Vienna Festival Ballet’s production Snow White is lively, entertaining and fun. Presented in the manner of a traditional nineteenth century ballet, albeit on a small scale, the work features a ballroom scene (with show-piece tarantella), a nod towards a vision scene with a corps de ballet of nymphs and birds, and a grand pas de deux in the second act. The musical score, arranged by Alan Lisk from works by Samuel Alexander Faris and Charles-François Gounod abounds in danceable tunes, and the costumes were delightfully colourful. (more…)

Still wondering what Christmas present to get for the dance lovers or converts in your life?  Here is a reminder of some great publications that ODW has recently reviewed, including fascinating historic biographies and stunning photography, plus an extremely tempting DVD… click on the links provided for reviews and details of where to purchase.  Particular thanks to Maggie Watson for the informative and perceptive reviews she has contributed.

Nadine Meisner 2019  Marius Petipa: the emperor’s ballet master

A major and groundbreaking volume, nominated for the Outstanding Creative Contribution in this year’s National Dance Awards (to be announced 19th February 2020). This is the first English language biography of the great ballet master behind such iconic works as Swan Lake, The Sleeping Beauty and The Nutcracker, massively influential in ballet’s development.  Full of historic detail it paints a fascinating picture of an intriguing character and the colourful world of 19th century ballet, giving tantalising glimpses of other forgotten works.  Essential reading; for further information read Maggie Watson’s review here  As an alternative to buying online, why not check it out alongside other fascinating dance publications by Oxford University Press at the OUP Bookshop, 116-117 High St, Oxford OX1 4BZ.

Michael Meylac 2018  Behind the Scenes at the Ballets Russes: stories from a silver age

For reviewer Maggie Watson “There is never a dull moment in this collection of interviews with dancers associated in one way or another with the various companies collectively described as the ‘Ballets Russes’.” Professor Michael Meylac has tracked the historic diaspora of dancers from the Ballets Russes companies across the world, and the lively reminiscences he has elicited from a wide range of artists paint a vivid picture of often racketty professional existence, including memories of some of the great teachers bringing Russian ballet schooling to the West.  A hugely entertaining read, check out Maggie’s review here

Darcey Bussell 2018  Darcey Bussell: Evolved

An autobiography partly narrated through the lens of the professional camera; a chatty album whose portrait “snaps” of its likable protagonist happen to be by photographic luminaries including Annie Leibovitz, Arthur Elgort, John Swannell, Lord Snowdon and Richard Avedon, as well as distinguished dance photographers such as Bill Cooper, Anthony Crickmay and Chris Nash. It tracks the intriguing development of a career beyond the Royal Ballet for this beautiful ballerina as model and media personality.  Read Susie Crow’s review of this luxurious coffee table book here and read Maggie Watson’s report of Darcey Bussell interviewed by Nick Higham at the Oxford Literary Festival here

Rick Guest 2019  Edward Watson: Portrait of a Dancer

You would need a substantial Christmas shopping budget to be able to afford this portfolio of Rick Guest’s stunning large format photographs of a particular muse, the remarkable and individual Royal Ballet star Edward Watson.  Maggie and Susie went to hear Guest and Watson in entertaining and thought-provoking conversation about their work together earlier this year at the National Portrait Gallery; read Maggie’s account here.  There are other volumes of Guest’s extraordinary portraits of dancers available at more affordable prices; read Maggie’s account here of his exhibition What Lies Beneath which is now available as a book.  Check this out along with examples of the Watson portraits here

Richard Allen Cave & Anna Meadmore eds. 2018  Robert Helpmann: the many faces of a theatrical dynamo

This collection of articles by dance academics and practitioners on the charismatic and multifaceted dancer and actor Robert Helpmann is a timely and valuable addition: as Maggie says, “enlightening, entertaining and scholarly”.  Emerging from the research leading to Birmingham Royal Ballet’s 2014 restaging of Helpmann’s powerful ballet Miracle in the Gorbals, it brings this major figure back into the limelight; including some of his own writings and a DVD with fascinating interviews and documentary footage.  Essential reading for those interested in the development of British Ballet during and after WW2.  Read Maggie’s review here

And finally…

Queen + Béjart: Ballet for Life

Available on DVD or Blu-ray this double bill includes not only historic live action capture of Queen and the Béjart Ballet in Ballet for Life, but also the fascinating recent documentary about the work by director Lynne Wake and producer Simon Lupton.  Edited by Emmy Award winner Christopher Bird, it tells the story of Ballet for Life and its success, featuring the great and the good of both rock and dance, including: Brian May, Roger Taylor, Gil Roman, Wayne Sleep and Arlene Phillips. The full performance at Théâtre Métropole, Lausanne in June 1997 was captured and directed by David Mallet, known specifically for directing live performance concerts of such megastars as Tina Turner, David Bowie, The Rolling Stones, and numerous Queen videos including Bicycle Race, Radio Ga Ga, I Want to Break Free and Freddie’s classic The Great Pretender video.  It includes incredible archive footage of Freddie Mercury, Maurice Béjart, and Queen, as well as Gianni Versace and his stunning costume designs. This release also includes a substantial segment of John Deacon’s final performance with Queen, taken from Ballet for Life international premiere with Elton John in Paris.

Ballet for Life was a unique collaboration between three cultural brands: Queen, Versace and the late visionary choreographer Maurice Béjart, celebrating the life and talents of legendary performers, Freddie Mercury and Béjart Ballet Lausanne’s former principal dancer, Jorge Donn, both of whom died of AIDS in the nineties. For Maurice Béjart, choreography was about the cycle of life, youth and hope, as well as life triumphing over death.  Already presented over 350 times around the world, this ballet continues to tour widely.  Those of us attending the DANSOX summer school in July were lucky enough to see a showing of Lynne Wake’s excellent documentary, which incorporates live footage of a new generation of stunning dancers rehearsing this powerful work.  A real Christmas treat; you can buy the double bill online here

Happy Christmas!

Nocturne is a unique collaboration between classical musicians and Joëlle Pappas Projects which fuses unusual French music and expressive contemporary dance, in a way that enhances and enlarges the audience’s experience. The music is far more than a backdrop for the dance; and the dance is far more than an enactment of the music.  See this first in the Ante-Chapel of New College, with further performances in and around Oxford scheduled for early 2020.

A solo dance piece accompanies lyrical live music and song, exploring the dynamic relationship of movement and sound.  Joëlle Pappas performs a new contemporary dance work to Fauré’s Nocturne No 1 and Takemitsu’s Rain Tree Sketch II. She takes inspiration from the life and sculptures of Camille Claudel (1864 – 1943) who, after being Rodin’s talented assistant and muse, spent the last 30 years of her life interned in a psychiatric institution.

Tenor Rory Carver (winner Le Jardin des Voix 2019) performs a sequence of 19th-century French songs with pianist Diana Hinds. The songs include Fauré’s much-loved Clair de Lune (set to poetry by Verlaine), Debussy’s magnificent Le Jet d’Eau (Baudelaire) and finishes with a lovely French gem  L’heure exquise (Verlaine) by Reynaldo Hahn.

Performance:  Thursday 12th December 7.30pm

Venue:  New College Ante-Chapel, Holywell Street, OX1 3BN

Tickets:  £12/£10 available on the door

Find out more about Joëlle Pappas Projects here or on Facebook here

Further performances of Nocturne in 2020:

16th February, 7:30pm (£15) The Abbey in Sutton Courtenay

24th February, 1pm  St Michael at the Northgate, Oxford

1st March, 3pm (£10)  St Nicolas Church, Abingdon (Abbey Chamber Concerts)

For a proper Christmas treat, why not join Vienna Festival Ballet at The Mill in Banbury on a magical journey with their unmissable production of Snow White.  Sparkling choreography propels this timeless fairytale and answers the question; who is the fairest one of all?

Based on the traditional Grimm brothers’ story, this ballet incorporates all the important elements – a beautiful girl, an enchanted mirror, a poisoned apple. Hip-hopping dwarves help Snow White find her Prince Charming.  This spellbinding ballet with choreography by Barry McGrath promises to entertain and dazzle the whole family.

“The entire show was captivating from start to finish”  – WELWYN HATFIELD TIMES

“An excellent company of talented young dancers. Their energy and enthusiasm is breathtaking.” – ENTS24.COM

“This production looks and feels absolutely right”  WORTHING HERALD

Performances:  Friday 6th December 5.00pm and 8.00pm

Venue:  The Mill Arts Centre Trust, Spiceball Park, Banbury, Oxfordshire OX16 5QE

Tickets:  Call the Box Office on 01295 279002 or book online at boxoffice@themillartscentre.co.uk

Find out more about the company at www.viennafestivalballet.com

Or on Facebook here  and Twitter here

Acosta Danza presented four works to a large and enthusiastic audience at Sadler’s Wells last night. The evening opened with Raúl Reinoso’s Satori, a piece that brought together movement, music, costumes and lighting with strong dramatic effect, unifying them in the dance. The visual impact was powerful right from the start, as spotlights picked out dancers, male and female, surrounded by huge circular skirts that spread around them on the stage. Billowing cloth created the illusion of a mountainous landscape viewed from above, as a dancer bourréed on pointe from side to side, facing the audience, her arms extended, like a hovering bird. (more…)

Professor Richard Beacham’s account of the rediscovery and re-generation of Hellerau as the European Centre for the Arts was both romantic and inspiring. Founded by Karl Schmidt and Wolf Dohrn in 1909 as a garden suburb of Dresden, Hellerau was an ideological attempt to create a community that would live and work in social equality and harmony in an idyllic setting. Hellerau became the home of an Institute and Festspielhaus that drew together the ideas and practice of the progressive innovators , and has been cited as the birthplace of modern theatre. Experimental work at Hellerau embodied theories in which architecture was subservient to rhythm, light created space, and the human body became the medium of transmission between dramatist and audience. These works of living art influenced dance, theatre, music and design in ways that are visible not only on stage but also in our urban surroundings today. (more…)

A fascinating opportunity at the Jacqueline du Pré Music Building to see dance and story telling from a venerable tradition in a new international collaboration.  Oxford based composer/producer Sebastian Reynolds and Neon Dance Director Adrienne Hart collaborate with award winning Thai dance artist Pichet Klunchun to retell the story of Mahajanaka Jataka; one of the oldest surviving folk tales in the world.  Bringing together eastern and western dance and music performance traditions, this enchanting production fuses ancient and modern with animated scenes from Bristol’s Sun & Moon Studios.

Informed by research trips to Bangkok to explore Jataka mythology and Buddhism in contemporary Thailand, and subsequent studio time in the UK, Mahajanaka Dance Drama previewed at Wiltshire Music Centre with an excerpt presented as part of the sold out Neon Dance Wild Card at Sadler’s Wells in 2018.

Performance:  Wednesday, 13th November, 7.30pm; pre-show talk with Dr Sarah Shaw 7.00pm

Venue:  Jacqueline du Pre Music Building, St Hilda’s College, Cowley Place, Oxford OX4 1DY
Tickets:  £13 stalls, £18 gallery, £5 students  Book tickets online here

Find out more about Neon Dance projects here