Backstage at the Ballet, an exhibition of photographs by Colin Jones, opened yesterday 11th February with a well-researched and entertaining presentation by Jane Pritchard, Curator of Dance at the Victoria &  Albert Museum, on Photographing Dance and Dancers.  Pritchard spoke interestingly and informatively about dancer-turned-photographer Colin Jones, the history of dance photography, and Jones’ photo-journalism, focusing on his work with dancers.  She drew attention to the wealth of social and historical information in his images, from evidence of the terrible quality of studio floors in the 1960s, to the way in which dancers used to spend their ‘down time’ knitting before there were mobile phones. (more…)

Attending the Dancing Human Rights event at The Old Fire Station on 1st February, curated by Dr Dana Mills as part of Oxford Brookes University’s Think Human Festival, was a deeply moving and thought-provoking experience.  Three very different pieces were shown and brought out different responses in me as I watched.

Eliot Smith’s solo excerpt from Pitman depicted the world of the coal miner with his lamp and shovel.  We felt his sweat and labour in the oppressive and cramped working conditions.  We saw the relentless drudgery but also the sense of pride and relief when at last he found the freedom to stand tall and stretch to full height again after a hard day’s work hunched underground. (more…)

In celebration of its 25th and last season of work, the Richard Alston Dance Company is embarking on an international farewell tour. The kind of endeavour you might normally associate with the break-up of a major band, or with Cher – who is perennially on her last tour, and I think has been saying farewell since at least the beginning of the last century, as is the whim of an eternal being. The scale feels only a bit different for Alston and his dancers. Final Edition: Oxford [1] is a culmination of many lives at work together, expanding the practices of modern, postmodern, and contemporary dance in the United Kingdom.

Because of his eponymous title the Etonian has a claim to canonical status and this tour could have become an overwrought monument to privilege and ego. Instead, what we witnessed in Oxford’s New Theatre on Wednesday night was a homage to a history of dance, branded, and shaped by Alston, advanced by collaborator Martin Lawrance, and most importantly, pulled off with immense style, presence, and love by a company of extraordinary dancers. (more…)

Another fascinating opportunity for discussion springing from the Backstage At The Ballet exhibition at The North Wall.  Researchers Dr Bronwyn Tarr and Joshua Bamford will bring Colin Jones’ photographs to life with an engaging discussion on their creative research into the psychological and physiological effects of dance and movement. Bridging the gap between science and dance – and photograph and the viewer – the conversation will invite the audience to explore how science can help uncover the power of moving with others.

Bronwyn and Joshua are based in The Social Body Lab at the Institute of Cognitive & Evolutionary Anthropology, University of Oxford, and both have experience as performers, as well as scientists. They are interested in uncovering the nuts and bolts behind the benefits of being part of a dancing community.

Joshua’s doctoral work aims to understand the social and cognitive processes involved in synchronised movement, through a range of audio-visual perception experiments.

Bronwyn (a TORCH Knowledge Exchange Fellow) is currently exploring how dance-movement therapy might help alleviate loneliness, and is collaborating with local artists to choreograph a performative piece on the embodied experience of feeling alone, and feeling connected.

Date:  Wednesday 4th March, 6.00pm

Venue:  The North Wall Arts Centre, South Parade, Summertown, Oxford OX2 7JN

Tickets:  Tickets for this event are free, but spaces are limited. Please email Nicky Laird, Gallery Manager, on lairdn@thenorthwall.com to book.

Further details on Backstage At The Ballet can be found here

The North Wall offers a perfect introduction to its exhibition Backstage at the Ballet with an expert guide.  Jane Pritchard‘s illustrated presentation will place Colin Jones’ photographs in the context of the work of his contemporaries. It will contrast the candidly captured life of a dancer on stage and off with the more formally composed photograph encapsulating the art of dance.

Jane Pritchard is curator of dance at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, where she curated the exhibition Diaghilev and the Golden Age of the Ballets Russes and displays of the work of photographers Chris Nash and Anthony Crickmay. She also writes, lectures and broadcasts on many aspects of dance.

Date:  Tuesday 11th February, 5.30pm

Venue: The North Wall Arts Centre, South Parade, Summertown, Oxford OX2 7JN

Tickets:  Tickets for this event are free, but spaces are limited. Please email Nicky Laird, Gallery Manager, on lairdn@thenorthwall.com to book.

Further details on Backstage At The Ballet can be found here

As part of Dancin’ Oxford 2020 The North Wall displays a collection of remarkable photos, Backstage At The Ballet.  Colin Jones (b.1936) is one of Britain’s most significant photojournalists but he began his creative career dancing with The Royal Ballet.  This dancer-turned-photographer focused his lens on fellow dancers as his subject matter, capturing hardworking bodies and backstage drama.

Jones’ backstage ballet photographs show not just the emotional intensity and beauty of ballet but also reveal the sustained physical exertion and discipline of a dancer’s life.  Photographs from the 1960s include Britain’s iconic ballerina, Margot Fonteyn and the Soviet-born Rudolf Nureyev as well as later images from the 1990s, featuring English National Ballet star Tamara Rojo.

This is the first exhibition in a public gallery of Jones’ ballet photographs, featuring rarely-seen backstage images of British ballet from the late 1950s to the millennium.

With grateful thanks to Colin Jones, Topfoto and principal sponsor St Edward’s School.

Dates:  Tuesday 11th February – Saturday 7th March

Venue:  The North Wall Arts Centre, South Parade, Summertown, Oxford OX2 7JN

Tickets:  Admission free.

Opening hours:  The North Wall Gallery is open from Monday – Friday 10am – 4pm, and from 12pm – 4pm on Saturdays. Sundays & Bank Holidays: normally closed, except for theatre events.

Related talks:

Photographing Dance and Dancers, Tuesday 11th February, 5.30pm: further details here

The Collaborative Research of Science and Dance, Wednesday 4th March, 6.00pm: further details here

Find out more about Colin Jones here

The DANSOX event Making “The Cellist” was an exciting opportunity to watch choreographer Cathy Marston’s creative process as she rehearsed her ballet based on the life of Jacqueline du Pré.  Du Pré, who died of multiple sclerosis (MS) at the age of forty-two in 1987, was an Honorary Fellow of St Hilda’s, and the evening began, fittingly, with a performance of Fauré’s Elegy in C Minor by St Hilda’s musicians Holly Jackson and David Palmer.  An open rehearsal, with Royal Ballet dancers Beatriz Stix-Brunell and Calvin Richardson, and discussion of Marston’s work followed.

Interviewed by her scenarist Edward Kemp, Marston eloquently described how her sister, a drama teacher, had used an old cello to stimulate improvisation, and realised that the idea held great potential for a ballet.  Marston is acutely aware of the sensitivity of her subject matter (her mother has MS), and rather than trying to reproduce the symptoms, she seeks to express what it feels like to have the disease.  She approached du Pré’s widower Daniel Barenboim at an early stage to gain his blessing, but the ballet is not an exploration of family relationships; it is about the gift and burden of talent. (more…)