December 2013


CATS, the New Theatre’s fabulous feline Christmas show, was off to a flying start last night, playing to a packed and enthusiastic house.  The longevity of this hugely successful musical is a tribute to the original production team, and in particular to choreographer Gillian Lynne.  The dancing never stops, whether it is a full blown dance routine or the exquisitely detailed movement of the cats in apparent repose;  a knee gently rubbing an ear, or one paw being carefully placed on top of another.  There isn’t a moment’s downtime for the cast, as each cat moves or pauses in subtly different ways.  Anyone who owns a cat will recognise the little quirks of kitten-like behaviour that have been so brilliantly incorporated into the choreography.

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If you love dance and love London, this book is for you!  Larraine Nicholas takes us on a series of imaginary walks, leading us through London’s remarkable dance landscape during three years at the start of the 1950s.  It was an exciting period that included the Festival of Britain and the Coronation, and dance was part of it;  not just  the big names, such as Sadler’s Wells Ballet and Ballet Rambert, but dozens of small companies, many now forgotten.  A single footnote lists eight of the “better documented” groups, and some, even of these, only lasted a season. (more…)

For those who still have Christmas shopping ahead of them and who are wondering what to give the dance enthusiasts in their lives, here is a round-up and reminder of some of the enjoyable and fascinating reads that have come our way this year and been reviewed on Oxford Dance Writers, primarily by our expert reviewer Maggie Watson. As well as biographies and works of dance scholarship, the list includes books for younger readers, and a DVD and CD for the Christmas stocking.  Several things here that will be going on my Christmas list… (more…)

The ultimate Christmas ballet treat coming up this week as Odeon Plus Culture programmes a live transmission by The Royal Ballet from the Royal Opera House.  From the very first notes of Tchaikovsky’s overture to The Nutcracker, a sense of mystery and magic pervades the theatre as Herr Drosselmeyer sets in train the events that will see his beloved nephew, Hans Peter, freed from the enchantment of the evil Mouse King by the resourceful Clara.  Peter Wright‘s classic production, first seen at Covent Garden in 1984, is an essential part of Christmas for audiences of all ages. (more…)

This remarkable book recently published by Dance Books, and including commentary by Robert Cohan himself, is far more than a dance biography.  Such has been the cultural and artistic impact of Robert Cohan that the chronological narrative account of his life also charts the introduction, development and establishment of contemporary dance as an art form in England.  It makes fascinating reading as the story of an exceptional life, while on other fronts the book debates problems such as how to balance the desires and expectations of audiences, critics, sponsors, and the various creative artists who are involved in any production. (more…)

For an alternative theatre treat to traditional pantomime, don’t miss CATSAndrew Lloyd-Webber‘s extraordinary record-breaking, smash-hit musical, coming to Oxford’s New Theatre for a Christmas season from 17th December to 5th January.

Adapted from TS Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, this wonderful blend of fantasy, drama and romance is set on the night that the Jellicle Cats meet for the Jellicle Ball in a sparkling fusion of music, dance and verse.   With an amazing musical score that includes the timeless Memory, spectacular set designs, stunning costumes and breathtaking choreography by Gillian Lynne, CATS is a magical musical like no other.  One of the longest-running shows in West End and Broadway history, CATS has enchanted audiences in over 300 cities around the world – now you too have the chance to experience this legendary musical phenomenon. (more…)

A Christmas treat for ballet-lovers – and in the wake of the recent court case convicting the attackers of director Sergei Filin, a welcome chance to be reminded of the on-stage presence of one of the world’s great ballet companies.  Oxford’s Phoenix Picturehouse will be retransmitting a 2011 performance by the Bolshoi Ballet of the  The Sleeping Beauty.

Cursed at birth by the evil fairy Carabosse, Princess Aurora descends into a deep slumber on the day of her 16th birthday. Only the kiss of a prince will awaken her.  Based on Charles Perrault’s classic fairy tale, The Sleeping Beauty has been hugely successful since its premiere in 1890. Marius Petipa’s masterpiece set to Tchaikovsky’s majestic score is one of the most popular and accomplished choreographic works in the classical repertoire. This recent version by veteran choreographer Yuri Grigorovich will captivate fairy-tale lovers and the whole family during the Christmas season, and features two of the company’s top principal dancers. (more…)

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