This collection of essays, articles and interviews, accompanied by a DVD, is enlightening, entertaining and scholarly. Robert Helpmann joined the Vic Wells Ballet in 1933, and was a major influence in the development of ballet in England, but despite being the subject of three biographies (by Elizabeth Salter, Anna Bemrose, and Kathrine Sorley Walker), by the early years of this century his fame was fading and his choreographic work Miracle in the Gorbals (1944) was almost lost.

The story of this ballet’s miraculous recovery threads through the book, and draws together memories, commentary, film footage and analysis. (more…)

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Darius James and Amy Doughty’s Cinderella for Ballet Cymru is enthralling. As the lights go down, an invisible narrator speaks an introduction in Welsh, adding an extra layer of magic and mystery to the fairy tale, before the company tells the story with wonderful clarity entirely through dance.

Every aspect of this production knits together in an artistic whole: Jack White’s musical score fits the choreographic action like a glove; Citrus Arts’ aerial effects have dancers as birds, descending from the flies on silken skeins of cloth, and the ingenious use of projection replaces the need for sets and scenery that would clutter the stage. The quality of the dancing was excellent throughout. (more…)

The star turns of Alastair Marriott’s new work The Unknown Soldier are Es Devlin’s set and Bruno Poet’s lighting design, and if this had been an installation at Tate Modern, I would have been thrilled by the iridescent colours and the use of shadow. As a multi-media ballet at the Royal Opera House, it is less effective: at times the partially lowered curtain bathed in shimmering streams of rainbow light, or the large screen that descended from above, obscured the back of the stage; even from row C of the Amphitheatre sightlines seemed perilous. Marriott aspires to tell his story from a primarily female perspective, drawing on the recorded words of Florence Billington, who is shown in archive footage projected on the front curtain, and danced by Yasmine Naghdi. The other two named roles are for men; Matthew Ball as Ted Feltham (the soldier), and Leo Dixon as the Telegraph Boy, dressed in a kinky shiny uniform with see-through effect. (more…)

Audiences can’t resist the “joyously unpredictable” (Guardian) programmes danced by Ballet Black, returning for their third visit to Oxford Playhouse.

Led by Artistic Director Cassa Pancho, this company celebrates dancers of black and Asian descent, showcasing technique, precision and grace in specially commissioned pieces. As part of their latest double bill, Cathy Marston, renowned for her expressive and beautifully crafted work, has choreographed a new narrative ballet for the Company. Inspired by Can Themba’s South African fable The Suit, this is the first dance adaptation of the affecting short story.  Completing the evening is Arthur Pita’s Olivier nominated A Dream Within A Midsummer Night’s Dream, a heady piece of dance-theatre for which Pita also earned a Critics’ Circle and South Bank Award nomination following its premiere in 2014.

Performance:  Wednesday 7th November 7.30pm

Venue:  Oxford Playhouse, Beaumont Street, Oxford, UK, OX1 2LW 

Tickets:  £25/£20/£15/£10  Book online here or call the Box Office on 01865 305305

Age Guideline 12+

Duration: 1 hour 35mins with interval

Find out more about Ballet Black here

Read previous ODW reviews of Ballet Black performances here and here

The Olivier-nominated dance/theatre company LOST DOG tour their smash-hit production Juliet and Romeo to Oxford this autumn. Juliet & Romeo opened to packed houses and critical acclaim at a two week run at Battersea Arts Centre in London earlier this year. Broadly based on Shakespeare’s deeply pessimistic teenage love story, this “highly entertaining, extremely amusing and occasionally quite tender evening of theatre and dance” (Times) is performed by Lost Dog’s Artistic Director Ben Duke and Solène Weinachter. This clever, funny production explores contemporary culture’s celebration of youth and how it creates unrealistic expectations around love, sex and relationships. (more…)

Upcoming; a fascinating seminar being hosted by Dance Scholarship Oxford (DANSOX) and the Archive of Performances of Greek and Roman Drama (APGRD) at Oxford University’s Ioannou Centre.  Dr. Nicole Haitzinger of Salzburg University will be talking about the construction and reception of the tragic in Jean-Georges Noverre‘s dance drama Agamemnon Vengé; a chance to gain insight into the ideas and practice of ballet’s great and influential 18th century thinker.

Date:  Thursday 8th November, 5.00pm

Venue:  Outreach Room, The Ioannou Centre, 66 St Giles, Oxford OX1 3LU

Free, all welcome, no booking required.

Dance and Academia presents another thought-provoking seminar in its current series, which continues the theme What is Dance without an Audience?, following three seminars in 2017/18 exploring diverse perspectives from the dance world and beyond.  Convened by dance dramaturg Miranda Laurence, this evening includes presentations by Cathy Seago (University of Winchester) and Lizzie Sykes (University of Bournemouth), and by Lise Smith:

A Somatic Lens

Lizzie Sykes (screen-based artist) and Cathy Seago (dance artist) have been working collaboratively to generate work by asking somatic and filmic questions about content and presentation. We are exploring the nature, impact and materiality of the ‘screen’ and the ‘lens’ in mediating emergent work that has potentially live and digitised elements. Responding organically to site and place via a somatic and kinetic focus we have questioned the spectator’s role and impact on the work at different stages – be they live, mobile, choice-making, unsuspecting, distanced, imagined, and/or literate in particular codes. This presentation will share some of the questions, processes and findings about presence, perspective and environment for dance/ film audiences.

The Critic as Audience Member: reflecting on the role of the reviewer

We often think about the relationship between a Theatre reviewer and the artist reviewed or the work presented. But what about the critic as audience member? How does a critic’s place in the audience reflect and impact in their experience of a performance? How do they speak for, to and on behalf of the watching audience? And why does it sometimes feel like the reviewer and the rest of the audience have just watched two completely different works? Dr Lise Smith (often a reviewer, frequently an audience member, mostly a producer and sometimes a performer) opens these and other questions to discussion.

Date:  Thursday 1st November 2018, 6-8pm
Venue:  St Aldate’s Room, Town Hall, St Aldate’s, Oxford OX1 1BX
Tickets: £6 (pay cash on the door – please bring exact money if possible)
Reserve a place by emailing miranda@mirandalaurence.co.uk. Places are limited.

Dance & Academia: Moving the Boundaries is an Oxford-based project set up in 2007 and run by dance dramaturg Miranda Laurence. The project aims to facilitate dialogue between practitioners, academics in any field, and lay people, who have an interest in any aspect of dance or movement.
Oxford is a city with a rich academic heritage and is also host to a strong community of professional dance practitioners. Dance & Academia aims to be a genuinely interdisciplinary platform where intersections between research and practice in dance can be explored. The group welcomes everyone regardless of background, and intends to be an egalitarian space respecting and exchanging all kinds of different ways of knowing.
More information available here.

Dance & Academia is supported by Dancin’ Oxford festival.