March 2014

Visible Music; playing the past, dancing the present brings together top performers from Ballet in Small Spaces and Barefoot Opera, in performances in Bristol, London, and at Oxford’s The North Wall on  25th, 27th and 29th April.  This intimate and pleasurable evening of dance and music in collaboration conjures forgotten pasts into present life through danced realisations of unusual repertoire.  The salon pieces of 18th century composer and viola da gamba virtuoso Carl Friedrich Abel range in character from exuberant and playful to wistful and melancholic.  They are the inspiration for Two old instruments in which Jonathan Rees and Susie Crow of Ballet in Small Spaces reflect on history and memory.  Dances, Oracles, Mysteries features pianists Julian Jacobson and Mariko Brown, singer Jenny Miller and dancers Chiara Vinci and Francesco Mangiacasale in evocative response to Debussy piano pieces, songs, and the composer’s little-known ballet Khamma, blurring the boundaries between performing disciplines to create a subtle but exhilarating narrative.


An evening of many delights beckons next Saturday 5th April at an unusual Oxford venue, St Columba’s Church.  Oxford based company MUE (dance/sound/light) join forces with French melodeon stars Emmanuel Pariselle and Christian Maes in concert.


This coming weekend Friday to Sunday 28th to 30th March Oxford can enjoy the 2014 edition of the Oxford Tango Festival, hosted by Lady Margaret Hall, with a tempting mix of performance, social dance events and workshops at a range of levels featuring visiting professional artists from Buenos Aires. Here is your chance to make the acquaintance of this absorbing dance form, or polish your skills at one of numerous sessions given by expert practitioners at a variety of levels. The weekend commences with an opening ceremony including a Tango Gala Performance with guest professional dancers and live orchestra on Friday 28th at the Simpkins Lee Theatre. Join us for this unique event in Oxford where you will be transported to Buenos Aires for a night full of the passion of authentic Argentine Tango.


Over 30 years ago, Barbara Newman embarked on a series of interviews with dancers about dancing, and for this book she returned to those who were still alive to find out what they had to say about their subsequent choices and their opinions on dance today.  The oldest (Alicia Alonso) was born in 1920, the youngest (Nina Ananiashvili) in 1964;  they work all over the world, from London to New York and from Havana to Tbilisi, and yet their concerns are remarkably similar.

It is common, perhaps fashionable, to talk about the globalization of ballet, but it is clear from these interviews that it does not have to entail homogenization, that the differences between different schools and companies still matter, and that dance is not all about virtuosity.   Lynn Seymour complains about the vulgarity of dancers showing their knickers in Giselle, while Ananiashvili says:  “When I see new modern choreography I just see splits, splits, splits”.  Whether it is Alonso or David Wall, Merrill Ashley  or Donald MacLeary, there is a clear determination to draw out the distinctions between different works and to understand the choreographers’ choices.  (more…)

Dance is hardly a new subject to be discussed in philosophy. From Plato’s Laws, through John Locke’s Some Thoughts concerning Education, through Hegel’s Aesthetics and Nietzsche’s manifold dance writings, to more contemporary philosophers such as Alain Badiou and Jacques Derrida, dance has been long discussed by the most known names in our Western philosophical canon. At the same time, within philosophy departments and courses, dance is far from being treated as a main stream research topic. However, publication of monographs and collections, such as the one discussed below, hopefully will aid in resolving this unexplainable tension.

The collection of essays is divided into four parts. Dancers and people dancing, dance works and their performances, dance expression and representation, dance and philosophy/ dance as philosophy. The contributors, too, are varied, from Jonathan Owen Clark and Henrietta Bannerman, to Efrosini Protopapa (London based choreographer). Indeed, the different specialties of the authors increase the strength of the book, illuminating the diversity dance has as a subject. (more…)

First staged in St Petersburg in 1890, The Sleeping Beauty is regarded as the pinnacle of classical ballet: a perfect marriage of Petipa’s choreography and Tchaikovsky’s music, and a glorious challenge for every dancer on stage. It is also the Royal Ballet’s signature work.  To mark the company’s 75th birthday in 2006, Monica Mason and Christopher Newton revitalised its landmark 1946 production, which re-established Petipa’s choreography as recorded by Imperial Ballet régisseur Nicholas Sergeyev, to a scenario and staging developed by Ninette de Valois, founder of the Royal Ballet.  With Oliver Messel’s gorgeous original designs wonderfully reimagined by Peter Farmer, and additional choreography by Anthony Dowell, Christopher Wheeldon and Frederick Ashton, today’s The Sleeping Beauty not only captures the mood of the original but shows that this is very much a living work for the Royal Ballet, growing and changing with the company while celebrating its past. (more…)

Rambert is one of Britain’s national dance companies – an ensemble of world-class dancers and live orchestra performing classic and contemporary works to give audiences an exhilarating theatrical experience.  They return to Oxford’s New Theatre this week with a programme which combines works old and new.  Back on the UK stage for the first time in thirteen years, the iconic Rooster by choreographer Christopher Bruce brings the rock’n’roll swagger of the Rolling Stones thrillingly to life in this evocation of the swinging sixties.  Transporting the audience to the coolest nightspot in town, sharp-suited, snake-hipped men and strong, sassy women perform virtuoso courtship dances to some of the Stones’ most famous tunes, including: Not Fade Away, Paint It Black, As Tears Go By, Sympathy for the Devil and, naturally, Little Red Rooster. (more…)

If you enjoyed Margam or wished you hadn’t missed it, here is another Oxford opportunity to see dance informed by the rich and beautiful Bharata Natyam form, although here not seen in traditional guise but in forward looking contemporary mode at The North Wall Arts Centre.  Enlightening and evocative, Under My Skin is the third work from Sadhana Dance and sees choreographer and artistic director Subathra Subramaniam capturing the unspoken practices of the operating theatre.

Drawing on Bharata Natyam technique and contemporary choreography, three highly-skilled performers invite the audience to share a rare insight into the world of surgery where intricate detail, perfectly timed exchanges and analytical spatial patterns challenge the traditional boundaries between clinical practice and dance. Subramaniam aims to build on the idea of surgical simulation as a means of opening a closed and clinical world to a wider public view. (more…)

The four dancers in this Bharatanatyam performance – Sapna Shankar, Meena Anand, Aarti Jaganath and Anjana Rajukumar – are senior members of Kala Arpan, the Oxford-based dance organisation for the study, performance and appreciation of Indian classical dance.  Kala Arpan means ‘Offering of Art’, which sums up the main aims of the show: to share ‘the pure essence and joy of dancing’ while adding to our understanding of Bharatanatyam.  Margam: A Traditional Bharatanatyam Repertoire did both in abundance.  Margam means ‘The Path’, a metaphor for the structure and traditional repertoire of a secular Bharatanatyam recital, which began to evolve into its present form in the 18th century.  The informative programme notes told us this is a suite of independent dances, performed in a specific order, to display all components of the dance form(technique, expression and dance-drama). The symbolic and spiritual dimensions of ‘The Path’ are rooted in Bharatanatyam’s temple dance origins over 2000 years ago and the current repertoire has a devotional and celebratory intent inspired by the actions and different manifestations of Hindu deities, devotional poems and songs. (more…)