Dance Umbrella, London's prestigious international festival of contemporary dance, opens its 23rd year on 3 October 2001. The five-week programme features a range of acclaimed choreographers and companies including Mark Morris Dance Group and Michael Clark Dance Company.

The schedule centres around seven main venues, including Barbican Theatre, Queen Elizabeth Hall and Sadler's Wells. This year's festival commences with Israel's Batsheva Dance Company, returning after an eight-year absence, with the premiere of Sabotage Baby. Originally founded by Martha Graham in 1964, Batsheva's 18 dancers are now joined by Orkater Music Theater, offering a live industrial soundtrack.

Elsewhere, the world-renowned Ballett Frankfurt perform London premieres of two William Forsyth pieces, Artifact and Eidos:Telos. Forsythe, who has also worked with the Royal Ballet, is widely considered one of the world's leading contemporary ballet choreographers. Eidos:Telos attempts to create a mythological underworld, where convention and logic are disregarded.

New York-based Mark Morris has been described as the 'Mozart of modern dance'. He formed his own company in 1980 and has since created over 100 works for the Dance Group, alongside works for the Paris Opera Ballet and American Ballet Theater. In 1997, the company won the Olivier Best New Dance Production Award for L'Allegro il Pensoros ed il Moderato. Their new world premieres, including Grand Duo, are all full company works, set to Schumann's Quintet in E flat and Monteverdi's madrigals.

Michael Clark is known to cinema audiences for his contemporary dance performance as Caliban, in Peter Greenaway's award-winning Prospero's Books. He won a place at the Royal Ballet School at the age of 13, but later turned down a place with the company. After forming his own unit, he later retired owing to drug addiction but returned to full-time productions in 1998. His troupe will premiere new works such as Before and After:The Fall.

Other highlights include a British debut for Philadelphia's Rennis Harris Puremovement, with a hip-hop Romeo & Juliet at the QEH. Other festival debuts will feature Canada's O Vertigo with Ginette Lauren's Luna, and Frederic Flamand's Belgian Charleroi Danses (pictured) with Perfume de Gardenias.

- by Gareth Thompson