brings a robotic, android-like quality to her repeating movements, sometimes jittering or malfunctioning for an instant; Angela Schubot throws in moments of anti-ballet – pliés that don’t descend, and cloches with the foot flully flexed; and Marie Ursin Erichsen, resplendent in her fuschia underwear, seems to have got lost on the way to a gentlemen’s club somewhere in Soho. All three fix the audience with unwavering stares as they move, suggesting an inversion of the usual relationship between performer and audience.

There is always a place in dance theatre for the minimal, the gestural, the austere. There is always a place for the academic, for the challenging, for the downright difficult. I’ve seen enough walkouts from performances by dancemakers I admire to know that one person’s thrilling dissection of the nature of performance and performance-making is another person’s mindnumbing aberration; there’s room on the London stage for all manner of art. But at the base of Guðjónsdóttir’s piece is an overwhelming lack of curiosity, a failure to scratch beneath the surface of a potentially interesting topic.

Siegmund, with her cold, mechanical stare probably makes the best fist of the performance overall; she has an unnerving ability to make her unending gaze appear Terminator-like, as if she’s calculating the most efficient way to take out the audience. She’s also the most capable mover, infusing supple limbs with a convincingly machine-like quality. Confrontational anti-performance paradoxically requires skilled performers; Siegmund fares reasonably well but Schubot and Erichsen are simply not strong enough technically or dramatically to carry off the deliberately unvirtuoisic material.

Towards the end of the piece a scarlet curtain abruptly descends from the rig, no doubt symbolising the constructed nature of performance and our role as audience or some such. I must confess to having entirely lost interest by this point. Minimalist performance, well-executed, can be a thing of provocative delight; but there’s simply nothing of inherent interest in Guðjónsdóttir’s material, or in the way it’s danced. A difficult watch, but not in the good way.
Part of the Northern Light season at Sadler’s Wells

Originallpy published at

October 7, 2014 Posted by | Dance, Reviews | , | Leave a comment

The Glow That Illumines – lighting and dance

Lighting for dance has become a field of expertise and artistry in itself. Lise Smith casts an eye over its background and speaks to some of its leading lights.

Photo: J Louis Fernandez.

As any physics student will tell you, a beam of light is invisible until it hits something to illuminate. In a similar way, the people who sit up in the technical booth and control the rhythm and direction of their beams of light onstage have, until recently, tended to be invisible to those who watch their work. We know there’s somebody up there – there’s a name in the programme and a gesture by the performers at the end of a show – but for many years the figure of the lighting designer him or herself rarely received much public attention.

Now that is changing, and the ability of lighting designers to transform and elevate a piece of dance is increasingly acknowledged. In addition to industry plaudits such as the Knights of Illumination awards, lighting designers for dance are receiving recognition for their collaborations with choreographers. In April 2014, designer Michael Hulls received an Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in Dance, indicating a growing appreciation for lighting as a vital part of the creative process itself and not a supplementary layer added towards the end. A generation ago there were no technical courses aimed at producing professional lighting designers for the theatre; now there are dozens, including three-year honours courses at Central School of Speech and Drama and RADA.

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September 30, 2014 Posted by | Dance, Features | Leave a comment

Poetry In Motion: Russell Maliphant And Sylvie Guillem In PUSH

Sylvie Guillem and Russell Maliphant in PUSH

When PUSH, a triple-showcase for the talents of choreographer Russell Maliphant, dancerSylvie Guillem and lighting designer Michael Hulls, premiered in 2005 it was praised for both the mesmerising beauty of the dance material and the beguiling performances of its two stars. In the intervening nine years, the programme of three solos and an extended duet has lost none of its stirring beauty, and both performers look as fresh as ever on stage. If anything, the final duet has even improved over time.

The evening begins with Solo, a short piece for Guillem set to the music of Carlos Montoya. Lusciously backlit in what looks like a pair of extremely stylish, diaphanous pajamas, Guillem glides about the stage with casual flicks of the leg up to her ears to highlight the rhythmic details in the music. Shift, a solo for Maliphant, finds the choreographer dancing ingeniously with his own shadow, tai-chi inspired movements softly unfolding across the stage as silhouetted versions of himself flit across the back screen. A simple idea, near-flawlessly executed, Shift is a fine example of what makes Maliphant such an endlessly fascinating choreographer, and his supple performance is engrossing to watch.

Two, a solo originally created for Malipant’s wife Dana Fouras, gets out and about relatively often; versions of the piece were shown last year as part of the Liang/Maliphant/Wheeldon triple bill and then again last month in Still Current. Guillem’s interpretation of the piece however is second to none; her absolute clarity and command are electrifying.

Push brings the two together in a weight-sharing duet of absolute trust. Guillem rolls down and across Maliphant’s body; she arches back from his shoulders in softly cantilevered falls; he pulls her up from the ground into lifts that seem to simply overlook the laws of gravity. There’s a lovely effortless quality to the movement that springs from a deep connection and chemistry between the two performers. Although there is no narrative as such, Push speaks of intimacy with a lyrical eloquence that the athletic, showy choreography of much modern work lacks.

These are the final-ever performances of the programme; lovers of contemporary dance will not want to miss out on this last opportunity to see two sublime performers at work.

Originally published at

July 30, 2014 Posted by | Dance, Reviews | Leave a comment

Lightness And Longing In Sadler’s Wells

One of the world’s most successful touring companies, Nederlands Dance Theatre has built up an ecstatic following in Europe over the last fifty years, but performs relatively rarely in London.  This repertory double-bill celebrates the work of Artistic Director Paul Lightfoot with his long-term choreographic partner, Sol León.It might be said that forty-odd extant Lightfoot-León works share something of a characteristic template: a large and active set that often becomes part of the stage action; a distinctive use of facial gesture; a single figure on the forestage in a state of partial nudity. Certainly the evening’s opener Sehnsucht (“longing”) nods to each of these conventions in turn; our partially-dressed soloist for the evening is the gaunt, sinewy Silas Henriksen.Behind him, in a revolving box spotted with furniture, Medhi Walerski and Parvaneh Scharafali slump across a table. Each dances tense, yearning phrases, like cinematic voice-overs hinting at the characters’ inner turmoil. The room rotates around them, leaving Walerski swinging from a dining chair or Scharafali rolling across a wall that becomes a ceiling. They exit, surprisingly, feet-first through the window. Gorgeously danced (of course) to luscious extracts of Beethoven’s piano works, Sehnsucht is an effective mood piece with innovative moments that later erupts into an exuberant ensemble, the whole company leaping bare-breasted in unison.

Schmetterling (“Butterfly”) is a less pensive, more joyful affair, a collection of short sequences performed to The Magnetic Fields’ quirky 69 Love Songs. With its jukebox soundtrack and playful choreography, Schmetterling could be viewed as a country cousin of Rambert’s recently-toured Rooster; this being NDT, however, there’s an undercurrent of deviant sexuality that Christopher Bruce could never stage. Legs whip around torsos and yawn into welcoming straddles; dancers shrug one another on and off like so many changes of clothes; and there’s just a little light BDSM in the mix. This isn’t cute-sexy like Bruce or elegant-sexy like Balanchine; this is rough-and-dirty-sexy, the dance equivalent of a swift seeing-to at the back of an Amsterdam nightclub, and so much the more fun for that.

Originally published at

July 2, 2014 Posted by | Dance, Reviews | Leave a comment

8 Facts About India That Might Surprise You

Shopkeeper in India

1. India is BIG

India is big. Really big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. Reaching almost 2,000 miles from Kashmir in the north to Tamil Nadu in the south, and a similar distance from east to west, the sheer scale of India means it is very unlikely you’ll be able to experience the whole country in just one trip. It’s best to select two or three key regional hubs (for example Mumbai, Panjim and Bangalore in the south, or Kolkata, Darjeeling and Lucknow in the north-east) and give yourself plenty of time to travel between locations — you can always return if you want to see more.

2. There are 22 official languages

Along with its physical size, India is renowned for its regional diversity — in language, culture, food and architecture. That diversity makes the country endlessly fascinating, even to those who have visited before — but it can make trying to learn the local lingo more challenging than usual for travellers who like to pick up a few phrases. Make sure you check the local language before you leave (Hindi won’t get you far in the south) and pick up an appropriate phrasebook or two.

3. There’s more to Indian cuisine than Chicken Tikka Masala

A trip to India will acquaint you with dozens of delicious dishes that aren’t easily found in the UK. Up in the hills you’ll find delicate steamed dum pukht slow-cooked in a sealed pot over a low fire; simply-cooked fresh fish in Kerala and Goa; and scrumptious masala dosa all over the south. One of the best ways to experience Indian cooking, especially if you’re spectacularly hungry, is an all-you-can-eat thali — a huge pile of rice served with several different kinds of curry and vegetable, topped up whenever your plate looks empty. Hard to beat for taste and value, the best are found at roadside cafes and served on a fresh green banana leaf.

4. Kolkata is a great city to visit

Kolkata (previously known as Calcutta) was for many years associated with poverty and overpopulation, particularly following India’s war with neighbouring Bangladesh in the early 1970s. In the last quarter of a century, however, Kolkata has seen profound economic and infrastructure development, and today is a beautiful and fascinating city rich with history and culture. Don’t be afraid to visit — and don’t limit yourself to the tourist centre of Sudder Street, either. Kolkata has much more to offer than backpacker hostels, and it’s a great place to begin a mountain trekking holiday in West Bengal.

5. You won’t be able to find a decent cup of tea

For a country that produces a quarter of the world’s tea, India as a nation really doesn’t seem to know what to do with the stuff once it’s grown and processed. Indian chaiwallahs overwhelmingly serve tea powder boiled in sweetened milk for upwards of an hour and left to stew all morning to produce a substance almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea. If you’re a fan of tea brewed the way God intended, it’s best to self-cater, using your own tea bags.

6. You can have a great trip to India without ever venturing into the “Golden Triangle”

Countless visitors to India spend their first encounter schlepping between Delhi, Agra, Jaipur and Varanasi according to an itinerary promoted by external agencies as a trip through the very best India has to offer. This tactic has led to the “Golden Triangle” becoming one of the most overcrowded, over-touristed, overpriced and underwhelming portions of the entire subcontinent. Not only are there other parts of India, there are other parts of India that are substantially friendlier, more beautiful, less polluted, and less generally stressful than these four cities. If you’d like to visit Rajasthan, try heading further west to the peaceful holy city of Pushkar or the lovely lake city of Udaipur; or why not approach Varanasi from Kolkata (see above) rather than Delhi?

7. The Taj Mahal isn’t the only beautiful building in India

The Taj is without a doubt India’s most iconic architectural site, and many people travel to the country simply to view it. That’s a shame, because there’s a wealth of other buildings and sites in the country that often get overlooked in the Taj’s shadow. The Sri Meenakshi temple in Madurai, Tamil Nadu is a striking example of Dravidian architecture; the Ellora caves near Aurangabad in Maharashtra are full of stunning rock-cut sculptures; and the 16th-century Mattancherry Palace in Cochin, Kerala is well worth a visit for its painted murals and polished wooden floors. Look beyond Agra, and India’s wealth of architecture might just surprise you.

8. Most Indians really do just want to help

The Golden Triangle (see above) and Delhi in particular are well-known among travellers for the number of commission-merchants and scam-artists whose primary motivation is to separate unwary tourists from the contents of their wallets; visitors to these areas are wise to be cautious. Outside of the major tourist centres, the majority of Indians really do want to help you have a good experience of their country; it’s not uncommon to be invited to somebody’s house for tea or dinner, and travellers to India often make lifelong friends with local people they meet on the road. Use your common sense and follow your instincts, but remember that the majority of Indians genuinely do want to give visitors a warm welcome.

Originally published at

July 1, 2014 Posted by | Features, Travel | Leave a comment

Top 7 Airport Faux Pas

The tickets are here, the taxi is booked and you’re all set for your holiday – now you just have to get to the departure gate unscathed. Here’s our hassle-free guide to airport etiquette so you can arrive on the other side of your journey relaxed and ready for fun.

Depressed traveller

1. Trying to take prohibited items onboard

It’s surprisingly easy to end up with an item in your hand luggage that shouldn’t be there – a bottle of water you thought would be a good idea for the flight; a pair of scissors that you forgot were at the bottom of the pencil case you grabbed on your way out the door; or a pair of eyebrow tweezers in your makeup bag that you had no idea could be considered an offensive weapon. Every day, hundreds of items are confiscated from unwary travellers by airport security staff – so make sure you check all the pockets in your handbag or hand luggage, and buy items like water and suncream once you’re safely flightside. And watch out for surprising items on the prohibited list – we once lost a delicious reblochon cheese that was deemed trop liquide by a Swiss security guard.

2. Going over your baggage allowance

Stuffing more into your suitcase than your baggage allowance permits can be a costly mistake to make – and an almighty pain to rectify, as you’ll have to either jettison excess items there and then or retire from the check-in queue to reorganise your belongings. Excess baggage problems are more likely on bargain flights, which typically have a lower allowance per person, so pack light and think twice about bringing heavy souvenirs home in your cabin baggage – it might be worth using a shipping service instead.

3. Wearing too much metal

It’s unlikely that you’ll want to travel in a suit of antique armour, but outfits featuring a lot of zips, studs or buckles will set off airport metal detectors and cause you a lot of unwanted hassle. Keep metal detailing to a minimum if you want a swift walk through security – and don’t forget shoes may need to be removed too, so avoid 16-hole laceups and choose something easy to slip off and on again. Don’t make jokes about drugs or bombs when passing through security – staff are obliged to investigate anything perceived to be a threat and you may be questioned or even arrested.

4. Getting too tipsy pre-flight

It might seem like a fun idea to get your holiday off to a flying start with a couple of rounds of margaritas – and nervous flyers in particular might like the idea of a shot of Dutch courage before the flight – but getting squiffy can mean you’re not paying attention to important information like gate changes and boarding calls. A couple of pints can also become very uncomfortable on the bladder once you’ve been sitting on the tarmac for forty minutes – it’s best to wait until takeoff before getting into the holiday spirit.

5. Being late to the gate

Seasoned travellers often wait for the last call before moseying up to their departure gate to avoid waiting around in a place with no amenities – but if you’re flying from an airport you don’t know well, it pays to check how far the gate is from the main departure lounge. Running through the airport with your name being called over the tannoy is not a good look for anyone – and if you’re very late, a flight crew on a tight schedule is very likely to take your luggage off and depart without you. In large international airports it can take 20 minutes or more to get from security to the gate, so check in advance and make sure you factor in enough time – and avoid falling asleep before you’re onboard!

6. Misplacing important travel documents

Everyone knows the most basic of travel mantras, “Passport, tickets, wallet”. You can get by in almost any country as long as you have these about your person – so don’t make the very real mistake of leaving your passport in the Terminal 4 toilets, or dropping your boarding pass while shopping in Duty Free. Early starts, jet lag and general travel stress can cause you to be dozier and less vigilant than usual, so make absolutely sure everything is where it’s meant to be before leaving for the airport and again after presenting your passport and tickets or boarding pass at check-in and security.

7. Going overboard with the smellies

Duty Free can be a beguiling place – so many lovely items to sample, sip and spray! But spare a thought for your fellow passengers when wandering through the fragrance aisle – excessive perfume or cologne can be a noxious thing to sit next to for eight hours. If you’re genuinely interested in testing a fragrance before purchase, stick to a small squirt on the wrist or inside elbow rather than dousing yourself in the scents of twenty back gardens. Your co-travellers will thank you for it.

Originally published at

June 21, 2014 Posted by | Travel | Leave a comment

Europe’s Best Hen and Stag Do Destinations

1. Berlin, Germany


Image by Zoetnet under Creative Commons license.

If your bride or groom is serious about their dance music, there’s only one place on the continent to go – Berlin, the clubbing capital of Europe. For no-holds-barred techno, head to converted power station Berghain on Friedrichshain in the East of the city, or for lighter house, disco and indie try Cookies on Friedrichstrasse in the centre. Should your dancing feet get tired there’s plenty more to experience in Berlin, from Trabant tours and the Brandenburg Gate to paintballing and indoor go-karting. The German capital is a city steeped in history, where you can party as hard as you want to.

Best for: dancing the night away

2. Dublin, Ireland

The friendly city of Dublin has long been a favourite of pre-wedding revellers year-round. In the winter, there are plenty of cosy firesides in the city’s many pubs where you can enjoy a slow, velvety pint of locally-brewed Guinness. Outdoorsy types will enjoy getting a round in on one of Dublin’s many spectacular golf courses, and there are lots of opportunities in the area for freshwater fly fishing. A visit to Dublin wouldn’t be complete without a trip to the Guinness brewery – find out what goes into the famous stout and then have fun sampling the end product!

Best for: a night on the craic

3. Soldeu, Andorra

Skiing, Andorra.

Is the bride or groom getting married between December and March? If you have an active group of friends and want to do something a bit more memorable than barhopping, try a short ski break in the stunning (and stunningly good value) resort of Soldeu in the Pyrenees. Blessed with an excellent snow record and a large ski area with over 50 runs to suit skiers and snowboarders at all ability levels, Soldeu is a great place to enjoy a sporty winter break. After sunset, there are plenty of apres-ski options from traditional inns to cocktail bars and a nightclub; and Caldea, Europe’s biggest thermal spa, will help the party look and feel their best before the big day.

Best for: winter weddings

4. Bodrum, Turkey

Bodrum, Turkey

Looking for a beach destination with a difference for a long weekend away? Picturesque Bodrum, on Turkey’s Aegean coast, offers golden sandy beaches and a warm welcome. Once you’ve soaked up the sun to your heart’s content there’s lots more to explore in this friendly resort – swimming, snorkelling and watersports; world-class shopping; and the fascinating archaeological sites of Ephesus and Didyma – great for history buffs to explore. In the evenings you can dine on delicious fresh-caught seafood and Turkish mezze – with or without live music and dancing.

Best for: beach babes and sun worshippers

5. Barcelona, Spain

Located on Spain’s sun-soaked Costa del Sol, Barcelona enjoys balmy weather year-round; but there’s far more to the city than its pleasant beach or a dip in the Mediterranean sea. Art lovers will enjoy an afternoon in the Picasso Museum, where thousands of paintings and sculptures by Spain’s most famous artist are housed in a palatial medieval building that is worth a visit in itself. Elsewhere, the works of Catalan artist Antonio Gaudi dominate the city, from the public gardens displaying his designs to the immense Sagrada Familia, which boasts superb views over Barcelona. A short train trip out of the city takes you to the mountains and the monastery of Montserrat – the cable car ride up is spectacular. And when it’s time to unwind at the end of the day, head to the main pedestrian thoroughfare Las Ramblas for a jug of sangria and a plate or three of tapas. Perfecto.

Best for: a weekend of culture

6. Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Amsterdam canals.

If the phrase “culture vulture” doesn’t describe your bride or groom tremendously well, you might prefer a more traditional stag or hen weekend in the hedonist’s paradise in the heart of The Netherlands. We could try to tell you that Amsterdam is a strikingly pretty city, with its network of waterways and attractive historic buildings; or that you can see priceless works of art by the Dutch Masters including Rembrandt and Vermeer in the Rijksmuseum. We know that’s not why you’re going to Amsterdam. That’s OK – we won’t tell.

Best for: classic debauchery

7. Krakow, Poland

The attractive former Polish capital city of Krakow is chock full of historical delights, from the colourful Wawel Cathedral to the narrow alleys of the Old Town. It’s also reputedly home to the highest density of bars in the world, with a typical pint costing a very pocket-friendly £1. Thrillseekers can enjoy a spot of white-water rafting on one of Europe’s biggest rapid courses; or if you’ve ever fancied yourself as a bit of a gunslinger, Krakow offers both target shooting and paintball. If that’s not your style, how about a more sedate cruise along the Vistula river?

Best for: Eastern European charm

8. Milan, Italy

Shopping in Milan

Image by Christopher John SSF under Creative Commons license.

Paris has its fans, but the true European capital of shopping is the lively north Italian city of Milan. Head to the stunning glass-roofed Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II near the Duomo; this 19th is home to Prada’s flagship store as well as Gucci and Louis Vuitton. Just a short walk away, the Via della Spiga boasts Italian favourites Armani, Cavalli and Dolce & Gabbana. If these stores are a little rich for your wallet, try factory outlet Il Salvagente on Via Fratelli Bronzetti in the east of the city for hefty discounts on a great range of designer gear – you and your party are sure to be the best-dressed guests at the wedding!

Best for: a pre-wedding spending spree

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June 19, 2014 Posted by | Travel | Leave a comment