January 2012

Diamond Nights at Brookes Studio Theatre 28th January 2012 – Susie Crow writes:

The seventh edition of Café Reason’s regular “Diamond Nights” was an intimate evening of poetic experiments in theatricality.  Introduced by Ana Barbour and lit by Pete Green, the performance began with Ayala Kingsley’s Trunk.  In near darkness assistants drew aside a black velvet curtain to reveal a trunk which began to creak and twitch, its lid tentatively ajar to reveal slivers of torchlight; then streams of bubbles, followed by two grey clad hands as exploring creatures.  Gradually the trunk opened to reveal Ayala as an enigmatic siren bathing and ultimately paddling off on a sea of fabric with her bath-brush… a succession of winning images worth developing.

Flavia Coube’s solo Child juxtaposed her insightful portrayal of childishness with a haunting song by Joanna Nielson which gave an edge of darkness.   In a baggy dress with oversized checks, and hair held by an unruly pink bow Flavia’s comical persona was communicated through wide eyes and ungainly limbs.  Admirable articulation in the fluid and expressive detail of every part of body and face gave this solo clarity and touching authenticity.

A powerful opening to Ségolène Tarte’s Splice as her shadowy figure found its agitated way to a central hanging rope and pool of light.  This work in progress has expanded since previous performances, building its emotional resonance as Ségolène has developed a vulnerable and shifting relationship with the rope, almost lending it life and a character of its own.  She is finding a personal dance language which integrates her balletic grace and vocabulary with strongly defined expressive movement.

Cellist Bruno Guastalla and Macarena Ortuzar continued their fruitful collaboration with Slate.  Sophisticated software allowed the live and recorded cello to be fragmented and randomly fed back and layered, creating an atmospheric sound world into which Macarena crept down the stairs.  Bent back with a layer of skirt over her head, she felt her way into the space with tremulous fingers.  At times she seemed headless, I lost the sense of which was her body’s back and front.  Once fully revealed the image conveyed by her demure cream frock was subverted with movement of delicacy and anguished grotesquerie, suggesting deep and painful stories.

Dariusz Dziala’s video short Cabbage was a lighthearted and surreal collage of images set to a Polish folk song, dazzling in its witty unpredictable invention and inclusion of dance footage both historic and of Café Reason dancers.  Here was editor as choreographer, making surprising combinations of literal and abstracted images dance.

Finally A Walk, a structured group improvisation by Jeannie Donald McKim, Fabrizia Verrechia, Flavia, Ségolène and Ayala with Bruno on cello and singer Janna Ferrett, triggered by Ivor Cutler’s Life in a Scotch Sitting Room, with playful interaction and exchange of a variety of hats.  Hats off to the Café Reason team this evening for conjuring up such arresting dream worlds…

Cafe Reason are hosting another ‘Diamond Nights‘ at the Brookes Drama Studio, Headington Hill campus this Saturday 28th January.
A variety of experiments and works in progress by members of Cafe Reason and invited guests with dance, theatre, live music, word and video.
They look forward to seeing you there.
Please arrive 7.45 for 8.00 start as the door opens straight on to the stage.
Donation (£3-5) appreciated.
For directions please check the Cafe Reason website:  http://www.cafereason.com

The first of what will hopefully be many Scratch Nights at The Pegasus.  One of the best things about taking part in this was the opportunity to see other artists’ work.  The evening was organised to enable sharings and audience feedback.  In total there were 8 works with a maximum of 8 minutes allocated to each act.

The evening was structured to show 2 performances followed by audience feedback to the choreographer/performers.  Claire Thompson, of Arts Officer of Oxford City Council and chair of Oxford Dance Forum took the role of introducing the pairs of acts and leading/facilitating the feedback sessions.   Each choreographer had been able to put forward specific questions about their work so the feedback could be tailored to suit each of their  needs rather than providing general, random opinions or unhelpful advice.  This structure worked well and enabled both performers and audience to focus.

I was performing in Paulette Mae’s choreography with Anja Meinhardt and Paulette in an excerpt from ‘A Suitcase for all Seasons’.  Paulette’s work explores attachment and is an interesting fusion of dance vocabularies.  We were 2nd on and this meant I was not able to catch the first act –Nomi McLeod who was spectacularly treating the audience to aerial work on a rope up close.

The next pair were Leslie Tomkins performing an individual and moving solo and Amarita performing flamenco to a projected still backdrop and a practise recording of her flamenco teacher in Spain.  ‘This is very unusual and in a theatre performance I would use live musicians.  In flamenco the musician follows the dancer’s tempo so it is strange to follow a fixed pre-recorded track’.  Leslie talking about his piece said he quite likes to ‘alienate the audience’ while audience members commented that his absorption drew them in towards him.  The two contrasted well with Leslie’s inward looking and relaxed style and Amarita’s strong outward presence and precision.

Segolene Tarte in ‘Splice’ presented a very different use of the rope –as a prop and dance partner.  (how amazing to have 2 rope pieces in one evening!).  She brought a light, playful touch which was also at times mysterious and full of emotional resonance.  Making good use of space and clear form she also took on a variety of body qualities which showed an ability to extend well beyond ballet technique.

Emma Webb stood in her apron and wellies amongst domestic debris and talked and made me laugh.  Making poignant the reality of home and ‘waiting’.  ‘I wait’ she says and there is news of a body on the beach which may or may not be her husband.  She leaves her wellies and her apron and reveals her beautiful dress and her dance.  We do not know if it was her long awaited husband or someone else.  This was a strong piece with plenty of potential.  The use of text and humour with the dance worked well.

The last pair of the evening were Jo Lott’s ‘Tender’ danced by Helen Wadge and David Hudson and ‘Water’ by Helen Tennison and Lucy May Constantini.  ‘Tender’ was an athletic display of contemporary dance which only began to express its softness towards the end.  Jo explained the piece is normally a trio rather than a duet and will have a filmed projection in the finished work.  The audience enjoyed the energy of the dancers and the choreography.

The very last piece was my absolute favourite.  Very refreshing and inspiring.  Starting from the apparently simple idea of ‘water’ it opened up an amazing world of possibilities and ideas extending from that one source.  While one performer sat quietly and spoke to us about the properties of water – scientific terminology, densities, uses, function within the body, the process of drowning, the other dancer moved across the stage behind her in an embodiment of ice.  Then the roles began to change and speaker became dancer and dancer speaker.  More and more facts about the world and water and a story and a desperate chalking out on the floor of shrinking ice caps.   Yet, as someone said so poetic.  What a treat!  I felt really excited to have seen this work and look forward to seeing how and where they extend it.

As a Scratch Night, a space for showing work in progress, we are going to be able to see many of these pieces in their more developed forms during the dance festival:

Flamenco Intimo  3rd March at The Pegasus: Amarita and guests

Moving with The Times , 9/10 March at Pegasus: Nomi McLeod,  Emma Webb and Jo Lott’s dancers

A Suitcase for All Seasons, 17th March at The Old Firestation ; Paulette Mae and dancers.

The Scratch Night had a very good turn out, a warm and sympathetic audience and a nice feeling of shared experience backstage.  Euton managed all the tech slots throughout the day and operated lights and sound on the night.  I also saw him stacking up all the chairs after the show.  We are very lucky to have him and Pegasus on the side of dance in Oxford!

Ana Barbour

A fascinating and evocative selection of photographic and other images of acrobats in the beautiful setting of the Divinity School, but only for one evening – catch it if you can…

Bodley’s Librarian invites you to join Harriet Heyman, author, and Acey Harper, photographer, in a conversation about “dancing on the thin edge of possibility”

Convocation House and Divinity School, Bodleian Library

23rd January 2012, 5.30pm (display viewable from 5.00pm)

Heyman and Harper will screen videos on the making of the book Private Acts, an extraordinary photographic record of acrobats in unexpected, open spaces. Refreshments will follow the presentations and there will be an opportunity to purchase signed copies of Private Acts.  Selected materials from the Bodleian illustrating acrobatics over the centuries will be on display.

The event is open to all but please register in advance:

Wilma Minty, Bodleian Libraries, Clarendon Building, Oxford OX1 3BG


Tel: 01865 277084

The Russian State Ballet and Orchestra of Siberia return to Oxford’s New Theatre for a short season 16th to 18th January. Formed in 1981, The Russian State Ballet of Siberia has quickly established itself as one of Russia’s leading ballet companies and has built an international reputation for delivering performances of outstanding quality and unusual depth. The soloists and corps de ballet are superb and never fail to delight audiences with their breathtaking physical ability and dazzling costumes.

“The dancing was sharp, precise and light of foot throughout…”  Oxford Times January 2010

Monday 16th, Tuesday 17th January 7.30pm:  Giselle

The most poignant of all classical ballets combines powerful emotions and visual splendour in a chilling and heart-rending tale of love, treachery and forgiveness from beyond the grave.  The story of Giselle and her aristocratic but duplicitous lover Albrecht is set to a glorious score and brought to life by the magnificent costumes and virtuoso performances of the Russian State Ballet of Siberia.

Wednesday 18th January 2.30pm and 7.30pm: The Sleeping Beauty

Every child’s favourite fairy tale, Sleeping Beauty is the classic story of love and magic set to Tchaikovsky’s sublime score featuring stunning choreography, sumptuous costumes and wonderful sets.


First Stage: Dance Scratch
Friday 13 January 7.30pm
Free event presented by Pegasus & Oxford Dance Forum

First Stage in the Pegasus Studio is where you the public can see new performances being made. This Dancin’ Oxford 2012 preview (it starts next month), is an opportunity to be the first to see new dance work in progress for the festival. Your post show feedback will help shape the artists’ final productions.
Suitable for ages 14+

Booking online http://www.pegasustheatre.org.uk or call 01865 812150

This is a Pegasus 50th birthday event