June 2013

Wayne McGregor’s Raven Girl is a brave experiment with narrative form, which springs from an exciting collaboration between author, designers, composer and choreographer.  Wonderful but subtle use of cinematic effect enhances the sepia-shaded set, and the choreography makes full use of the extraordinary technical capacity of the Royal Ballet’s principal dancers.

McGregor asked Audrey Niffenegger for a “new dark fairy tale”, and the result is a gloomy and sometimes macabre story, which includes a strong element of magic.  But magic does not make a fairy tale:  to be true to the genre, the story must, firstly, address what Bruno Bettelheim calls our “existential anxieties and dilemmas”, and, secondly, offer us a solution to them.  This, the ballet fails to do.  (more…)

The school year is drawing to an end and summer holidays beckon, so a good time to look at some holiday reading that might appeal to young aspiring dancers… Stars by Laura and Luke Jennings.  Our reviewer Dani Boucher is a Senior Lecturer in Education at Oxford Brookes University with a specialism in children’s literature and drama. She enjoys ballet immensely, both dancing and watching, and currently teaches RAD ballet classes for Oxford Academy of Dance.  She writes:

All the ingredients that go into this debut novel should signal a great deal of potential: a Booker-longlisted author and acclaimed dance critic writing with his teenage daughter for a similar-aged audience about an unlikely girl getting into stage school.  What could possibly go wrong?  On many levels, nothing is wrong with the concept and the execution will guarantee readers, but there is nothing new here, certainly nothing ‘unique’ as claimed by the cover endorsement.  (more…)

For those of you that have been missing that weekly dance fix… the live show, coming next week to Oxford’s own New Theatre.  Told through the eyes of the hugely popular Lisa Riley, under the direction of TV’s most notorious judge, Craig Revel Horwood, Strictly Confidential is a dance and music extravaganza, complete with sequins, spray tans and behind-the-scenes action from the BBC One Saturday night entertainment series.

Much-loved professionals Artem Chigvintsev, Natalie Lowe and Ian Waite will take your breath away with their exquisite performances of all your favourite ballroom and Latin routines, as well as their insider knowledge of the world of Strictly….  (more…)

The intentional obscurity of the social media campaign for dareyouwatch could be read as an unflinching self-awareness on the part of nocturn dance, a realisation of how the medium of dance is perceived, and indeed how at odds such an immersive and physical art form is with digital world. As an audience member, seeing dance performed is akin to the attending a live gig; it’s all about being there, being actively part of something even though you’re a spectator, and being so intensely aware of the physical achievements of the performers that it mesmerises you.  dareyouwatch is all about changing this, using social media to replace this sense of participation and, in fact, developing  it through direct interaction and involvement with the performance through Facebook and Twitter. Nor is this replacement a blind journeying towards inevitable progress, but an active attempt to shatter the perceived elitism that accompanies dance, or indeed any other form of high culture.  (more…)

Saturday June 1st was the eleventh in Cafe Reason’s series of Diamond Nights.  Conceived as a platform to share and show experiments and new work it continues to offer the chance to see interesting and experimental pieces in a small theatrical environment.

The evening began with Fabrizia Verrechia performing three pieces of Indian Classical Bharatanatyam dance.  Besides the beautiful, expressive dancing and lovely costume, Fabrizia introduced the audience to a little background information about this traditional form and also some of the meanings of the gestures.  This was interesting in itself and reminded me of the difference there can be in fully appreciating a classical dance form such as ballet and the means used to tell a story compared to a contemporary work.  (more…)

Luminous Shadows, saw a collection of nine dances teamed with a combination of live music and art. Three visual artists, Clare Bassett, Kassandra Isaacson and Susan Moxley sat at a table in the audience with their paper and inks on display. The marks that they made were simultaneously projected onto the backdrop of the stage by a camera suspended above their table. On stage between the projected image and the artists making it were two dancers, Ana Barbour and Susie Crow and to one side, the musicians Malcolm Atkins and Bruno Guastalla.  Luminous Shadows was created from a concoction of improvisations made in response to each artist’s work; some pieces more structured, others more spontaneous, drawing the audience into a conversation with the artists at play. (more…)

After the excitement of a bumper weekend of dance in Oxford, something perhaps quieter and more contemplative… Oxford dance artist and poet Paulette Mae has sent this invitation:

“I currently have a piece at the Jam Factory Boiler Room Gallery as part of Oxford PRIDE Festival 2013. It’s titled ‘the escapologist’ and will form part of my current performance project ‘sea me’, and has partly been inspired by public response to an image I posted in my blog. For more information please see website:

31st May-9th June

The Jam Factory Boiler Room Gallery, Holly Bush Row, Oxford, OX1 1HU

4Motion’s The Kiosk is an intense immersive work that confronts the tension between the freedom of digital connectivity and the threat of (corporate) control.  The kiosk itself, stage left, is a traditional phone box, used variously as a symbol, a metaphor, or just part of the set.  The performance begins with a single dancer crouched down inside the box, and ends with all six crammed into it, willy-nilly.

Sean Looby’s electronic sound track sets the pace and drives the action through a series of scenes that suggest by turns that we are enthralled, controlled and threatened by, or at the mercy of, technology.  Danced with raw energy and unquestionable commitment, this performance (the third of the evening) was bursting with ideas ripe for further development and refinement. (more…)