November 2015


Two years has passed since our last list of recommendations for Christmas gifts for the dance lovers in your life (check it out here); time for another round-up of fascinating and enjoyable reads featured by Oxford Dance Writers, to ease your Christmas shopping travails or request for your own Christmas stocking… Special thanks to Maggie Watson whose many informative and insightful reviews will help you choose the ideal gift…

First up a couple of recent books to enthuse and inform aspiring dancers and balletomanes – perfect Christmas presents:

The Ballet Lover’s Companion, by Zoë Anderson. Yale University Press, 2015

Zoë Anderson has compiled 140 ballets in a comprehensive survey of the repertoire, organised historically and geographically.  A sumptuous and enjoyable gift; read Maggie Watson’s review here. You can buy this book here (more…)

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If there is a new ballet fan in your family, this could be the ideal Christmas present.  Zoë Anderson’s book assumes no specialist knowledge, and includes a glossary of the ballet terms she uses, so that any reader can visualise her descriptions.

Anderson is very knowledgeable, and she has chosen to write a highly readable work that also touches on some of the issues that ballet as an art form faces today. She has selected 140 ballets, for each of which she gives what are in effect programme notes: synopses of plots, information about the original performance, and sometimes descriptions of the dancing or reports of the critical response. (more…)

Lost Dog was originally formed to create work that crosses the borderline between theatre and dance, and Ben Duke’s one man response to Milton’s epic poem Paradise Lost is a fascinating multimedia hybrid that fuses genres, morphing between verbal story telling and physical theatre, stand-up comedy and dance.

The space is defined by a circular white tarpaulin floor with a single wooden chair. In a nondescript grey work suit Duke shambles in with a well thumbed paperback of Milton. His self-deprecating gently shambolic opening apologia addressing the audience is comically at odds with the apparent grandiosity of his ambition, and sets up a portrayal of God refreshingly and provocatively different from the notion of all powerful deity; initially diffident, uncertain, fumbling and having second thoughts. (more…)

An interesting mix of performances in the flesh and on the screen last week with two cinema visits for 20th century classics and new works transmitted by the Bolshoi and the Royal Ballet framing live performance of German contemporary dance from Sasha Waltz and Guests at Sadler’s Wells. If I dislike the cinema transmissions’ overhyped introductory promos and some excessively effusive commentary, I do enjoy seeing the interiors of other theatres, and some of the informative interview and documentary material provided. Close-ups highlight intriguing details of the dance, although sometimes at a price of losing their relationship with the wider stage environment; differing camera angles risk obscuring spatial design and choreographic architecture.

The Royal Ballet’s first transmission of a mixed bill marked the final farewell of much loved Carlos Acosta from the Covent Garden main stage starring as Don Jose in his own new version of Carmen. (more…)

On each Scratch Night at the Old Fire Station, part of the arts centre’s regular Tuesday programming, local and regional theatre performers, comedians or dance artists perform works in progress for audiences to watch and give feedback on.  This month, DANCE SCRATCH takes place on Tuesday 24th November, supported by that wonderful organisation, Oxford Dance Forum.  Audiences get to see new dance work in development and give feedback; dancers and dance makers get to try out their works-in-progress in a safe space.

Date:  Tuesday 24th November 2015, 7.30pm

Venue:  The Old Fire Station, 40 George Street Oxford OX1 2AQ

Tickets:  £5

You can book tickets online through Tickets Oxford here, or call 01865 305305; or book in person at Oxford Playhouse Box Office, Beaumont Street, Oxford OX1 2LW

Running time:  approx 2 hours including interval

Returning to The North Wall Lost Dog Dance presents Paradise Lost (lies unopened beside me).  Milton’s epic poem is brought to life in this one-man dance theatre adaptation, featuring words, dance and an electric soundtrack.  Tens of characters and tens of thousands of lines of poetry relayed in one hour by one man who promises to dance the complicated bits

Ben Duke tells the epic story of the banishment of Satan from Heaven, the creation of Earth, the temptation of Adam and Eve and their expulsion from the Garden of Eden through words, music and dance. By himself. Paradise Lost follows Lost Dog’s previous literary adaptation, Like Rabbits, which was based on the Virginia Woolf short story Lappin and Lapinova, and was devised by Ben Duke in collaboration with Lucy Kirkwood (Chimerica). (more…)

Enjoy four short ballets in one evening with this quadruple programme from The Royal Ballet, in a live Screen Arts transmission showing at the Phoenix Picturehouse.  Carlos Acosta focuses on the dramatic essentials of love, jealousy and revenge in his new production of Carmen. As well as choreographing the production, Acosta will dance the lead role.  Liam Scarlett has used Lowell Liebermann’s thrilling Piano Concerto No.1 as the inspiration for his similarly audacious choreography in Viscera.  Debussy’s evocative score is the inspiration for Jerome RobbinsAfternoon of a Faun, which depicts two ballet dancers as absorbed by their own reflections as they are attracted to each other.  George Balanchine’s Tchaikovsky pas de deux uses a fragment of music composed for the 1877 production of Swan Lake for a display of ballet bravura and technique.

Date:  Thursday 12th November 2015, 7.15pm

Venue:  Phoenix Picturehouse, 57 Walton St, Oxford OX2 6AE

Book tickets online here or phone 0871 902 5736

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