Tim Podesta’s unsettling creation for Ballet Cymru explores the darkness that lurks within us, disrupting our relationships with others. It is a work that shakes assumptions about love, gender and sexuality as he pitches his dancers into a series of disconcerting encounters. Although there is no narrative as such, we see a succession of incidents, all told with Podesta’s distinctive part-classical, part-contemporary movement vocabulary. The piece centres around Mara Galeazzi, but this is a company work: every dancer matters and they have all absorbed and internalised Podesta’s style, with its use of strongly arched backs, forward bends hinged at the hips, swift precise hand movements, lifts in which dancers move torso-to-torso, and unexpected pirouette turns spiralling out of one foot. (more…)

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Birmingham Royal Ballet’s triple bill at Sadler’s Wells was a delightful and varied evening of dance. The programme opened with Ruth Brill’s interesting 2017 work Arcadia, danced to John Harle’s stunning saxophone accompaniment. Tyrone Singleton, a sinuous and predatory representation of the god Pan, weaves in and out of shadows cast on the stage against a background of huge arching trees, lurking and watching three nymphs. Through the influence of the goddess Selene (the elegant Delia Mathews) he is reformed, shows more respect, and becomes a better leader. This wishful topical narrative seemed a little forced, but Atena Ameri’s stylish designs and Peter Teigen’s lighting were highly effective, and the Chorus performed their bouncy choreography with energy. (more…)

This show promised huge energy, masculine physicality and comedy, and it didn’t disappoint. Playing out the power shifts between an older and younger man, the piece cleverly portrayed an ever-changing relationship. At once reliant and rejecting, the pair circled each other endlessly (both literally and metaphorically), each trying to gain – or retain – dominance.

The opening sequence set a striking, almost macabre tone: a series of frozen tableaus depicting the power play between the two characters was set against a dramatic score and even more dramatic lighting.   From this intense beginning, a much lighter and more accessible office comedy then played out. A pared-down but very funny script was performed seamlessly by Joshua Thomson and Gavin Webber; there was such a sense of flow and ease that I wondered how much of this was improvised – clearly the two men were having a lot of fun, playing games and sparring with one another. (more…)

A cross between The Office and a cage-fight, Australian style: straight from their critically acclaimed performances in Australia, The Farm presents the first UK tour of Cockfight, an exhilarating duet of extreme physical theatre that explores male behaviour and intergenerational conflicts. Coming to Pegasus Theatre on Friday 20 October as part of Oxford Playhouse’s Playhouse Plays Out scheme, it illustrates the interaction between two men from different generations, trapped in an all too familiar and universal environment – the office.

Born out of a very real relationship between performers Joshua (33 years old) and Gavin (50 years old), this is about two men who exist side by side, share space, resources, time and responsibility and justify their existence in relation to each other. Their physical action is underpinned by a fierce co-dependency in a duet of slow-motion fight sequences, interlocking rolls and tackles and Buster Keaton-esque battles of supremacy.

The Farm is an international network of highly respected artists, ranging from choreographers and independent dancers to musicians and designers. The artistic direction of the company is led by Gavin Webber and Grayson Millwood who have been making work together for the past fifteen years across four continents. Performed by Gavin Webber and Joshua Thomson, and developed by The Farm in partnership with guest artist Julian Louis, Cockfight is a powerful physical performance about male dominance and the exhibition of masculinity.

Performance:  Friday 20th October 7.30pm

Venue:  Pegasus Theatre, Magdalen Rd, Oxford OX4 1RE

Tickets:  £19 available from the Playhouse Ticket Office on 01865 305305 or book online at www.oxfordplayhouse.com

October 2017 marks the 25th anniversary of the death of choreographer Kenneth MacMillan.   The festival Kenneth MacMillan: a National Celebration hosted by the Royal Opera House brings together two weeks of performances of MacMillan repertoire by not only the Royal Ballet, but also Birmingham Royal Ballet, English National Ballet, Northern Ballet, Scottish Ballet and Yorke Dance Project, who will be performing his late work Sea of Troubles in the Clore Studio and on tour.  Oxford Dance Writers pays its own hommage to the master here: Susie Crow, a founder member of chamber company Dance Advance for whom Sea of Troubles was originally made and and herself an original cast member, writes about the work, its genesis, and the experience of reviving it for performance by today’s dancers.

Sea of Troubles was commissioned from Kenneth MacMillan by Dance Advance for touring to small and mid-scale venues.  It was officially premiered on March 17th 1988 at the Brighton Festival.  A tour of over 35 performances in what was then the Southern, South East and Eastern regions followed, culminating in two performances at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London. In the following year there were further performances by the company including at Madrid’s Festival de Otoño, and the company was supported by the British Council to perform it at festivals in China and Germany.  In 1991 the work entered the repertoire of Scottish Ballet for a few performances; and in 2002 it was performed by an ensemble lead by Adam Cooper and Sarah Wildor at the Exeter Festival in commemoration of the 10th anniversary of MacMillan’s death.  It was revived at short notice by Scottish Ballet for performance at the Edinburgh Festival in 2014; and in 2016 was remounted from the original notation by Jane Elliott for Yorke Dance Project, who are currently touring it and performing it at the Clore Studio at the Royal Opera House as part of Kenneth MacMillan: A National Celebration.  I was called in as a member of the original cast to coach and rehearse a new generation of dancers. (more…)

Following on from the examination of creative process in Rawaa, DANSOX provides an opportunity to examine and discuss the process of building an interpretation for performance. In a fascinating lecture presentation Performing Beckett renowned Irish actress Lisa Dwan discusses her recent work and invites discussion of her repertoire – especially Not I and other stunning dramatisations of Samuel Beckett.  She explores how her dance training enabled her to refine the all-encompassing performance technique and control required to engender the challenging physical requirements of Beckett’s plays.

Date:  Thursday 16 November 2017 5:30pm 

Venue:  Jacqueline du Pré Building, St Hilda’s College

The event is free and open to all but booking essential at Eventbrite here

For further information about Dance Scholarship Oxford events see also http://www.torch.ox.ac.uk/dansox: or contact Professor Susan Jones: susan.jones@ell.ox.ac.uk

Another fascinating DANSOX (Dance Scholarship Oxford) event hosted by St Hilda’s College Oxford bringing together thinking and practice, providing a rare opportunity to glimpse the process of creating a new ballet in an interdisciplinary workshop with writer, Marina Warner, choreographer Kim Brandstrup, pianist and composer Joanna MacGregor, and professional dancers.

Rawaa comes from Arabic – the root for words
 meaning ‘to water’ and ‘to relate’ and provides the dominant metaphorical motif of the ballet’s mood and movement.  Affinities emerge between poetic metre, musical pulse, and water management (water wheels, aqueducts) in Arab culture.  The ballet will offer a counterpoise to the orientalism of Scheherazade, exploring the inner lives and drives of legendary women performers from the Middle East who have attained mythic status.

Venue:  Jacqueline du Pré Music Building, St Hilda’s College, Cowley Place, Oxford OX2 9AZ

Dates:  Sunday 12th – Tuesday 14th November 9.30-6.30pm  Open to the public on Tuesday 14 November at 5.30pm to view the workshop in action.

The event is free and open to all but booking is essential; register here to attend. Open at other times by request – contact Professor Susan Jones.