August 2013


The artist management agency International Classical Artists has launched an audio and audio-visual label featuring archive material and historic musical performances by the agency’s own artists from around the world since 1953. Of 74 titles released to date under the label ICA Classics Legacy series, the catalogue includes a small collection of historic dance performances filmed in black and white, mainly from the 50s and 60s and featuring great dancers such as Fonteyn, Nureyev, Nadia Nerina, Svetlana Beriosova, Alicia Markova, and Galina Ulanova in classics such as Les Sylphides and Giselle, but also delectable ballets of the period such by John Cranko’s The Lady and the Fool, Ashton’s La Fille mal gardée with original interpreters, and the first act of The Stone Flower.

It has been a real pleasure savouring the particular delights of their Choreography by Bournonville disc, which includes not only a complete performance of La Sylphide recorded by the BBC in 1961, but also a bonus all Danish performance of the Act II pas de deux from 1960, and the Flower Festival in Genzano pas de deux recorded in 1974.  The Ballet Rambert production of La Sylphide was mounted by Elsa-Marianne von Rosen with loving care as to authentic style and dramatic coherence (more…)

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Serge Oukrainsky’s gossipy and sometimes catty memoire is very personal account, told largely from memory, of the ballet world in the early 20th century.  After a difficult childhood spent shuttling between Russia and France on his father’s whim, a pawn between estranged parents, aged 15 he embarked on a career as a painter.  He was over 25 when a chance remark at a dinner gave him the opportunity to take ballet classes with Ivan Clustine, initially with a view to partnering Nathalie Trouhanowa in some performances at the Chatelet Theatre.  In 1913 he joined Pavlova’s company, also meeting his long-term companion Andreas Pavley, and the book tells the story of his travels, including a narrow escape from Paris in 1914.

Anna Pavlova is barely mentioned before chapter 10.  At first, her performance failed to impress Oukrainsky (partly on account of her costumes), with the exception of Papillion [sic]:  “she appeared to me incomparable.  She was indeed a true butterfly … “.  (more…)

In The Heart’s Desire the world of the senses is revealed in voice and movement. Café Reason Butoh Dance Theatre and Moving Tone embark on a collaborative investigation into the five senses, Free Will, and the reconciliation of opposites among the classical statuary in the atmospheric setting of the Randolph Gallery of Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum, with a work-in-progress performance on this coming August Bank Holiday.  A chance to see the fruits of the first stage in development of a major new work, The Heart’s Desire, created jointly by Cafe Reason with voice artist Anne L. Ryan (Moving Tone). (more…)

Following on from the reviews by Rebecca Nice and Paul Medley of DEC’s Luminous Shadows performance at the Old Fire Station in May, Malcolm Atkins (with the support of Ana Barbour, Susie Crow and Kassandra Isaacson) writes about the group’s activities for forthcoming publication in the Open University Associate Lecturers’ Newsletter.  Oxford Dance Writers is delighted to be able to publish this account of the work of this local Oxford arts collective.

DEC Drawing Dance is a group of Oxford based artists who research interactions across different media (DEC stands for Demonstration, Exploration, Collaboration). We began improvising in collaboration between dance, music and visual art in 2009, increasingly using projection to facilitate immediate interaction between the work of visual artists and dancers and musicians, thus blurring the boundaries of performing and visual arts. Since an initial residency at the OVADA Gallery in April 2010, we have appeared twice as part of the Oxford Improvisers’ Cohesion Festival at Pegasus Theatre as well as at Cambridge Festival of Ideas 2010, and the opening of the Other Worlds exhibition at The Story Museum in 2012. (more…)

Following earlier reflections on new narrative dance works, it has been interesting to see dance/theatre pieces that turn their attention to the stories and dilemmas of dancers themselves, and in doing so test different theatrical formats…

As part of Oxford’s summer half term explosion of dance performances Break the Floorboards (in Punjabi “Chak De Phatte” or “go for it”) at the Oxford Playhouse brought an entertaining and upbeat mix of Bollywood and street dance to tell the story of young Zain who wants to be a dancer.  Torn between loyalty to his British Asian family and community and the encouragement of liberated street dancer Sophie who exemplifies the freedom to pursue a gift and a dream, Zain has to confront difficult realities and becomes caught in troubled situations before a hopeful resolution. (more…)