For the last fortnight the Pegasus Theatre has been the welcoming centre for Dancin’ Oxford; hosting workshops, open rehearsals and performances, its cheerful upstairs café bar a meeting place for the Oxford dance community as well as a varied public.  After showcasing new works by local artists in Moving with the Times, and Hannah de Cancho’s company Sole Rebel Tap, last week saw performances by festival guests Balbir Singh Dance Company and TV’s “I Got To Dance” semi-finalists Cerebro offering two very different evenings of predominantly male dancing.

Yorkshire based Balbir Singh Dance Company began in more didactic mode with two solo performances in traditional Indian dance forms and costuming, helpfully rooting the more experimental work to come later in the programme, and paying homage to rich traditions; the solos a little dutiful and predictable in their symmetrical composition, respectful rather than exciting.  Balbir Singh showed clean cut bharatanatyam with sculpted arms and powerfully percussive footwork.  Good to be able to compare this style with Scheherazaad Cooper’s deliberate, decorative and curvaceous Odissi interpretation, her performance assured, with vivid eyes and story telling.

In the second half a third form, Kathak, was fused with contemporary dance in a duet for Balbir Singh and antipodean Francis Christeller.  Soberly clad in dark singlets and trousers (cargo pants seem to be essential garb for male contemporary dancers these days…) these two fine dancers moved between pools of light, echoing and complementing each other in moves which melded elements of both their disciplines, accompanied – or lead? – by beturbaned beatboxer Bigg Taj and John Ball on tabla, providing a sensitive score, a contemplative commentary on the breathing impulses of the dance.  I enjoyed shimmering articulated gesture and line, and the shifting emphasis, but found Decreasing Infinity perhaps too self absorbed to engage the emotions and transcend its starting point.

The likeable and entertaining antics of Cerebro at the weekend in I Just Wanna Dance struck a very different note before an enthusiastic cheering audience of fans, teenage girls and family groups.  A succession of short, energetic and comical vignettes on film and on stage followed the course of a day in the life of the seven dancers in North London; in the bathroom, chasing the bus, in college, playing football, at a club.  Moving the action slickly forward the dancers demonstrated a range of breakdancing and acrobatic skills, but also an ability to communicate directly with an audience.  They each emerged as quirky individuals; the ringleaders the cheeky Jamie and tall joker Kyle.  I could not help but compare the show with last year’s superlative performance of a similarly structured piece by Blanca Li Company in Electro Kif, and wish that Cerebro’s dance passages had been longer, more developed and more choreographically interesting; but there is no denying their exuberant swagger.

Susie Crow

12th March 2013

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