The Bournemouth three year Residency of the Cohan Collective began in 2018 with a two-week Intensive, followed by a Development Week in 2019, and finally a three-week creative period in summer 2020.  In a normal year the final phase would have culminated in a live showing before a selected audience, but this year, because of the pandemic, the artists shared their work in a Zoom meeting.

We saw two works; one created for film and therefore complete, the other for the stage and so by force of circumstance not yet in its final form.  The sharing event was well planned, with opportunities for questions and discussion.  After an introduction by the  event moderator, Yolande Yorke-Edgell, Founder Director of the Cohan Collective alongside Sir Robert Cohan and composer pianist Eleanor Alberga, explained the purpose of the project: to enable artists to become their best creative selves through exploration and collaboration, with the support of mentors, and with the time and space to be both vulnerable and adventurous.  The moderator then posted the link to a film of the first work in the chat, so that we could all watch it simultaneously, before returning to the Zoom call for discussion.

We saw the first work, choreographer Edd Mitton’s The Quickening, without costumes, sets or lighting, filmed at the final point of preparation in the studio, before that vital shift when it should have transferred to the stage.  Three female dancers (Freya Jeffs, Sharia Johnson, and Abigail Attard Montalto), in black practice clothes, their heads initially swathed in white scarves that covered their faces, seemed to swim slowly in the air, drifting in space to Edmund Hunt’s composition for violin, double bass and piano.  The slow floating movements, to music that sounded like breaths of air punctuated by notes from a five-tone scale, evoked an atmosphere of the supernatural.  A man (Jordi Calpe Serrats) sits and seems to sense invisible presences, but not to see them.  He reaches out to hold them as they move around him marking the limits of his space as if they live within the four walls of his room.  He lies down, perhaps sleeping, and they carefully circle him anti-clockwise, extending their hands and hovering over him as if to draw him upwards with invisible threads.  They might be waking him, or they might be stealing his soul; they are like three witches, or spirits, or something that falls between reality and imagination.  They never quite touch him, until one clamps her outspread hand to his chest with the impact of an electric shock, and at last she dances with him.  In the end, they cradle him, and then let him slide to the ground and roll away, before each retreats to her own corner, leaving him downstage right, carefully moving his hand across the surface of the floor as if he can sense traces of ghostly footprints.

The second work, What Remains, by choreographer Dane Hurst and filmmaker Pierre Tappon to music by Ryan Latimer, made use of different locations and special effects, but the focus was nevertheless on the dance itself.  Romany Pajdak, dressed in white and looking utterly defenceless stands in a narrow alley way hemmed in by the high brick walls on either side.  We see clips of her running (towards someone, or away from them?) and Hurst, her partner, fades in and out of the picture as if he is walking in and out of her mind.  They dance a duet that contests the narrow space as if they are trapped in a dysfunctional relationship. Then Hurst dances a solo in the dark, filmed partially from above, before we see Pajdak again, in a derelict attic, where she discovers Hurst lying on the floor.  They circle each other warily, like cats, and when they dance together they are often not face-to-face, but one behind the other.  In the final scene, Pajdak, her back against a wall, tips and swings in two dimensions like a pendulum, until she subsides to the ground.

In the first Question and Answer session someone asked whether The Quickening was about Coronovirus.  Although neither work was specifically about the pandemic, both dances seemed influenced by related themes:  loneliness, isolation, vulnerability, and an ever-present invisible threat.  The absence of physical touch in parts of The Quickening and of eye contact in parts of What Remains echoed the lack of connection that so many people have recently suffered.

In discussion we heard about the ways in which the choreographers, composers, musicians, dancers, and their mentors, often working remotely from one another, had successfully addressed this year’s particular challenges.  Sir Robert Cohan spoke at the end, emphasising the difference between being an artist for oneself (which is easy) and being an artist for your community, creating work and experiences for an audience that they can understand:  the true artist finds new ways to see life and emotion, and our society needs artists, if we are to grow as human beings.  Through this residency, the Cohan Collective, together with partners  Yorke Dance Project, Pavilion Dance South West and Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and other supporters, has provided the professional guidance that prepares composers, choreographers, musicians, dancers and filmmakers to fulfil this essential role: it is good news that this year’s Birmingham Residency, although, perforce, postponed, is scheduled for 2–14 August 2021.

Maggie Watson

18th October 2020

You can find out more about the Cohan Collective here

Moving Together​ is a brand-new creative project by Oxford based physical theatre company Justice in Motion​, that explores loneliness and belonging. The company is working in partnership with anthropology researcher Dr Bronwyn Tarr, from the University of Oxford, posing the question ‘​Can we ease feelings of loneliness using movement and music​?’

Moving Together​ shows how shared experiences are important for personal and community health. This issue has become more relevant recently, as so many of us feel a sense of isolation.

Working with members of the public who are affected by loneliness, participants were asked to share their thoughts and ideas about their experiences. These conversations were recorded and set to original music composed by Quentin Lachapelle. Choreographer Gemma Peramiquel and dancers have taken these recordings and developed short dance pieces inspired by the voices and music. Filmmaker Michael Lynch has then created short films of the sequences that have been released online.

TAKE PART– Moving Together​ is part of the IF Oxford Science and Ideas Festival in October 2020. A selection of works are being taught in a series of online workshops to be performed in an online ‘flashmob’ experience, bringing people together in synchronised movement. This free event is taking place on 24th October at 4pm.

The project culminates with a Short Film being screened on 29th October at 6:30pm, followed by a live Discussion panel with the creative team.

To take part and join in, details for the workshops, Flashmob and Short Film for Moving Together @IF Oxford can be found here: https://if-oxford.com/events/?_search=moving%20together

The collection of video gifts can be seen here:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCX1u8UK3cC5KvkPNOPwH1qA/featured

To find out more about Justice in Motion and catch up on Workshop tutorials visit the website: ​https://www.justiceinmotion.co.uk

How far would you go for a better life?

Justice in Motion is an Oxford based Physical Theatre company aimed at raising awareness about social injustices. To highlight Anti-Slavery Day, they will be premiering a screening of their moving and captivating piece, BOUND. This will be followed by a Live Q&A discussion panel including Dame Sara Thornton (UK Anti Slavery Commissioner), Sian Lea (Shiva Foundation), Eddie Tuttle (Chartered Institute of Builders) and Anja Meinhardt (Artistic Director, JiM)

BOUND​ is a compelling, thought-provoking story of dreams and broken promises. Three desperate people take on the biggest gamble of their lives in the hope of a better future. They find themselves bound by a dark, sad reality. The three characters define, shape and rebel against their isolation and exploitation. It is their hope, optimism and resilience that is at the core of this powerful piece.

In a dynamic fusion of dance, circus, music, poetry, parkour and film Justice in Motion brings you a story of strength in adversity.

“despair and compassion with moving brilliance.” Oxford Times ★★★★
“unveils stories of hope and desolation in an imaginative and articulated way.” Theatre Bubble ★★★

Date: Sunday 18th October from 6.00pm

To watch this Premiere event visit:

http://bit.ly/BOUND-VIDEO

To find out more about Justice in Motion and the project visit:

The performance and Q&A will be available to view for one week.

Read Eleanor Jones’ review of Bound here:

https://oxforddancewriters.wordpress.com/2013/10/09/justice-in-motion-in-bound-at-the-pegasus/

Sharon Skeel’s biography of Catherine Littlefield underlines the fragility and ephemeral nature of dance careers, schools and companies. During the course of her short life, Littlefield, building on work begun by her mother, became Philadelphia’s foremost ballerina, teacher and choreographer. She headed up her own ballet company, the Philadelphia Ballet, which toured widely in North America and even to Paris, Brussels and London, and her school provided several dancers for Balanchine’s inaugural class at School of American Ballet. Since she died aged 46 in 1951, her contribution to the development of ballet in the United States has largely faded from memory. (more…)

“Modern dance is a bottomless pit of possibilities and I have only scratched the surface” (Paul Taylor)

This year’s DANSOX Summer School was, of course, conducted online. At a time when the coronavirus has made us acutely aware of our bodily fragility, I was particularly struck by a focus on the corporeal in these seven lectures, the first two concentrating on American choreographer Paul Taylor, the second of which is discussed in detail here. All of the lectures remain available on YouTube via the St Hilda’s website.

I must confess to not having heard of Taylor – but was relieved to hear from the webinar that followed that I was not alone. As well as Alastair Macauley’s guest lecture, I highly recommend his obituary of Taylor in the New York Times – the comments are a joy to read and show how highly regarded Taylor was in his native land. (more…)

The second DANSOX summer school was a triumph. Delivered remotely in the middle of a pandemic that has driven theatrical and academic activities online, it was a wonderful opportunity for an international audience to enjoy seven pre-recorded lectures on dance by practitioners, early career researchers, and a leading dance critic. The programme fell into two halves: a two-lecture memorial to Paul Taylor, followed by five lectures investigating the inter-textual and interdisciplinary nature of dance, and a concluding live Webinar on Zoom chaired by Professor Sue Jones.

Alastair Macaulay’s opening lecture was actually the last talk to be uploaded after which it was well worth returning to listen again to all the lectures in their correct order: Macaulay’s talk prepared the ground, sowing seeds for themes that the other speakers, whether by accident or design, picked up upon, including modernism and post modernism; the corporeal and abstraction; musicality; classicism; the visual arts, and the choreographer as dramatic poet. (more…)

Performing Epic or Telling Tales is a monograph companion to the edited volume Epic Performances from the Middle Ages into the Twenty-First Century (OUP, 2018). The monograph offers authors Fiona Macintosh and Justine McConnell an opportunity to investigate and seek to account for the increased popularity of story-telling and narrative in live theatre since the turn of the twenty-first century. It is not a book about dance, but the earlier edited volume contained contributions by dance scholars, and this monograph includes a chapter on ‘Telling Tales with the Body’.

Macintosh and McConnell start from the premise that twentieth-century theatre saw an anti-narrative turn (seen, for example, in the work of Samuel Beckett), and they seek to chart and hypothesise reasons for the subsequent (re-)turn to narrative that they perceive in theatrical works, including dances, since the millennium. In their Preface, they propose that this twenty-first century ‘narrative’/storytelling (re-)turn is often a turn to Graeco-Roman epic. However, their definition of ‘epic’ in the context of performance extends beyond ancient Greece and Rome, embracing other cultures and story-telling traditions, and oral modes of creating, improvising and performing, as they reflect on the ways in which epic can cast an alternative gaze upon contemporary society.

(more…)

Following the success of the inaugural Dance Scholarship Oxford (DANSOX) Summer School in 2019 at St Hilda’s College Oxford, a second, this time virtual Summer School is being programmed by Professor Susan Jones.  Events will be available to view on the Jacqueline du Pré Music Building’s YouTube channel from 16th July 2020.

DANSOX Virtual Summer School 2020 includes two strands:

Celebrating the work of the distinguished American dancer and choreographer Paul Taylor (1930-2018):

Alastair Macaulay (international dance critic and writer): lecture on the life and work
Parisa Kobdeh (ex-Paul Taylor dancer): on practice and technique.

New Scholarship on Dance: text and practice

Joseph Kay (composer) on musical notation and dance notation
Susie Crow (choreographer and writer): aspects of the ballet class
Marcus Bell (DPhil student, St Hilda’s) on Pina Bausch and the classics
Megan Smith (2020 English Finalist, Oxford): literary criticism meets fiction and performance in John Haskell’s The Complete Ballet: A Fictional Essay in Five Acts (2017)
Anna Chamberlain (2020 Art History Finalist, Oxford): Hilde Holge, German Expressionist dance and photography.

Find out more about DANSOX here and get ready for the Summer School by watching some past events here.

balletLORENT’s Rumpelstiltskin, is an engrossing story of love, parental betrayal and redemption. Rumpelstiltskin, a little boy rejected by his father the King following the death of the child’s mother, is cast out to live in the woods and hedgerows. Only the Shepherd’s Daughter is kind to him. They grow up, and when the Shepherd foolishly boasts that his daughter (Natalie Trewinnard) can spin straw into gold, the miserly King sets her to work, threatening to slaughter their sheep if she fails. (This is particularly poignant as the sheep are played by small children on all fours with sheepskins on their backs). Rumpelstiltskin (Gavin Coward) appears and for three long nights spins the straw into gold, in exchange for a ring, a kiss, and finally her first born child when she marries his father. When Rumpelstiltskin comes to claim the baby (there is an implication that the child is his), she breaks the contract by guessing his name. The outcast prince is re-united with his father, who conveniently dies, enabling the couple to marry. (more…)

Sonia Tycko is a member of Susie Crow’s intermediate ballet class in Oxford.  Huge thanks to her for providing this useful user’s starter guide to some of the vast amount of ballet training material online, as dancers seek for ways to keep their practice going at home… please do feel free to add your thoughts and comments below this post, and share other resources you may have found.  Sonia writes:

Although we cannot take class together in our studio for the time being, we can safely maintain and even build elements of our dance practices at home with online classes. In this post, I’ll point out a few resources that I’ve collected this week. Full-length online dance class offerings might be divided into two categories: live and pre-recorded.

LIVE

Live videos form a community of dancers, which motivates you to not only start but also complete a dance class in your kitchen. On YouTube or Instagram Live, you can see how many other dancers are watching the live videos along with you. Your fellow dancers’ written comments and “likes” throughout the session will give you some sense of their energy and engagement. It’s great that these videos start at a specific time because that can add structure to the day. The teachers are recording their videos in their own homes, and will only set material that you can fit into a small space. On the downside, live videos can have technical issues with sound and lighting, and of course they might not suit your schedule.

To locate a class, one starting point is Dancing Alone Together, which compiles a list of many styles of live-streamed dance classes, organized as a calendar: https://www.dancingalonetogether.org (more…)